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US set-back in isolating Iran as sanctions waiver is granted to Iraq

On the eve of renewed sanctions by Washington, Iranian protesters demonstate outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4, 2018, marking the anniversary of its storming by student protesters that triggered a hostage crisis in 1979 [ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images]
On the eve of renewed sanctions by Washington, Iranian protesters demonstrate outside the former US embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on 4 November 2018 [ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images]

The US has faced another set-back in its attempt to isolate Iran following the decision by Washington to issue another 90 days sanctions waiver to Iraq, allowing Baghdad to continue to purchase energy from Tehran.

Mindful not to destabilise the war-torn country increasingly reliant on Iranian gas and electricity, the State Department issued a second three-month exemption yesterday, to enable Iraq to cope with chronic blackouts that have triggered unrest.

“While this waiver is intended to help Iraq mitigate energy shortages, we continue to discuss our Iran-related sanctions with our partners in Iraq,” an unnamed State Department was widely quoted as saying.

The official went on to say that increasing Iraq’s capacities and diversifying imports “will strengthen Iraq’s economy and development as well as encourage a united, democratic and prosperous Iraq free from malign Iranian influence.”

READ: Iran to file lawsuit against US over sanctions

The decision will be seen as another set-back for the Trump administration which has been struggling to rally governments across the globe behind policy to isolate Iran through a new round of sanctions following Trumps unilateral decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Trump’s approach was met with strong opposition especially from European powers who have encouraged their companies to stay present in Iran so as to safeguard the denuclearisation accord.

The Trump administration is committed to the daunting task of pulling Iraq out of Iran’s sphere of influence. But this is proving to be much harder than anticipated. Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein has walked a fine line and maintained warm ties with Iran, with which Iraq’s majority Shia community shares religious affinities.

The affinity between the two countries was vividly displayed last week when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to Iraq, where he highlighted Tehran’s support in battling Daesh and said that the United States was “despised” in the region. The two countries signed trade pact to help offset the damage caused by US sanctions.

READ: Iran’s oil minister blames US for market tensions

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