Iraq’s oil ministry is ploughing on with its ambitious oil expansion program, despite escalating tensions with the Kurdish north, which are threatening to spin out of control. Next year, Iraq expects average output of 3.7mn b/d, federal Oil Minister, ‘Abd al-Karim al-Laibi said on the sidelines of the 12 December Vienna OPEC meeting. Of this, 2.9mn b/d is slated for exports, with these figures including a 250,000 b/d contribution from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Last month saw clashes between Kurdish and federal forces. KRG Peshmerga troops were clearly dug above the main Kirkuk-Irbil road, when this reporter drove it on 9 December. The following day, KRG President Masoud Barzani visited the front line, provoking a storm of protest from Baghdad. The Kurds for their part have also been upping the rhetoric, with one statement from the KRG presidency spokesman on 9 December referring to the “stench of corruption” around arms deals signed by federal Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Mr Maliki’s spokesman, ‘Ali Dabbagh has been removed from office in the wake of the cancellation of a $4.8bn arms deal with Russia, indicating that there is at least an element of truth to the KRG accusations. (CONTINUED - 692 WORDS)