There’s an old saying among oil analysts that the last barrel of oil in the world will be produced in Iraq. It’s a mixed compliment that hints at the paradox of the country’s oil industry. On one hand, Iraq is home to a vast amount of relatively easy-to-extract oil: Its 137 billion barrels of proven reserves account for about 9 percent of the world’s oil. On the other, there always seems to be something getting in the way of producing it: war, government bureaucracy, sanctions, more war.
A decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq is now producing about a million more barrels per day than it was on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That’s a 35 percent increase, close to record highs for the country.