Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, placed ExxonMobil’s interest above that of his country while serving as chief executive, and created a partnership for oil with the Kurds.
US Diplomats asked oil companies to wait before making deals for oil in Iraq, fearing those deals would help to un-stabilize the region. “Fearing that such deals would undermine their credibility (the diplomats) with Iraqi authorities and worsen ethnic tensions that had led Iraq to the brink of civil war. A law governing nationwide oil investments was tied up in parliament, and Iraqi officials were rejecting the Kurdistan regional government’s authority to export oil or cut its own deals” but Exxon sought out, and made, a partnership deal with the Kurds anyway, the Washington Post reported.
Iraq’s oil had been off limits to outside investors for decades, but that didn’t stop Tillerson from taking advantage of the grave situation in Iraq when he personally intervened to gain access to oil in 2011, even though US officials had asked American firms not to sign any deals with Iraqi Kurdistan before the Iraqi Parliament was ready. It was a risky deal, but is was estimated the northern oil fields held 55 billion gallons of untapped crude oil.
When Exxon claimed three field blocks in an area under dispute by the Iraqi and Kurdish officials, Iraq’s oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani was furious over the deal. “The position of the Iraqi government was always to reject this,” Shahristani said “and the company was informed that this was a violation of Iraqi law,” the Washington Post reports.
By laying claim to disputed areas, Exxon opened the path for other companies to do the same. In Baghdad, the young Iraqi government saw Exxon’s actions as siding with the Kurds. “When any company comes, and works in those areas, it’s clear that it’s contributing in inflaming a conflict and pouring oil on the flames,” Shahristani said.
In 2013, under the threat of international arbitration, Tillerson went to Baghdad to smooth things over with Iraqi’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Tillerson met Maliki’s threat with one of his own, telling him if he pursued arbitration Exxon would halt oil production in the southern part of Iraq and therefore damaging the Iraqi government’s dream of creating its own region within the world oil market.
Eventually, Exxon pulled out of its northern fields, after investing $500 million they found the blocks to be a disappointment.
Hearings for Tillerson’s nomination are supposed to begin on Wednesday. Phillip H. Gordon, a former coordinator for Middle East policy said if Tillerson is confirmed that he hopes Tillerson realizes he will be representing America, not Exxon.