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US grants Iraq shortened 45-day waiver to import Iranian energy: reports

The outgoing administration of US President Donald Trump has granted Iraq another shortened 45-day waiver to import Iranian energy without incurring sanctions, according to reports. The waiver expires just days before Trump is set to leave office in January.

Informed sources told Iraq Oil Report on Friday that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved a 45-day sanctions waiver to Iraqi government to import Iranian gas, days before the current 60-day waiver expires.

AFP also reported on the new waiver, citing an Iraqi official. “They (the Trump administration) wanted a last opportunity to have a say,” the unnamed official told the agency.

The US reimposed a raft of harsh economic sanctions on Iran after the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018.

While other major importers of Iranian energy, particularly oil, were forced to shop elsewhere or face US sanctions, Iraq was granted recurring waivers of between one and four months – on the condition it eventually weans itself off Iranian imports.

Iraq suffers from chronic shortages of electricity. War, corruption, insecurity and lack of investment have contributed to a deteriorating grid, and have been a rallying cry for protesters. To make up for the shortage, Iraq imports electricity and natural gas to power its generation stations from neighboring Iran, much to the ire of Washington, which has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

Washington has granted Baghdad waivers since it imposed sanctions in November 2018, but ultimately expects Iraq to reduce its reliance on Iranian gas and electricity imports.

Baghdad imports 1200-1500 megawatts of electricity from neighboring Iran on a daily basis, in addition to 38 million cubic meters of natural gas to feed several of Iraq’s power stations, according to Sayyid Hamid Hosseini, secretary general of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce.

The new waiver comes weeks after the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to have a softer policy towards Iran when he comes to power in late January. It also comes just days after the expiration of a 40-day ceasefire between the US and Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq – who targeted the US embassy late Tuesday. Source