U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's Secretary of State pick, former Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, has been criticized by a lawmaker for allegedly endangering Christians in Iraq when his company negotiated an oil deal in 2011.
In a letter released Tuesday night, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to bring up the 2011 oil deal during the upcoming hearings for Tillerson's confirmation. Schakowsky's allegation is serious because there are many lawmakers who constantly express concern over the situation of Middle East Christians, The Huffington Post says.
"The number of Christians in Iraq has declined from 1.2 million residents in 2003 to less than 250,000 today. The deals Mr. Tillerson signed exacerbated an already perilous situation for those beleaguered communities," said Schakowsky in her letter. "He helped further marginalize the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians and embolden the territorial expansion into their ancestral homeland ― all with neither consent or input from nor compensation to the indigenous communities of the Nineveh Plain."
In light of the plight of the Christians in Iraq, Schakowsky wants senators on the committee to ask Tillerson what he knows about the said deal. She also wants to find out if the Secretary of State nominee believes that these minorities should be protected under U.S. policy and what he plans to do to secure them from governments and private firms "who put profit over human safety and security."
When Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Kurdish officials instead of the central Iraqi government for the development of six oil fields in northern Iraq, the company reportedly strengthened the Kurds' claim of being stable enough to stand as a separate nation. At the heart of the controversial deal is the Christians' allegation that the Kurds have been encroaching on their lands. The deal also became controversial because it undermines the U.S. policy on Iraq.
However, former House speaker Newt Gingrich opened up the possibility that unlike John Kerry or Hillary Clinton, Tillerson might actually be able to represent America more effectively to the world. Gingrich hailed the Exxon Mobil chief for his financial success, saying he might be able to seal agreements that could generate big jobs in the country, The Guardian reported last month.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did not endorse Trump's candidacy, also praised Tillerson for his success in the business industry. She predicted that the Exxon Mobil chief will be able to lead the state department well.