News / Middle East

Mideast Wary Over Iraq-Iran Plan to Unite in Oil Market

Mideast Is Wary Over Iraq, Iran Plan to Unite in Oil Marketi
February 05, 2014 9:03 PM
Iraq is planning to triple its oil producing capacity by 2020, hoping to leverage its natural resources in a power arrangement with Iran that could challenge Saudi Arabia’s domination of the world oil market. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.
Iraq is planning to triple its oil-producing capacity by 2020, hoping to leverage its natural resources in a power arrangement with Iran that could challenge Saudi Arabia’s domination of the world oil market.
So far, most of the talk has come from Iraqi officials who have been expressing confidence the country can again become a major regional player despite an upsurge in violence that killed 1,000 people last month, and nearly 9,000 last year.

In London last week, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani announced that Iraq plans to triple its oil output to nine million barrels per day by the end of the decade. And he hinted that is just part of Iraq’s plans.

"Iran has been in touch with us," al-Shahristani told the London Telegraph. "They want to share our contracts model and experience."

OPEC control

Oil industry and Middle East experts believe the comments were meant to send a message to OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries], which oversees about 70 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and about 40 percent of the total world oil supply .

“The game here is for control of the OPEC cartel,” said Simon Henderson at the Washington Institute for near East Policy. “Baghdad and Tehran get on very well together and they are vying against Saudi Arabia, which is the other major power in the Gulf. The energy side of it is that oil and gas is the main component, the main weapon which these countries can use against each other.”

Officials with OPEC have downplayed the impact of increased production from Iraq and Iran, which is hoping to use progress in nuclear talks with world powers to get sanctions lifted on its oil industry.

Long-time dominant OPEC member Saudi Arabia is not yet likely to be rattled.

“The Saudis are very experienced in oil policy, and usually from their own point of view, call it right,” said Henderson. “They are not embarrassed by anybody else’s antics in the oil market.”  

Saudi concern

The math is worrying for the Saudis, however, according to some analysts.

The latest data from the United States Energy Information Administration shows that Saudi Arabia has a proven oil reserve of about 267 billion barrels, far ahead of Iran’s 151 billion barrels worth of reserves and Iraq’s 143 billion barrels of proven reserves. But combined, Iran and Iraq would have the capacity to possibly shift the balance of power.

It is cause for concern, given the Saudis and the Iranians have already been facing off in a proxy war in Syria -- Saudi Arabia helping to arm rebels groups while Iran has backed the Syrian regime, helping keep it in power.

"The cooperation between Iran and Iraq is more than just oil because both governments are Shi'ite-dominated governments, and they share some strategic interests,” said Nader Habibi at at Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

“Obviously, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni governments are concerned. We have seen that the uprising in Syria has not been successful now and Iran and its allies have been able to support the Assad regime," said Habibi. "So I am sure other countries in the region are closely watching the level of cooperation between Iran and Iraq.”

For now, though, experts like Habibi expect Iran to keep the focus on oil.

"Especially because Iran has economic problems and the government is more focused on trying to resolve those issues and improve the economic conditions,” he said. “And that requires a more moderate foreign policy."

Iran's leaders have said little publicly so far about cooperating with Iraq on oil. International sanctions have taken a toll on Iran’s production, which the U.S. says has fallen to about 1 million barrels per day.

Iran's ambitions

Iranian officials have reached out to Russia about potential oil deals, and have expressed hopes that if sanctions are lifted, they could ramp up production to as much as four million barrels per day.  

Iraq’s comments about working with Tehran, however, have gotten notice in Washington, which has been supportive of Iraq’s desire to boost oil output.

"As we've made very clear, not just to Iraq, but to any country in the global community as a matter of policy, engaging with Iran's energy sector runs risks including violating and running afoul of U.S. and international sanctions," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Oil industry experts say while Iraq can certainly boost oil production, it is far from certain Baghdad can triple its output by 2020.

The Washington Institute’s Henderson also cautioned that for all the noise, Iraq and Iran will want to be careful about just how far they push Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members by boosting production.

“The big question is, to what extent, will countries like Iraq, be able to maintain some sort of leverage on the price of oil so that the price doesn’t plummet and all their efforts to produce a greater amount of oil lead to roughly the same revenues or frankly even less revenue,” he said.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Bakhtiar from: Iraq
February 08, 2014 11:17 AM
Throughout Iraq history oil is a major curse this saying has been a message of some political analysts . But i believe denying the Kurdish legitimate cause for practicing their right of self-determination is major factor of instability the region. What Mr.Jeff referred to in the article , is on the one hand gulf states wants to keep the balance of power in the region for their interest, on the other hand they want to use oil revenue in keeping status quo in the interest of dominant ethnicity .

by: MikeBarnett from: USA
February 05, 2014 3:19 PM
This deal would benefit the US, EU, China, Japan, and all other oil consumers by reducing oil prices significantly below $100 per barrel. However, there is a Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, and the US has sanctions on Iran over WMDs that don't and won't exist to make Israel and its US supporters happy. Therefore, the deal probably won't work as planned, so Russia will continue to develop the world's biggest oil and gas station in Siberia to serve China's growing industrial, commercial, and military needs.
In Response

by: Nafji Fatina from: USA
March 03, 2014 4:53 PM
After WWII tag of war still going on with Two superpowers , now other power is on broad. Same thing happen when WWII started when third power (Germany) came in power . Shia-Sunni, protestant - catholic are the source of colonialism, but super power don't like third power , they will still divide the world into east west north south population of world will suffer and super power will enjoy the chess game.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs