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Iraq's energy needs force US to allow it to cooperate with Tehran

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From financing the expansion of the vast courtyards that lead into the Shiite shrines of the holy city of Najaf, to ensuring that a Tehran-friendly candidate gets the job of interior minister, Iran’s role in Iraq keeps growing, the New York Times reported.

The US Administration has renewed for another 90 days a sanctions waiver for Iraq to continue importing energy from neighboring Iran despite the American sanctions on Tehran, an official with the US State Department told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Iraq was granted a 90-day waiver to purchase energy imports from Iran,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

This is the third waiver for Iraq—which depends on Iranian electricity and natural gas imports for part of its energy needs—that the United States has granted since it re-imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil, energy, and shipping industries in early November 2018.

At the end of last year, the US granted Iraq a 90-day extension to the initial 45-day waiver allowing Baghdad to continue imports of electricity from Iran after the US sanctions on Tehran returned.

Major Iraqi power plants are dependent on Iranian natural gas supply, while Iraq also imports electricity from Iran, as Baghdad’s power generation is not enough to ensure domestic supply.

Iraq has argued that it needs more time to find alternative sources of electricity supply if it is to avoid more and more power outages, which is one of the main reasons for protest rallies in the heart of Iraq’s oil region in the southern city of Basra last summer.

The United States, for its part, has been urging Iraq to become energy independent, at least energy independent from Iran.

At his keynote address at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US is encouraging countries to partner with the US for their energy security.

“We’re reminding them that we’re simply better to do business with than Russia, China, or Iran,” Pompeo said, calling out Iran for the energy influence it exerts over Iraq.  

“Perhaps there’s no clearer example than in Iran. Iran uses its energy exports to exert undue influence all across the Middle East, most particularly today on Iraq. While the United States is working to develop an independent, sovereign Iraq, Iran is using its energy to create a vassal state,” Secretary Pompeo said.

Cementing its dominance in Iraq is a piece with Iran’s regional ambitions, which aim to secure a route to the Mediterranean through friendly countries, in part so it can ship arms and support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, continue assisting President Bashar Assad’s military in Syria and threaten Israel.

Now that Iran has expanded the Shiite armed groups into a political force, much as they have done with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran’s new priority is to increase economic ties with Iraq to offset American sanctions.
Last Modified: Friday، 22 March 2019 12:33 AM
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