He was an atomic physicist who refused to develop the bomb for Saddam Hussein, and eleven years in Abu Ghuraib wouldn’t change his mind. Today, Hussain al-Shahristani is Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, and is known internationally as the chief architect of his country’s current oil boom.
The IEA predicts an increase in Iraq’s oil production to 6.1 million barrels daily through 2020, rising to 8.3 through 2035. This would make it the world’s second largest oil producer--behind Saudi Arabia.
No other country shares Iraq’s current capacity to increase its oil production; however, this potential can only be realized if drilling and transport security can be guaranteed in the long run, and if the country itself doesn’t fragment. Currently, two thirds of Iraq’s oil development is taking place in the southern half of the country and is controlled by Bagdad; one third is being carried out within the semi-autonomous northern territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Iraqi Kurdistan fosters extensive economic ties to neighboring Turkey, and these connections increasingly define its state interests. This border region is at the center of the geopolitical shifts taking place in the Middle East: the interests of regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey not only contend here with one another, but also with extra-regional forces such as the western superpowers and global markets. Events here have truly wide-reaching consequences.
That tensions have continued to mount between Bagdad and the KRG on the issue of Turkey should thus come as no surprise. The most recent escalation on this front was signaled when the KRG and Turkey announced their intention to cooperate on the construction of a new cross-border oil pipeline, the contents of which, once operational, would be be outside of Bagdad’s control.
At the World Energy Congress, Hussain al-Shahristani was kind enough to provide ENERGLOBE with his assessment of his country’s current relationship with Turkey. In strong and unambiguous tones, he voices Iraqi objections to the proposed pipeline and threatens to take action against Turkey should it not alter course.