The Biden administration has granted Iraq approval to pay Iran roughly $2.76 billion in gas and electricity debt.
Reuters reported that Iraq agreed to pay about $2.76 to Iran after the United States granted a sanctions waver, according to a senior Iraq foreign ministry official. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein was granted the waiver during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the recent Riyadh Conference.
As a result of years of conflict in the region and sanctions, Iraq depends on Iranian imports for a significant portion of its gas supply. According to Reuters, U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil and gas have prevented Iraq’s payments to Iran for gas imports, which has led to Iran often cutting the flow of gas to Iraq.
When asked about the payments to Iran, Ahmed Al-Sahhaf, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that Hussein had taken steps “regarding financial dues between Iraq and Iran during his discussion with his American counterpart in Riyadh.”
An Iraqi foreign ministry source indicated that the payment to Iran will involve funds being transferred from the Commercial Bank of Iraq, adding that the money received by Iran will be used for the expenses of Iranian pilgrims and food products imported by Iran.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies pointed to the timing of the payment occurring at the same time reports have circulated that the U.S. is attempting to trade Iranian funding trapped in foreign accounts in exchange for Iran halting nuclear efforts. A recent report suggested that a new nuclear agreement could be reached between the U.S. and Iran in a matter of weeks.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act prevents the president from executing “statutory sanctions relief” for Iran in any effort to reach an “agreement” with Iran regarding its nuclear program without congressional oversight. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies said there are ongoing questions regarding the Biden administration’s approval for Iraq to pay Iran $2.76 billion without congressional approval.
“Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle must be vigilant in ensuring that the Biden administration does not circumvent their oversight as the White House continues to try to enter an Iran nuclear agreement,” Matt Zweig, Senior Director of Policy for FDD Action, said. “Both the House and Senate must leverage all available legislative tools at their disposal to force the administration to be transparent with respect to its Iran policy, which has not been the case.”