The dispute between Iraq's central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government over oil contracts in northern Iraq has been dragging on for years, but it recent times we've seen developments that push the sides further apart rather than bringing them together.
While the short-term issue of payments for shipments from Iraqi Kurdistan appears to have been resolved, the old problem of recognition of oil-related contracts is causing increasing tensions; the absence of an oil law doesn't help.
If ExxonMobil really hands back the keys to West Qurna I and sets up shop openly in Kurdistan, it would send shock-waves through the industry. Essentially it would be a gamble that a more risky and speculative prospect in Kurdistan will be worth more in the long run than a relatively secure but low-margin business in the south.
Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.