The Iraqi energy sector is more divided than ever. While Baghdad insists on central government control of the country’s natural resources, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is autonomously developing its own oil market. Underlying these differences is a brewing cold war between Baghdad and Erbil, particularly as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki consolidates power and the Kurds attempt to check it.
Still, Baghdad is regaining leverage over Iraq’s energy arena. Increased state oil production and revenues, despite the mediocre results of the fourth bidding round, have reinforced central government authority and the means by which it can appease and control challengers. This trend, along with the absence of a cohesive anti-Maliki block and the unlikelihood of a direct KRG pipeline deal with Ankara, will further frustrate negotiation of a national hydrocarbons law and keep Kurdish crude in political and economic limbo.