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Iraq has not received any energy from Iran in a month, says electricity ministry

Iraq has not received energy from Iran for a month, Iraq’s interim Minister of Electricity told state media on Tuesday, claiming that without Iranian natural gas, Iraq would face “disaster.”

“We have not received any energy from Iran for a month, and without Iranian gas Iraq would face a disaster,” said Adil Karim.

Iraq suffers from chronic electricity shortages, especially felt when summer temperatures reach over 50 degrees Celsius. Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi killed all hope of a swift solution to the problem.

“There are no quick solutions to the electricity problem, but we are trying to carry out the procedures and solutions in the fastest possible way,” Kadhimi said in a visit to the electricity ministry.

In April, a ministry spokesperson said that Iraq needs 50 million cubic meters of gas per day in winter, and 70 million per day in the summer, to cope with the increase in demand for electricity.

Iraq currently imports 20 million cubic meters from Iran, but will return to its original amount of 50 million cubic meters, he added.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian natural gas for power. Over the past year Iran has cut gas exports to Iraq time and time again over unpaid debts, leading to blackouts across the border.

Iraqi officials have on different occasions said that they would pay the debt “soon”, though how soon is unclear.

In December, Iran substantially reduced its natural gas exports to Iraq, threatening to plunge parts of the country into darkness as the National Iranian Gas Company announced that the Iraqi government owes it five billion dollars in gas supplies, in addition to a billion dollars for the delay in repaying its dues.

On March 31, the US agreed to further extend Iraq’s exemption from the ban on purchasing Iranian gas, allowing the Iraqi government to buy and import gas from Iran for a further four months.

Iran said late last year Iraq had paid off a “considerable part” of its debt to Tehran.

Iran has suffered with constant electricity outages over the past month, with government officials asking people to reduce consumption. Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani issued an apology to the Iranian people earlier this month following protests over widespread water shortages and blackouts. Several people have been killed in an ensuing crackdown from security forces.

Despite the grim picture, the interim minister voiced some level of optimism.

“If there is support, in five years we will reach complete energy self-sufficiency,” Karim said.

Iraq reached an agreement with Jordan last year to import electricity from 2022, diversifying its sources.