How Mike Pompeo Built a Blood-for-Oil Pipeline
Neither the State Department nor the White House responded to requests for comment but this concession was brokered at the State Department’s highest levels, a government source with knowledge of the deal told The New Republic. Pompeo appeared to acknowledge this while speaking to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham during a Senate hearing on July 30. “The deal took a little longer, Senator, than we had hoped, and now we’re in implementation,” Pompeo said.
Whether or not the President’s cronies end up being tried in The Hague for pilfering overseas petroleum, the Delta Crescent contract is more of the dipshit diplomacy that has become normal under Trump’s leadership. The U.S. government risks inflaming regional tensions and enabling potential corruption, all to goose a politically connected domestic company’s profits. “We’re really driving home the idea that we just want to steal resources from this part of the world,” said Ben Friedman, policy director of Defense Priorities, a libertarian think tank.
The deal’s specifics make this much clear: Syria’s Kurds didn’t have any real choice in partners. Companies involved in the Syrian oil business risk punishing sanctions that would cut them off from the U.S. financial system. To avoid sanctions, companies need a sanctions waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Four companies applied for one but only Delta Crescent received a waiver. (The Government Accountability Project, where I work, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for a copy of this waiver as well as Delta Crescent’s application to the government for it.)
Little is known about Delta Crescent, whose acknowledged ownership so far includes the following: James Cain, a Republican donor, Bush-era ambassador to Denmark, and former president of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team; John Dorrier, an oil executive with ties to Syrian regime financiers, who has made recent campaign contributions to Trump as well as to Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham; and James Reese, a former Army Special Forces officer and Fox News contributor who founded TigerSwan, a security contractor company with a history of civil rights violations. None of the three responded to requests for comment.
But beyond Pompeo, the company has friends in high places—both in Washington and in Iraqi Kurdistan, which borders Syria. Photos show Delta Crescent officials meeting a variety of powerful members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, including the region’s president, Nechirvan Barzani, and his chief of staff, Fawzi Hariri. Jim Jeffrey, the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and his deputy Joel Rayburn have also been meeting with Barzani about Delta Crescent’s plans.
The U.S. company needs the notoriously corrupt Barzani family’s buy-in for the plan to work. Delta Crescent wanted to use a pipeline connecting Kirkuk, Iraq, to Turkey in order to export the Syrian oil, according to the government source. They “wanted to batch it with Iraqi Kurdish oil,” concealing its point of origin, said the source, “because they are slimy underhanded people.”
Multiple Iraqi analysts dismissed that plan as unlikely to succeed, with one telling The New Republic that it was “dumbass.” Syrian crude oil was of poor quality, and smuggling it could damage the Iraqi Kurdish government’s relationship with oil traders. “If you are the [Kurdistan Regional Government], why fuck it up?” said one analyst, who requested to speak on background for safety reasons.
Instead, sources suggested it’s more likely that Barzani companies will buy the fuel from Delta Crescent, potentially to process it at Iraqi Kurdistan’s Lanaz refinery where Syrian fuel has already been shipped. The refinery is controlled by Mansour Barzani, the region’s special forces chief, who is the brother of the Kurdish prime minister and the cousin of regional president Nechirvan Barzani.* Photos show Delta Crescent meeting with other Barzani-connected politicians as well as with potential middleman companies connected to their families.