Pipe Dreams

Pipe Dreams
The Plundering of Iraq’s Oil Wealth

What happened to Iraq’s oil wealth?

Iraq sits on top of more than 140 billion barrels of oil, making it the owner of the world’s fifth largest reserves. When the United States invaded in 2003, the Bush Administration promised that oil revenue—according to one report, totaling some $700 billion since the invasion, accounting for at least 80 percent of the Iraqi government budget—would be used to win the war and to rebuild and democratize the country. But fifteen years later, those dreams have been shattered. The economy has flat-lined, millions of people are internally displaced, and institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have had to provide billions of dollars to the country every year. Where did all the oil revenue go?

Based on court documents and on exclusive interviews with sources who have investigated energy companies, American, British and Iraqi government officials, and the middlemen between them, reporter Erin Banco traveled to oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan—an autonomous region that holds, according to the regional government, some 45 billion barrels of crude—to uncover how widespread corruption, tribal cronyism, kickbacks to political parties, and the war with ISIS have contributed to the plundering of Iraq’s oil wealth. The region’s economy and political stability have been on the brink of collapse, and local people are suffering. Pipe Dreams is a cautionary tale that reveals how the dream of an oil-financed, American-style democracy in Iraqi Kurdistan now looks like a completely unrealistic fantasy.

Pipe Dreams
  • ISBN: 978-0997722949
  • Price: $14.99
  • On Sale: January 29, 2018
  • Pages: 144


“A fascinating and revealing dive into the murky world of oil contracts that shape power and politics in Iraq." —Loveday Morris, The Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief

"Investigative reporter Erin Banco reveals the complicated conspiracies keeping the richness of Iraqi oil from trickling down to the general populace....Banco's reportage vividly shows the human toll that deceit and subterfuge have taken on a land so rich in natural resources." —Kirkus Reviews

"Pipe Dreams is a deeply reported account of an all-to-predictable state of affairs, with corporations and rapacious officials taking advantage of an institutionally weak and unstable country surrounded by war. Many characters in the book emerge with financial credit to their name, but few emerge with any moral credit."—William Armstrong, Hürriyet Daily News

"With her trademark meticulous reporting, Erin Banco brings us the woefully untold story of theft in Iraq: the robbing of the Iraqi people’s natural resource rights. She takes us behind the scenes of broken promises and charts an ongoing network of corruption and deceit that has continued to plunder not only Iraq's oil wealth, but the lives of its would-be beneficiaries. The result is a journalistic tour de force that can't be ignored." —Lauren Bohn, Co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and Middle East correspondent for The GroundTruth Project

"Erin Banco expertly tells the complicated story of corruption that lies at the heart of the endless problems gripping Kurdistan and greater Iraq. Her investigative work on the country's troubled oil industry is deeply researched and engagingly told — and it shows how mismanagement and greed have turned a resource that should be a blessing into a curse. The book offers a unique and timely window onto the country's tumultuous past, as well as a lens for understanding the instability and violence that continue to plague it today." —Mike Giglio, Buzzfeed

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About the author

Erin Banco
© Miranda Sita

Erin Banco is an investigative reporter at the Star-Ledger and NJ.com, where she focuses on the intersection of money and government. A former fellow at The New York Times and the Middle East correspondent for International Business Times, she has covered armed conflict and human rights violations in the Middle East for years. She is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


2/26/2018, Miranda Sita

Pipe Dreams: Investigative Reporter Erin Banco

Pipe Dreams: Investigative Reporter Erin Banco

CGR Director Nicholas Lemann sits down with investigative reporter Erin Banco, author of the new book Pipe Dreams: The Plundering of Iraq’s Oil Wealth. When the United States invaded in 2003, the Bush Administration promised that oil revenue would be used to win the war and to rebuild and democratize the country. But fifteen years… more