US extends Iraq sanctions waiver until before Biden inauguration

US extends Iraq sanctions waiver until before Biden inauguration
A general view shows the Tigris River running through the Iraqi capital Baghdad, with the Ottoman-era Qishleh clock tower on the right, on September 17, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 November 2020

US extends Iraq sanctions waiver until before Biden inauguration

US extends Iraq sanctions waiver until before Biden inauguration
  • Baghdad buys gas and electricity from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its power sector
  • The US blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers

BAGHDAD: Washington has granted Iraq a shortened 45-day sanctions waiver to import Iranian gas that will expire days before US President Donald Trump’s term ends, an Iraqi official said Saturday.
Baghdad buys gas and electricity from its neighbor Tehran to supply about a third of its power sector, worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance.
The US blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 but granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy by partnering with US firms.
The lengths of the exemptions have become a key tool in US policy toward Iraq, demonstrating the level of satisfaction or frustration with Baghdad.
In May, Washington granted Iraq a four-month extension as a gesture of goodwill toward Mustafa Al-Kadhemi, who had just formed a cabinet seen as US-friendly.
But when it renewed the waiver in late September, the Trump administration gave Iraq just 60 days.
This time, it went even shorter: 45 days, a top Iraqi official told AFP, expiring around a week before Trump is set to hand over the White House to President-elect Joe Biden.
“They (the Trump administration) wanted a last opportunity to have a say,” the official said.
The shorter waiver comes amid concern by Iraqi and Western officials that Trump could use his final days in office to strike at Iran and its allies in Iraq.
The State Department is drawing up plans for a possible closure of the American embassy in Baghdad, which has been targeted by dozens of rocket attacks in the last year.
And two Iraqi officials have said they expect a “bucket list of sanctions” against Iranian interests in Iraq ahead of the White House handover.


Israeli defence minister calls on Palestinians to return to negotiations

Updated 04 December 2020

Israeli defence minister calls on Palestinians to return to negotiations

Israeli defence minister calls on Palestinians to return to negotiations
  • Alternate Prime Minister welcomed the return of contact between the Palestinian Authority and Israel
  • He called on Palestinians to coordinate with Israel on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic

Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz called on the Palestinians to return to negotiations and coordination regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel will provide COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinians, Israeli Defense Minister said on Friday.

Gantz addressed the Palestinian public directly for the first time in a video posted on the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories's (COGAT) Arabic language Facebook page.

COGAT is a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the government,  international organizations and the Palestinian Authority.

The minister also claimed that Tel Aviv was ready to push for large projects in Gaza, provided that prisoners and missing persons are returned.

The proposed projects with Gaza will allow the exit of workers and joint industrial zones, he added.

“The Middle East is changing,” the minister said, touching on recent normalization agreements made between Israel and Arab countries.

“It is in your interest to integrate and to return to the negotiation table and create hope for the future of the next generations,” he said.