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Parliament speaker says Iraq will need to buy Iranian electricity for 3 years

Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Halbousi signs Secretary Pompeo's guestbook before their meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2019. (State Department photo by Michael Gross/Released)

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

The speaker of Iraq’s parliament wants the United States to extend a waiver that allows it to buy electricity from Iran for at least three years, saying it will take that long before the oil-rich country can manage on its own.

“Hopefully, this waiver will be extended until Iraq can stand on its feet economically,” speaker Muhammad al-Halbusi said on March 29 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.

Halbusi, who met with Vice President Mike Pence during his U.S. visit, is a member of the Sunni minority whose political bloc has good relations with Shi’ite-led Iran.

He said that Iraq imports about 30 percent of its electrical power despite its own energy reserves.

“After these three years, maybe we can see Iraq as economically independent, and we won’t need to import power or electricity from a foreign country. Maybe we can address this issue after three years,” he said.

Speaking later to reporters, Halbusi warned Washington of the negative effect of “any hasty, uncalculated step to adopt policies and procedures against countries in this region.”

The United States on March 19 extended a waiver to allow Iraq to continue to buy electricity from Iran, despite sanctions imposed by Washington targeting Tehran’s energy sector.

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 antigovernment 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.

“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 at the time.

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.

Trump also provided six-month waivers to Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, India, and China as long as they keep working to reduce their imports.