NYTimes | Struggling to keep Iraq from splintering, American diplomats pushed for a law in 2011 to share the country’s oil wealth among its fractious regions.
Then Exxon Mobil showed up.
Under its chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, the giant oil company sidestepped Baghdad and Washington, signing a deal directly with the Kurdish administration in the country’s north. The move undermined Iraq’s central government, strengthened Kurdish independence ambitions and contravened the stated goals of the United States.
Mr. Tillerson’s willingness to cut a deal regardless of the political consequences speaks volumes about Exxon Mobil’s influence. In the Iraq case, Mr. Tillerson and his company outmaneuvered the State Department, which he has now been nominated by President-elect Donald J. Trump to lead.
“They are very powerful in the region, and they couldn’t care less about what the State Department wants to do,” Jean-François Seznec, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington, said of Exxon Mobil’s pursuits in the Middle East.
As America’s biggest oil company, with operations on six continents and a stock market value of more than $390 billion, Exxon Mobil is in some ways a state within a state. While Mr. Tillerson has never officially been a diplomat, he has arguably left an American footprint on more countries than any nominee before him — with an agenda overseas that does not always mesh with that of the United States government.