Rising political instability in key Middle East and North African producing countries is emerging as the dominant investment concern for oil companies. A 23 April car bombing at the French embassy in Tripoli and a major operation launched by Kurdish Peshmerga forces last month around Kirkuk City in northern Iraq highlight escalating tensions in both countries, but deteriorating security is also seriously roiling investor sentiment in Yemen and Algeria and to a lesser extent Egypt.

In Iraq, the power struggle between Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki and his Sunni Arab and Kurdish rivals has been fuelling an escalation in political violence since late last year, when Peshmerga troops and central government forces faced off against each other following clashes in the town of Tuz Khurmatu (MEES, 23 November 2012). Now, they stand toe-to-toe again, at Top Zawa, west of Kirkuk city and at places along the ill-defined border between Kurdish and federal areas (see map). (CONTINUED - 822 WORDS)