Iraq seeks exemption from US sanctions to keep importing Iranian gas
The Iraqi Prime Minister has talked of a government delegation dispatched to the United States to explore ways of seeking exemption from US unilateral sanctions against Iran.
Abdul Mahdi’d remarks came on the same day that US Energy Secretary Rick Perry met Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban and Electricity Minister Qasim Mohammad Abid Hammadi al-Fahadawi in Baghdad, Reuters reported.
The United States said last month that Iraq can continue to import natural gas and energy supplies from Iran for a period of 45 days as long as it does not pay Iran in US dollars. Sanctions on Iran’s oil sector took effect on November 5.
According to the terms of an agreement struck between Tehran and Baghdad, Iran is to supply 35 million cubic meters of natural gas on a daily basis to the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad [gradually in three phases], while up to 25 million cubic meters of gas per day is supposed to be exported to the southern city of Basra.
Iraq has extensive trade ties with Iran and depends on Iranian natural gas imports for electricity generation. Basra in southern Iraq was hit by violent protests which spread to other cities this summer, partly because of a halt of Iranian electricity exports.
Iran is currently Iraq's top trade partner, with annual turnover standing at about $12 billion, according to Iraqi officials.
Foodstuff, livestock, construction material and plastic products constitute the bulk of Iran’s exports to Iraq where Iranian vehicles and food items are a ubiquitous sight.
The two neighbors are currently working on the supply of Iranian gas to Sadr, Baghdad and al-Mansuriya power plants through a 270-kilometer pipeline and to Basra near the Iranian border via a separate pipeline.
Iraq and Iran have also been exchanging oil through a swap deal under which crude from the Kirkuk field in northern Iraq is shipped by truck to Iran which uses it in its refineries and delivers the same amount of oil to Iraq’s southern ports.
Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi said late last month that the two neighbors plan to raise their trade to $20 billion a year.
“The Iraqis need Iran’s natural gas, electricity, food items and industrial materials. If these exports are stopped, there will be problems not only for Iran but also for the Iraqis,” he added.
The administration of US President Donald Trump recently announced the re-imposition of sanctions ever against Iran's oil exports, shipping and banking. The bans had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 101/202