Iraq reduces by 75% its imports of Iranian gas and electricity

Iraq’s decision to stop relying on Iranian electricity and gas supplies seems surprising in light of the divisions among political parties and loyalty of many of them to Tehran.

In a major surprise move, the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity revealed that it had reduced its imports of electricity and natural gas from Iran by 75% and that it was approaching the goal of self-sufficiency in generating electric power.

Analysts say this move indicates that Baghdad may have been told by Washington that the US will soon be revoking the waiver extended to Iraq from the US sanctions imposed on Iran.

The US administration has been automatically renewing every three months the waiver granted to Iraq from the sanctions imposed on Iran two years ago. The last waiver ran out on March 31 and was extended by one month only.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Ahmed al-Abadi, said that “the electricity produced by the country’s power plants is sufficient to cover the local needs continuously, except for Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces, where electric power is available at the rate of 20 hours per day.”

Abadi was quoted in a report published by the government newspaper Al-Sabah on Monday as saying that “the increase in the supply is due to lower loads and the operation of new generating units, in addition to clement temperatures.”

“The current volume of electricity production in Iraq is estimated at 13400 megawatts, and based on this data, the Ministry of Electricity has deliberately reduced the volume of electricity imported via land lines from the Iranian side, as well as the import of gas used to power the generating plants,” he added.

Iraq’s decision to stop relying on Iranian electricity and gas supplies seems surprising in light of the reigning divisions among the political parties and the loyalty of many of them to Tehran.

Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Al-Ghadban revealed last week that the Ministry of Oil is close to adding about a billion standard cubic feet of associated gas per day to the national production.

Baghdad had previously insisted that it still badly needed Iranian gas supplies to feed its electricity sector, especially in the summer when temperatures soar to more than 50C. Just this past April 14, Ghadban had ruled out stopping gas imports from Iran to supply Iraqi electricity power plants.

With the deadline of the American waiver running out at the end of the month, and as it nears the summer season when electricity consumption soars, Iraq will be facing a tough test if Washington requires it to commit to observing US sanctions on Iran.

The Iraqi government does not provide accurate annual estimates of the volumes of electricity and gas it imports from Iran, which confirms that the matter is less related to Baghdad’s need and more dependent on Tehran’s ability to provide what is required.

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