Iraq harbors big ambitions to tackle its decades-old refined products shortage. But Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban is pessimistic this can happen any time soon – especially with demand on the rise.

Over the last couple of years, Baghdad has talked a good game in its bid to solve its refining woes – woes that saw Opec’s number two oil producer import about 90,000 b/d of products in 2018, mostly diesel and gasoline. Former Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi (2016-2018) would...