At $112 a barrel for Brent crude, well above OPEC's preferred $100, it may not look like a hot issue just yet. As Ali al-Naimi, oil minister for Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer said this week, the oil market is in "the best situation it can be'' and at "the right price.''
That was reflected in Wednesday's straightforward decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to renew for six months its 30 million barrel-a-day output cap for the first half of 2014.
But Iraq and Iran, second and third in the OPEC league table, made clear they have no interest in taking part in a collective cut should one be required next year.
With oil production from the United States rising fast and a number of OPEC members aiming to restore full output after sanctions and civil strife, a new OPEC deal may be required as early as it's next meeting in June.
"It's not a question of if but when,'' said one OPEC delegate. "Maybe we'll talk about cuts in six months time,'' conceded a delegate from one of OPEC's Gulf Arab producers.
Iran and Iraq both feel they are special cases because of production lost to sanctions, Iraq over decades under Saddam Hussein up to 2003 and Iran over the past two years for its nuclear program.
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran will take oil production back to 4 million barrels a day once sanctions are lifted even if oil prices drop to $20 a barrel.
"Under any circumstances we will reach 4 million bpd even if the price falls to $20 a barrel,'' said Zanganeh. ``We will not give up on our rights on this issue.''
Zanganeh said OPEC previously "has shown it's smarter than that'' and normally made way for countries that had suffered setbacks to production.
His Iraqi counterpart said Baghdad would not contemplate being roped into an OPEC allocation that limits its production next year and wouldn't cut output.
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"Why should we cut? There is no reason,'' said Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi.
Add Libya, hoping to convince armed separatist protesters to stop blocking production, and a significant slice of OPEC will plead special status should OPEC need a new deal.
Will Saudi go below 8 mbpd
That would leave its most reliable producers, the core Gulf Arab countries—led by Saudi Arabia with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates—to turn down the taps.
Saudi's Naimi shrugged off the prospect of a flood of additional supply next year.
"One source comes and another source disappears,'' he said.
Reporters, he added, were "preoccupied with Iran.''
"They are welcome, everyone is welcome to put in the market what they can, the market is big and has many variables—when one comes in another comes out.''