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US extends Iraq's waiver to import Iran electricity and gas, possibly for last time

Washington — The US on Thursday again extended a waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian electricity and natural gas despite US sanctions, Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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"Under a US-issued sanctions waiver, Iraq is permitted to engage in financial transactions related to the import of electricity from Iran," Ortagus said. "The purpose of this waiver, which the United States is renewing today, is to meet the immediate energy needs of the Iraqi people."

The extension is for 30 days, the shortest extension yet for Iraq, and will be the last extension issued, AFP reported Thursday. State Department officials did not respond to requests for additional information Thursday.

In her statement, Ortagus outlined new sanctions against 20 Iran- and Iraq-based entities which she said were funneling money to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force.

Ortagus said these entities were exploiting Iraq's dependence on Iran as an electricity source.

According to the US Treasury Department, the 20 entities were supporting: selling Iranian oil to the Syrian regime; smuggling Iranian petroleum through the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr; money laundering through Iraqi front companies; and other actions.

This will be the seventh waiver the US has issued for Iraq since US sanctions on Iran energy exports snapped back in November 2018. After an initial 45-day waiver, the State Department issued two 90-day waivers in a row followed by two 120-day waivers in a row in June and then October. It issued a 45-day waiver in February.

Previously, the US had asked Iraq to show signs that it was reducing its imports of Iranian gas and power to meet its electricity demand. It also urged Iraq to establish contracts with US companies.

"The United States engages regularly with the Iraqi government on energy security, and we support measures that reduce Iraq's energy dependence on Iran," Ortagus said Thursday.