Iraq Challenges Saudi and Iran’s OPEC Leadership

For years, debates in the OPEC conference room were dominated by clashes between top producer Saudi Arabia and arch-rival Iran.

But as the two managed to find a rare compromise on Wednesday – with Riyadh softening its stance towards Tehran – a third OPEC superpower emerged.

Iraq overtook Iran as the group’s second-largest producer several years ago but kept its OPEC agenda fairly low-profile. On Wednesday, Baghdad finally made its presence felt.

What it did, however, pleased neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran.

Iraq’s new oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi told his Saudi and Iranian counterparts, Khalid al-Falih and Bijan Zanganeh, in a closed-door gathering in Algiers that “it was an OPEC meeting for all ministers”, a source briefed on the talks said.

Luaibi also said he didn’t like the idea of re-establishing OPEC’s output ceiling at 32.5 million barrels per day (bpd), according to sources in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Reviving a ceiling, abandoned a year ago because of a Saudi-Iranian clash, was seen by some members as crucial in helping OPEC manage a vastly oversupplied market and prop up prices that stand well below the budget needs of most producers.

But Luaibi told the meeting the new ceiling was no good for Baghdad as OPEC had underestimated Iraq’s production, which has soared in recent years.

via Reuters

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Alfonso Esparza

Alfonso Esparza

Senior Currency Analyst at Market Pulse
Alfonso Esparza specializes in macro forex strategies for North American and major currency pairs. Upon joining OANDA in 2007, Alfonso Esparza established the MarketPulseFX blog and he has since written extensively about central banks and global economic and political trends. Alfonso has also worked as a professional currency trader focused on North America and emerging markets. He holds a finance degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) and an MBA with a specialization on financial engineering and marketing from the University of Toronto.
Alfonso Esparza