Iraq will continue importing electricity and natural gas from Iran under an exemption from US sanctions, the special representative for Iran at the US State Department Brain Hook has said.
The waiver marks a further retreat by the Trump administration after it exempted eight countries – but not Iraq – from its unilateral trade sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
It came after the United States issued formal waivers for Iran’s Chabahar on the Sea of Oman which is being developed jointly by India to crack open a trade and transport route to landlocked Afghanistan.
Iraq has extensive trade ties with Iran and depends on Iranian natural gas imports for electricity generation. Basra in southern Iraq was hit by violent protests which spread to other cities this summer, partly because of a halt of Iranian electricity exports.
On Tuesday, Iraq’s former prime minister and leader of the al-Wataniya faction in parliament Ayad Allawi warned that new US sanctions on Iran would have deep impact on the Iraqi economy.
Allawi said like the Iraqi government and other political leaders, he was opposed to unilateral US sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iraq’s al-Maluma news agency reported.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said his country’s position with regard to the US sanctions was similar to those by the European Union, Russia, China and Japan.
He said official delegations have been negotiating with both American and Iranian parties for some time, with the message that “Iraq will not be part of the sanctions regime, as it will not be part of aggression against any country.”
Abdul Mahdi said his country will consider both its own interests and the interests of others, “and if the United States makes a decision, it must implement it through its own means and not by other countries.”
Iran is currently Iraq’s top trade partner, with annual turnover standing at about $12 billion, according to Iraqi officials.