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US extends waiver for Iranian energy to Baghdad, but pressure mounts

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Allie Goulding/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

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

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly granted a fresh extension on a waiver to let Iraq import electricity from neighboring Iran as efforts continue to form a lasting government in Baghdad, but possibly for a shorter period to press the Iraqi administration into greater action.

Reuters and AP quoted unnamed sources on the U.S. and Iraqi sides confirming the prolongation of the State Department waiver.

But the U.S. source, from the State Department, suggested it would be reevaluated sooner than the 90, 120, or even 30 days that were being granted up to last month.

“The secretary [Pompeo] granted this brief extension of the waiver to allow time for the formation of a credible government,” Reuters quoted a State Department official as saying, adding that the new waiver would expire on May 26.

Washington has been prodding Iraq, which is OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, toward self-sufficiency in the energy sector as it has allowed the import of energy from longtime U.S. foe Iran.

AFP quoted the Iraqi source as saying the U.S. waiver “is extended for another 30 days. There are no specific conditions.”

Iraqi President Barham Salih recently tapped the third person in less than three months, intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to lead a government amid an ongoing crisis that emerged with the onset of deadly anti-government protests last year.

Al-Kadhimi has been in tough talks with political parties to form a cabinet and has until May 9 to submit a lineup to parliament for a vote of confidence.

“Once that government is in place, the secretary will reassess whether to renew the waiver and for how long, and looks forward to resuming our cooperation with the government of Iraq to reduce Iraq’s dependence on unreliable Iranian energy imports,” Reuters quoted the State Department official as saying.