Friday, November 16, 2018
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Iraq gets US sanctions break to keep the lights on


AFP
Baghdad
Iraq has won an exemption allowing it to buy Iranian electricity despite US sanctions, as the country plagued by chronic power shortages walks a tightrope between rivals Washington and Tehran.
With US measures imposed on Monday taking aim at Iran's banking and energy industries, there were concerns Iraq -- which heavily relies on its eastern neighbour for electricity and consumer goods -- would be caught in the crossfire. But Baghdad has managed to secure an exception.
"We granted Iraq a waiver to allow it to continue to pay for its electricity imports from Iran," Brian Hook, the State Department's representative on Iran, announced on Wednesday.
Iraq would be expected to show the US how it would wean itself off Iranian gas, a well-informed source told AFP.
"The US gave us 45 days to give them a plan on how we will gradually stop using Iranian gas and oil," the source said."We told them it may take us up to four years to either become self-sufficient or find another alternative." The exemption came after talks between Iraqi and US officials, including from the White House and Treasury, the source said.
Iraqi government representatives have shuffled between American and Iranian officials for months in a bid to insulate their fragile economy from escalating tensions.
This week, Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi said Baghdad was in talks with both sides to protect its interests.
"Iraq is not a part of the sanctions regime. It talks to everyone, and does not want to get involved in a conflict that it's not a part of," he told reporters Tuesday.
Baghdad has a strong relationship with the United States, coordinating on security, politics, and governance. But its economy is profoundly intertwined with that of Iran. Its markets are flooded with Iranian goods -- from canned food and yoghurt to carpets and cars.

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