US grants Iraq additional Iran sanctions waiver

US grants Iraq additional Iran sanctions waiver

Iraqi official says extension comes after ‘long discussions’ with Washington, which seeks to curb vital Iranian energy imports to one of the world’s hottest countries

Fires flare off from gas in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
Fires flare off from gas in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

BAGHDAD — The United States has granted Iraq another 90-day waiver to continue with vital energy imports from neighboring Iran despite re-imposed sanctions, a government source said Saturday.

The extension came after “long discussions” with Washington ahead of a looming deadline on a previous extension granted in December, the official, close to the negotiations, told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The talks came amid spiking tensions between Iraq’s two closest allies — the US and Iran — following a twin attack on tankers in the Gulf that US President Donald Trump has blamed on Tehran.

Iranian energy imports are vital to Iraq, one of the world’s hottest countries, which faces chronic blackouts that often leave homes without power for up to 20 hours a day.

Protesters chant anti-government slogans while security forces prevent them from storming the governor’s building during protests demanding better public services and jobs, in Basra, Iraq, September 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

Summer temperatures in Baghdad are already topping seasonal averages, boosting electricity consumption and raising fears of a repeat of last summer’s mass protests over power outages.

To compensate, Iraq pipes in up to 28 million cubic meters of Iranian gas a day for power generation and also directly imports up to 1,300 megawatts of Iranian electricity.

That dependence is uncomfortable for Washington, which sees Tehran as its top regional foe.

Trump reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions on Iran’s energy and finance sectors in November following a decision to abandon a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.

He gave Iraq an initial 45-day waiver to continue buying electricity and natural gas from Tehran, and in December Washington granted Baghdad an 90-day extension.

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