Political Turf War Threatens Stability at Iraqi Oil Giant

Government wants to oust director of South Oil, but he's resisting
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2008 3:44 PM CDT
Iraqi police officers secure an oil pipeline of Rumailah refinary, north of Basra.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 5 more images

(Newser) – The central government in Iraq is trying reassert its control over a huge state-owned oil company by forcing out its maverick—but highly effective—chief, the Wall Street Journal reports. He's refusing to go, however, and the resulting turf war could have huge implications not only for Iraq but the world: The company, South Oil, pumps 2 milion barrels a day, making it one of the biggest global suppliers.

The current chief, Jabber el-Leaby, is widely credited with keeping South Oil operating during the last five chaotic years and thus providing the nation with a big chunk of its revenue. Critics says he's been too cozy with sectarian leaders and militias, though one observer calls him "the only one who could make South Oil work." The government is apparently fed up with his go-it-alone style, but Leaby says, "I am not the kind of man who can be removed and disposed of."