U.S. quietly grants 120-day waiver for Iraq to pay for electricity from Iran
Shafaq News/ The United States has quietly renewed a waiver allowing Iraq to pay for electricity imported from Iran, giving Baghdad 120 days to reduce its energy dependence on neighboring Tehran, according to a non-public notification obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that was provided to Congress just as nuclear talks between the United States and Tehran resumed this week.
The waiver was renewed despite U.S. sanctions imposed after former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
The U.S. has issued regular waivers to Iraq since it reimposed sanctions, but last year shortened their length to encourage Iraq to reduce its use of Iranian energy.
Thursday's 120-day extension is the third under President Joe Biden, who has sought to re-enter diplomacy with Iran over returning to the nuclear deal.
The timing of the waiver notification—which was signed Nov. 19 but not transmitted to Congress until Nov. 29, the day nuclear negotiations resumed—has prompted accusations the Biden administration is offering concessions to Tehran to generate goodwill as talks aimed at securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal restart following a months-long standoff.
During the several-month pause, Tehran increased its nuclear program, including the enrichment of uranium and installation of advanced nuclear centrifuges. One senior congressional source familiar with the matter said the delay in transmitting the waiver to Congress indicates the administration is sensitive to the optics of waving sanctions just as negotiations resume.
The State Department says it attempted to "deliver the classified portion on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 23 and 24, but due to the closure of congressional offices in connection to the Thanksgiving holiday were not able to identify appropriate recipients." Due to this delay, Congress did not receive the information until Monday.
The State Department maintains in the waiver that Iranian electricity sales to Iraq remain "in the national security interest of the United States." Iraq's failure to reduce its reliance on Iranian electricity necessitated the United States to waive sanctions to enable these sales, according to the waiver.
"In light of the considerations detailed in the classified annex to this report, the secretary determined this waiver is in the national security interest of the United States, and vital to the national security of the United States, with respect to Iraq, and certifies that this jurisdiction faced exceptional circumstances preventing it from significantly reducing its purchases of petroleum and petroleum products from Iran," according to the waiver, which is signed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. "Iraq continues to be a critical partner in the region, and its continued concrete political and economic cooperation is expected as a result of this waiver."