Washington reupped its 90-day Iran sanctions ‘waiver’ for Iraq this week for the third time, enabling Baghdad to continue importing electricity and natural gas from its eastern neighbor – a crucial lifeline for reducing chronic (and destabilizing) electricity shortages. The last such waiver was granted in December (MEES, 4 January).

The issue is a sore one for both Iraq and the US. Iraq imports some 750mn cfd of gas and around 1-1.5GW of electricity from Iran, and without these it would fail to meet even half of average daily electricity demand. As Electricity Minister Luay al-Khatteeb told MEES last month “our vision is not to continue importing electricity and gas [from Iran]. But one needs to be realistic” (MEES, 15 February). And so far, Washington – notwithstanding its rhetoric – has been. Despite its keenness to choke out Iranian influence in the Middle East and elsewhere, the US has held off on enforcing sanctions against Iraq, realizing it would only further alienate the country’s somewhat friendly (but fragile) new government and thus play into pro-Iranian parties’ hands. (CONTINUED - 174 WORDS)