Analysis: What was Exxon thinking?

Exxon risked its stake in a super-giant Iraqi field and cast its lot with Kurdistan. The gamble might not be as risky as it seems.
Hussain al-Shahristani (right), then oil minister and now the deputy prime minister for energy, sits with ExxonMobil executives at the signing ceremony for the West Qurna 1 project. (STAFF/Iraq Oil Report)

ERBIL - ExxonMobil's controversial signing of six exploration blocks with Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region has jolted the country's oil sector out of its uneasy status quo.

In political arenas where Bush administration benchmarks and the massive U.S. Embassy failed to force headway, another American icon – the world's most profitable company – has caused Iraqi decision makers to start confronting fundamental questions about the shape of not only the oil sector but also the state.

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