OPEC has agreed to leave oil production quotas unchanged, despite Iraq's continued suspension of oil exports under the UN’s oil-for-food program. The UN also voted to extend the oil-for-food program for another five months, paving the way for the resumption of Iraqi oil-for-food exports.
Iraq, which remains under sanctions resulting from the 1990-1 Persian Gulf War, verbally confirmed yesterday its intentions to resume exports "as soon as logistics are all in place." Iraqi oil exports are allowed only under the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program. Exports have fluctuated considerably, with drops occurring every six months in conjunction with the renewal of the program.
Because members of the UN Security Council were unable to come to an agreement on potential sanction revisions before the oil-for-food program's June rollover date, the program was renewed for only one month instead of the normal six months, prompting Iraq to halt all UN-sanctioned exports. The U.S. and the United Kingdom initiated efforts to revise sanctions in the spring.
No decisions have been made regarding sanction revisions, with Security Council members still in disagreement. On July 3, the UN rolled over the oil-for-food program until November 30, the program's regularly scheduled renewal date.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, suspicions continue that Iraq is illegally exporting oil outside the oil-for-food program, and halting these exports was a major aim of the U.S. and U.K. in their efforts to revise sanctions. Iraq and neighboring Syria are connected by the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline, which had been dormant but now is suspected to be transporting Iraqi oil to Syria.
Syria's oil exports have exceeded the amount of domestic oil available for export by as much as 150,000 barrels per day in recent months. Syria has faced oil reserve depletion and declining production since the mid-1990s, implying that Syrian production cannot account for the recent surge in exports.