BAGHDAD: Washington has granted Iraq a 45-day sanctions waiver to import Iranian gas that will expire days before the end of US President Donald Trump’s term, an Iraqi official said on Saturday.
Baghdad buys gas and electricity from neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its electricity sector, exhausted by years of conflict and poor maintenance.
The United States blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018, but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with US companies.
The length of the exemptions has become a key tool of US policy towards Iraq, demonstrating the level of satisfaction or frustration with Baghdad.
In May, Washington granted Iraq a four-month extension as a sign of goodwill towards Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, who had just formed a cabinet considered friendly to the United States.
But when it renewed the waiver at the end of September, the Trump administration only gave Iraq 60 days.
This time it was even shorter: 45 days, a senior Iraqi official told TBEN, expiring about a week before Trump handed the White House over to President-elect Joe Biden.
“They (the Trump administration) wanted one last chance to have their say,” the official said.
The shorter waiver comes as Iraqi and Western officials fear Trump is using his final days to strike out against Iran and its allies in Iraq.
The State Department is making plans for a possible closure of the US embassy in Baghdad, which was the target of dozens of rocket attacks last year.
And two Iraqi officials said they expected a “sanctions list” against Iranian interests in Iraq before the White House handover.
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