|Oil Minister Luaibi|
Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi was the deputy to the former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani. According to press reports, he was part of the team that negotiated contracts and terms with the foreign oil companies before and after the two bidding rounds in 2009 for Iraqi fields. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in oil engineering from the University of Baghdad, and began working at the South Oil Company in 1983. Most believe that he will continue on with Shahristani’s plans to dramatically expand Iraq’s oil industry with the help of the international energy businesses.
Perhaps not wanting to live in the shadow of his predecessor, Luaibi has tried to make a splash since his first day in office by claiming that Iraq has achieved several important breakthroughs. On December 22, the Oil Ministry announced that oil production had increased 10% to reach an average of 2.5 million barrels a day. The ministry said this was the highest amount since 2003. Luaibi then outdid himself by saying that Iraq had reached 2.6 million barrels on December 26. He went on to say that was the most produced in twenty years. In between, on December 23, the Minister claimed that a deal had been signed between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to allow the Kurds to export oil once again in just a matter of days. He stated that the central government will recognize the Kurdish oil deals, and pay the companies for their costs of operation, while Kurdish petroleum will go through the northern pipeline to Turkey and the revenues will be deposited in the capital.
The problem is that few of these statements were actually true. First, Iraq has reached or surpassed 2.5 million barrels a day seven times since 2003, and even produced 2.6 million barrels once before. In September 2004 Iraq produced 2.51 million barrels a day. In May 2008 they reached 2.6 million barrels, followed by 2.52 million barrels in June 2008, 2.54 million barrels in July 2008, and 2.5 million in August 2008, September 2009, and October of that year. Immediately before the U.S. invasion the Oil Ministry was pumping an average of 2.58 million barrels a day, but there are reports that production reached as high as 3 million barrels pre-2003. That means it’s unclear whether Luaibi’s claim of a twenty year high is true or not. As for a breakthrough between Baghdad and the KRG, a spokesman said on December 26 that there had been no discussion within the Oil Ministry about recognizing Kurdish oil contracts or allowing the Kurds to export again.
Abdul Karim Luaibi was the deputy to one of the most powerful Oil Minister’s in recent history, Hussein Shahristani, and now wants to make his own mark. Shahristani tried to block the Kurds’ independent resources policy, develop the rest of the industry through deals with foreign companies, and wanted Iraq to be a leader in OPEC once again. That gave Luaibi some large shoes to fill, and was probably a factor in him claiming that Iraq had reached new highs in production immediately after he took office, and that a major step towards reconciliation had been achieved with the Kurds. The facts don’t support him, but the Iraqi and international media are not known for doing checks on pronouncements by politicians. Getting that attention however, was probably his intended goal to show that he was his own man, and capable of making an immediate impact upon one of Iraq’s most influential ministries. Actually reaching a new post-war high in oil output and cutting a deal with the Kurds are things he should be focusing upon, but he should be doing instead of talking if he wants to make himself different from the rest of Iraq’s political class.
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