The International Energy Agency (IEA) has reportedly poured cold water on Iraq's plans to quadruple oil production to 12 million barrels a day by 2017, saying it could take 20 years just to reach half the target total.
But the agency predicted in a draft of its annual World Energy Outlook that Iraq will succeed in pushing production up enough to overtake its longtime regional rival, Iran, "by soon after 2015", according to reports from UPI and the Financial Times.
The only countries that have been able to pull off the kind of feat that Iraq seeks to achieve are the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia, who during the 1960s pushed through the 10 million bpd barrier. The difference is that they had the infrastructural capabilities and postwar Iraq doesn't.
Industry analysts have long been skeptical of Baghdad's ambitious plans and say although Iraq wants to rapidly upgrade and expand its long-neglected oil infrastructure, the task is immense.
"In some cases, the only thing holding the pipelines together is the sludge in them," a Western diplomat observed recently.