US gives Iraq sanctions waiver for Iranian gas and electricity imports

Iraq remains highly dependent on Iranian natural gas to meet its electricity demands, especially during the scorching summer months. (AP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

US gives Iraq sanctions waiver for Iranian gas and electricity imports

  • The new waiver gives Iraq just 45 days to show Americans that it is making good on conditions to boost domestic gas supply

BAGHDAD: The US has granted Iraq a 45-day sanctions waiver enabling the country to continue importing vital Iranian gas and electricity supplies.

In a statement on Wednesday, the US State Department said that the waiver “ensures that Iraq is able to meet its short-term energy needs while it takes steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian energy imports.”

The US has applied stringent sanctions on Iran that punish any country trading with it.

The issuance of the waiver came amid fraught US-Iraq ties following an American drone strike that killed the top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, near Baghdad airport on Jan. 3.

Washington had expressed willingness to extend the sanctions waiver, which was due to expire this week, Iraqi officials said, on condition that Iraq provide a timeline detailing a plan to wean itself off Iranian gas dependence.

The two officials said that the US issued the waiver anyway and offered the possibility of a longer time period if Iraq produces the requested timeline. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

In its statement, the US State Department said: “Iran has proven itself as a highly unreliable source of energy for Iraq. Reducing Iranian energy imports is therefore paramount for Iraq to achieve energy security.”

The new waiver gives Iraq just 45 days to show Americans that it is making good on conditions to boost domestic gas supply or find alternative sources for power, and lessen its reliance on Iran. The previous waiver, issued in October, had given Iraq 120 days.

A senior Iraqi official with knowledge of sanctions negotiations with the US said that the period could be extended again once Iraq submits a technical timetable detailing how it plans to meet gas independence.

“It happened that the United States of America gave us a period of 45 days, and it could be extended in the event of us submitting a timetable regarding Iraqi gas investment,” the official said. “Until now, we have not sent them a timetable.”

Iraq remains highly dependent on Iranian natural gas to meet electricity demands, especially during the scorching summer months when imports account for a third of consumption.  


Saudi PIF unit SEVEN to build theme parks and entertainment centers across the Kingdom

Updated 25 February 2020

Saudi PIF unit SEVEN to build theme parks and entertainment centers across the Kingdom

  • Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom
  • Each complex will feature several entertainment and leisure choices including cinemas, play areas, rides and F&B outlets

LONDON: The Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) plans to develop theme parks and entertainment centers around the country.
Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom, the Public Investment Fund unit said in a statement on Tuesday.
Each complex will feature several entertainment and leisure choices including cinemas, play areas, rides, F&B, attractions and more. 
“We are committed to realizing the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 to accelerate the creation of world-class entertainment assets in the Kingdom that support economic diversification, create new jobs, and contribute to socio-economic progress,” said SEVEN Chairman Abdullah Al-Dawood. “Our complexes will position the Kingdom as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub of the region.”
The new attractions are planned for cities that include Jeddah, Jazan, Taif, Tabuk and Yanbu as well as the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah.
In the capital the entertainment center at Al Hamra will serve the densely populated suburbs of north east Riyadh, with some 2.5 million people living within a 30 minute drive. In Dammam and Al Khobar, SEVEN is also developing new waterfront attractions.
Entertainment is expected to be a key driver for Saudi economic growth over the next four years according to a report released this week by CBRE, the international real estate broker.
In addition to the new entertainment centers announced by the PIF, a number of other high-profile projects are underway, including the Qiddiya Entertainment City, The Red Sea Project, AMAALA, Al Ula, King Salman Park and Riyadh Sport Boulevard.
The retail and hospitality sectors are expected to benefit from the entertainment boom with total retail space in the capital expected to reach 3.5 million square meters (sq m) of gross leasable area by 2024. By 2024, Jeddah’s retail market is expected to witness considerable supply growth, reaching over 2 million sq m. 
As of 2019, the Kingdom received about 59 million tourist trips and these figures are expected to continue to increase to 100 million tourist trips by 2024.
“It is clear that Saudi Arabia remains one of the game changers in the entertainment sectors globally,” said CBRE MENAT Managing Director Nicholas Maclean.