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US extends waiver to allow Iraq to buy Iranian energy supplies

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, April 4, 2018. (Kremlin.ru/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States is extending a waiver to allow Iraq to continue to buy electricity from Iran, despite sanctions imposed by Washington targeting Tehran’s energy sector.

The original waiver, issued in December 2017, expired on March 19.

The State Department issued the second three-month exemption to help prevent a destabilization of Iraq, which has relied on Iranian gas and electricity supplies to help it deal with shortages that have led to anti-government protests in some areas.

Iraq, which receives financial and military support from Washington, has attempted to balance its relations with the United States and Iran, which carries significant influence with members of Iraq’s Shi’ite population.

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“While this waiver is intended to help Iraq mitigate energy shortages, we continue to discuss our Iran-related sanctions with our partners in Iraq,” a State Department official said.

The State Department also said Washington is continuing to work with Iraq to end its dependence on Iranian gas and electricity and to achieve energy independence.

By diversifying its energy supplies, Baghdad can “encourage a united, democratic, and prosperous Iraq free from malign Iranian influence.”

The United States has reimposed sanctions against Iran after withdrawing from a landmark 2015 agreement under which Tehran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iraq was granted limited waivers to continue buying Iranian electricity and the natural gas needed to generate it, although the United States has called on Baghdad to form partnerships with American companies to become energy independent.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani last week conducted a three-day visit to Iraq, seeking to bolster Tehran’s influence in the neighboring country and expand commercial ties.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who arrived in the Iraqi capital ahead of Rohani’s visit, thanked Baghdad for having “refused the unjust and illegal sanctions imposed on the Iranian people,” in a reference to the U.S. sanctions.

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