BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An Iraqi official said on Saturday that Washington had granted Iraq a short waiver of 45 days of sanctions to import Iranian gas that would expire days before the end of US President Donald Trump’s term.
Baghdad buys gas and electricity from its neighbor, Tehran, to supply about a third of its electricity sector, which has been battered by years of conflict and poor maintenance.
The United States blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 but granted Baghdad a series of temporary exemptions, hoping that Iraq wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with American companies.
The lengths of exceptions have become a major tool in US policy toward Iraq, demonstrating the level of satisfaction or frustration with Baghdad.
In May, Washington granted Iraq a four-month extension as a goodwill gesture toward Mustafa Al-Kazemi, who had just formed a government seen as friendly to the United States.
But when it renewed the exemption in late September, the Trump administration granted Iraq only 60 days.
But this time, it was shorter than that: 45 days, a senior Iraqi official said, expires about a week before Trump is due to hand over the White House to President-elect Joe Biden.
“They (the Trump administration) wanted a last chance to have their say,” the official said.
The shorter concession comes amid concerns from Iraqi and Western officials that Trump may use his final days in office to strike Iran and its allies in Iraq.
The State Department is laying out plans for a possible closure of the US embassy in Baghdad, which has been targeted by dozens of missile attacks in the past year.
Two Iraqi officials said they expected a “complete list of sanctions” against Iranian interests in Iraq before handing over the White House.