The ministry has all these plans with pipelines going all over the Middle East like spaghetti." Thus did one industry source describe Iraq's oil export schemes. Iraq's geographic location gives it a multitude of potential routes, but all are problematic in some way.
Last Thursday, the Kurdistan region apparently began trucking oil to Turkey in line with a cooperation agreement discussed in May. Just a day later, Taner Yildiz, Turkey's energy minister, announced studies on linking the oilfields around Basra, in Iraq's south, to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline that runs from northern Iraq to Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
Ankara's clever balancing act gives the Kurds enough to maintain successful economic cooperation, while putting pressure on Baghdad to make concessions. The pipeline crosses the border in Kurdish territory. Shwan Zulal, a political analyst, observes that therefore any expansion could be opposed, covertly or overtly, by Erbil, unless the two sides settle their dispute over revenue-sharing and oil export issues.
But Baghdad itself needs the route through Turkey. All year, there have been concerns - persistently hyped by Iran and amplified by jittery and apparently amnesiac traders - over the security of the Strait of Hormuz.
The offshore Basra terminals, in Iraq's narrow stretch of Gulf waters, are often affected by bad weather.
The current situation illustrates history, without replicating it. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Syria cut off Iraqi oil transit to aid its ally Iran, and the Basra terminals were unusable because of Iranian attacks. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, constructed in the late 1970s, became a crucial artery to sustain Saddam Hussein's war machine. Today, it carries only some 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from its original capacity of 1.6 million bpd, and is frequently hit by sabotage.
It was reported late last month that Saudi Arabia was testing the Ipsa-2 line, which runs from southern Iraq to the Saudi Red Sea coast. Built in 1986 as another bypass, it was confiscated after the 1991 Iraq war by the Saudis, who naturally want to reserve it for their own use.
If not Saudi Arabia, then what about Kuwait? Exporting Iraqi oil this way would still rely on the Arabian Gulf, of course, but it is short, would use mostly existing infrastructure and puts the terminus a little farther from Iran's influence.
Baghdad-Kuwait relations have improved recently, and the Kuwaitis might see the advantage of binding their large northern neighbour more closely. But would any of Iraq's oil-exporting neighbours want to facilitate the rise of a potentially titanic Opec competitor?
This leaves the Mashreq countries. During the 1990s sanctions era, Saddam Hussein used to smuggle oil through an old pipeline in Syria, now out of commission.
Iraq announced agreements in September 2010 for pipelines to Syria, and in June last year, even as the uprising against Bashar Al Assad, the president, was gaining momentum, Iran, Iraq and Syria trumpeted a grandiose plan for gas exports.
But with stretches of the country out of Mr Al Assad's control, these schemes are clearly inconceivable. A possible future revolutionary government may not look kindly on a Baghdad that backed the wrong side.
Jordan appears at first sight the least attractive transit country. Its domestic consumption is small, and its only port, Aqaba, lies on the Red Sea.
From here, tankers either have to pay to use the Suez Canal, or spend days steaming through pirate-infested waters to get on the route to Asia. But Jordan is the only politically straightforward route.
All of Iraq's neighbours must weigh their own interests, and the potential gains from leverage in Baghdad, in deciding how to help or hinder. Meanwhile, Iraq itself needs a strategy to preserve its economic lifelines and disentangle its pipeline spaghetti.