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: 9780997722949
  • Price: $14.99
  • E-book ISBN: 9780997722956
  • On Sale: January 29, 2018
  • Pages: 140


“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-too-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

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


The Broken Promises Of Iraq’s Oil —Huffington Post

War in Iraq and the Plunder of Kurdish Oil — Newsweek

🎧 Listen to our Underreported with Nicholas Lemann podcast episode with Erin Banco

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About the author

Erin Banco
© Miranda Sita

Erin Banco is a Middle East reporter, and has been covering armed conflict and human rights violations in the Middle East for six years. She began her career as a freelance reporter in Cairo during the Arab spring. She covered the revolts in the region and the war in Syria. After graduating from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, she worked as the Middle East correspondent for International Business Times, breaking stories on the rise of the Islamic State group and on the Free Syrian Army arms program. Banco also traveled to Gaza to cover the war with Israel in the summer of 2014. More recently, Banco began covering the Islamic State group's economy by tracking illicit oil sales in Turkey and Iraq. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and lives in New York City.  @ErinBanco