January 10, 2017

From 2003-2005, ExxonMobil did business with Iran in violation of the sanction imposed by the United States, according to a just-published USAToday report.

ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan through a European subsidiary while President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State was a top executive of the oil giant and those countries were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism, Securities and Exchange Commissionfilings show.

That business connection is likely to surface Wednesday at a confirmation hearing for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The sales were conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50% share, according to SEC documents unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic research group.

ExxonMobil told USA TODAY the transactions were legal because Infineum, a joint venture with Shell Corporation, was based in Europe and the transactions did not involve any U.S. employees.

The filings, from 2006, show that the company had $53.2 million in sales to Iran, $600,000 in sales to Sudan and $1.1 million in sales to Syria during those three years.

ExxonMobil is already shrugging it off, saying that $53.2 million is a pittance compared to their billions in earnings each year. But it's certainly not shruggable in the context of considering their CEO to be our Secretary of State.

Sanctions are a diplomatic tool, intended to penalize countries who engage in harmful activities like terrorism, or sponsoring terrorism. For years now, Iran has been responsible for much of the unrest in the Middle East, and sanctions were intended to be pressure against their actions. They only work if corporate interests honor them, and clearly ExxonMobil did not, choosing instead to work with offshore proxies to give Iran a hand even while they were building capacity toward a nuclear weapon.

If Tillerson couldn't honor the tools and levers of diplomacy as CEO of ExxonMobil, there's no reason to expect that he would use them or honor them as Secretary of State. This should be a disqualifying issue.

According to ExxonMobil's media manager Alan Jeffers, “They (Infineum) have an independent management that operates the entity. And it’s not a U.S. entity."

Rachel Maddow was right when she reported on ExxonMobil's defiance of other international sanctions and norms back in December. Under Tillerson's leadership, they imagine themselves as their own country, beholden to no one but the almighty dollar.

And Exxon has its own foreign policy that is frequently at odds with the United States. And that foreign policy is the only foreign policy with which our new nominee for secretary of state has any experience whatsoever.

Oh, well that makes it just fine, then. No problem with the American CEO of an American oil company thinking they're above American-imposed sanctions as long as they offshore the dirty deed, right?

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