Some local analysts have already suggested that this oil industry contract is a first step toward Ninawa becoming a more independent region, in a similar way that Iraqi Kurdistan is independent.
“Arabs and Kurds are partners in this region, regardless of whether that partnership is a success or a failure,” al-Nujaifi said. “So it is better to integrate rather than to compete because we need each other to build our region first and foremost, and then secondly, to build Iraq as a nation.”
However not everyone agrees. A spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of Oil, Asim Jihad, said that his own ministry’s plans to build an oil refinery in Ninawa had been hampered by security concerns. Jihad also said that the oil refinery project was being implemented without the permission of, or cooperation with, the Ministry of Oil. Which was why, Jihad, said the Iraqis would not be refining any oil there.
There were also local opponents to the plan. In a statement distributed to local media, Dildar al-Zibari, a member of Ninawa’s provincial council, criticised the contract, saying that it was a risky proposition: the area where the refinery was to be built was actually under the control of the Iraqi Kurdish military, known as the Peshmerga, and that crude oil was being supplied by Iraqi Kurdistan but that this supply was not guaranteed.
Some of these issues were highlighted in a study put together by a number of local oil industry analysts – these included a former federal Minister of Oil, Issam al-Chalabi, as well as Saadallah Al Fathi, former head of the Energy Studies Department in the OPEC secretariat in Vienna and Faleh al-Khayat, former director of planning for Iraq’s Ministry of Oil.
Their study raised questions about how much oil would be refined there, the conditions in surrounding areas – including environmental, security and geological conditions – as well as what kind of guarantees there were for the oil refinery’s continued operation.
A big question mark also sat over the choice of location for the refinery, very close to Iraqi Kurdistan. “If the refinery was going to work with oil from the Khormala field, which was in Iraqi Kurdistan, how can the supply of oil be guaranteed?” the study asked.