Barzani Meets Obama and There Are Lots of Questions

By a Correspondent:

Barzani and Obama - a previous meeting

Barzani and Obama – a previous meeting

Kurdistan Region President Massud Barzani is in Washington for a week-long visit which includes a meeting, expected to take place today, with US President Barrack Obama. This is Barzani’s first visit to Washington since April 2012 and the first meeting between the two leaders since ISIS captured Mosul and threatened the Kurdistan Region, leading to the start of US air strikes against the terrorist force, last summer.

President Barzani is also due to meet US Vice President Joe Biden and other officials including Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken to discuss “the combined campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy Daesh (ISIS),” according to a State Department spokeswoman.

The delegation accompanying the president includes his Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and the Peshmarga and foreign ministers. The Kurds are expected to raise with the US Administration the question of Kurdish independence, as well the need for direct military aid in the war with ISIS and the KRG’s ongoing dispute with the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad.

However, Joe Biden is reported to have had a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi last night in which he reaffirmed US support for Iraq’s ratified consitution – which could be interpreted as a way of rejecting Barzani’s independence proposals before he has even put them forward. It is thought that the US will press the Kurds to remain in federal Iraq and take part in a combined assault on ISIS in Mosul.

In advance of the meeting between the two presidents, an article published yesterday by Michael Rubin, the Amercan Enterprise Insitute resident scholar and former Pentagon official, posed a series of ‘Questions President Obama should ask Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani’.

The frst question was, “Mr. Barzani, will weapons provided to Iraqi Kurdistan really be used to fight ISIS?”. Rubin stated that “most of the weaponry given to the KRG apparently is being stockpiled for your Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and is not being distributed to the frontline in Kirkuk or other areas which elected opposition figures”.

There were more questions about plans for democratic transition in Kurdistan, nepotism, the murders of independent journalists and kleptocracy.

Rubin referred President Barzani to two articles, recently published on KT, by Harem Karem and Kamal Chomani.

“Where are the missing billions?” he asked. “Kurdistan is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. Many government workers have not been paid in months. Nevertheless, according to the Kurdistan Tribune, “The country is bankrupt and most people are struggling to make ends meet, while 10,000 millionaires and 15 billionaires have emerged in a short space of time.” How is that the case?”.

“Again, if you have not read it,” Rubin continued, “you might want to consider this economic analysis from the Kurdistan Tribune which found a massive increase in corruption since 2005. Why is it that Kurdistan has become a region of first world restaurants and third world hospitals? Can you please explain where the missing billions of dollars have gone?”

One Response to Barzani Meets Obama and There Are Lots of Questions
  1. Joanna Southcott
    May 4, 2015 | 01:52

    Getting a “hit” in the Oil & Gas business is a real challenge these days. It takes a very special producer to deliver that winning formula.

    But London-listed Gulf Keystone Petroleum does appear to have succeeded in achieving what so many other exploration companies have tried – and failed – to do. Discover a very large oilfield: Shaikan, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Dr. Drill hit Black Gold at Shaikan in the summer of 2009, and during the following six years the colossal size of the discovery has been established through about a dozen further wells within, and just outside, the licence area.

    But just how big is it? And where might it sit in the hit parade? One of the problems in ranking oil fields using Reserves as the criteria is that there’s always a lot of confusion over what the Reserves of many of the large oil fields really are. Oil In Place numbers (the total amount of oil soaked in the rock) are often given for Reserves, even though the proportion of that oil which can be commercially recovered may be a fraction of this.

    The late Matthew R. Simmons (1943-2010), founder and chairman emeritus of Simmons & Company International, considered the challenge of how to rank the world’s oilfields. Simmons was of course the author of “Twilight in the Desert”, which was published in 2007. He found Reserves numbers to be highly confusing, and he came up with a brilliant idea: why not rank the oilfields in terms of their production rates? His findings were published in a 67-page report “The World’s Giant Oilfields: How Many Exist? How Much Do They Produce? How Fast Are They Declining?”

    This report seems to have been generally overlooked, but it includes a great deal of information. Simmons lists, in his Appendix A, the world’s top 120 oilfields, from the mighty Ghawar producing 4.5 million barrels per day all the way down to El Furrial in Venezuela producing 100,000 barrels per day. His data shows how things stood in 2000; there have naturally been some subsequent changes, but the overall situation probably won’t have changed too much.

    What is striking is that the majority of the really large fields were discovered long ago. For example, from the Top Ten we have Ghawar (1948), Burgan (1938) and Kirkuk (1927) and the average Top Ten discovery was made in 1955, which was almost half a century before the dataset. This is yet another perspective on the “really big oil discoveries are no longer being made” issue.

    So where would Shaikan fit into Matthew Simmons’ spectrum? Using projected Shaikan production levels which have given by the operator, it would certainly be a Top Twenty contender. But could it perhaps even scrape into the Top Ten? In order to stand a chance of achieving that, Shaikan would need to reach (using Simmons’ 2000 rankings of course) an output level of 550,000 barrels per day. Is that possible? Well, a side-lobe of Shaikan has recently been confirmed in the adjacent Sheikh Adi block, which has the same operator, and the side-lobe will apparently be produced from Shaikan, just across the block boundary. So that’s a positive sign, but as always only time will tell. Shaikan’s current production, in the so-called Phase Zero, is 40,000 barrels per day.

    Much seems to depend upon the volume of oil held within the fracture system within Shaikan’s 1000+ metre oil column in the Jurassic. Whilst the fracture network in the Jurassic is formally stated by the operator’s reserves auditors to be the “primary source of oil that the development concepts described in the Field Development Plan and Addendum aim to recover”, the fracture system itself has never been formally quantified in the public domain. So we continue to guess. But noting that the fractures have been described the operator’s VP Operations to be on a millimetre to centimetre scale, and that the Chief Executive Officer has said that there is “one hell of a fracture population” and has mentioned that the drill bit at Shaikan dropped three metres through some sort of void, the signs are clearly encouraging.

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