Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, has signed production-sharing agreements for five oil blocks in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq. Any other week this would have been nothing more than a business-as-usual piece of news, but this week saw Baghdad retake control of Kirkuk from the Kurds – the hub of northern Iraq’s oil industry.
Along with the city, the Iraqi forces also took over several oil fields, according to reports from the region. Exports of crude oil from Kurdistan to Turkey have fallen by about 50% but most observers seem to believe that the cut is temporary.
What’s more, the Rosneft announcement comes after Iraq’s PM Haidar al-Abadi said, amid the advance on Kirkuk, that the central government will establish federal control of all parts of the country, including Kurdistan. This means the autonomy of the region might be squeezed tighter, curbing the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) capacity to close oil production deals.
Yet Rosneft seems to be unfazed by the possibility of unfavorable developments or perhaps it believes that developments can’t become as bad as Baghdad seizing all oil fields in the autonomous region. For now, there is no talk of such a possibility: the Iraqi forces have focused their blow on Kirkuk and the fields around it. The five blocks that the Russian company will develop contain an estimated 670 million barrels of crude.
There is reason for such optimism as displayed…