Analysis: Baghdad plotting retaliation against Exxon, wayward IOCs

Kurdistan's contractors have escaped serious consequences for defying Baghdad's claims of oil sector supremacy – but central government leaders are preparing to follow through on their threats.
Rick Vierbuchen (R), president of ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures, celebrates with Iraqi oil officials after signing the West Qurna 1 contract. (BEN LANDO/Iraq Oil Report)

When ExxonMobil defied Baghdad and signed landmark contracts with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, the world's other super-majors watched closely for the central government's reaction. Could Exxon really get away with it?

Nearly a year later, Exxon has suffered very little punishment, and some of its peers – Chevron, Total, and Gazprom – have followed in its path, ignoring central government policy and signing deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Conventional wisdom among international oil companies (IOCs) seems to be that Baghdad can issue loud warnings but has relatively little leverage to maintain centralized control over the country's oil sector.

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