Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said he hopes the United States will keep waiving sanctions on energy imports from neighboring Iran, noting that the Arab country will need to purchase electricity from the Islamic Republic for three years.
In November last year, Washington granted a 45-day waiver on electricity to the Arab country and extended it by 90 days in December after US President Donald Trump’s administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in May, following walking out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Earlier this month, the US State Department extended the 90-day waiver for the second time to let Iraq continue energy imports from Iran. The original exemption granted in December expired on March 19.
“Hopefully this waiver will be extended until Iraq can stand on its feet economically,” said Halbusi at the US Institute of Peace on a visit to Washington, where he met senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq is the biggest importer of electricity from Iran. It needs more than 23,000 megawatts of electricity to meet its domestic demand but years of war following the 2003 US invasion have left its power infrastructure in tatters and a deficit of some 7,000 megawatts.
“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 added, Press TV reported.
At a press conference held after his speech, Halbusi warned Washington of the negative effect of “any hasty, uncalculated step to adopt policies and procedures against countries in this region.”
The electricity shortfall in the war-torn country is especially acute in the sweltering summers, which led to violent protests in Basra in September and turned into a national crisis.
Iraq’s electricity demand is expected to increase again this summer and any cuts in Iranian supplies are set to trigger more protests and reignite unrest, destabilizing the Arab country.
In addition to natural gas and electricity, Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, and air conditioners.
(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)