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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Iran resumes electricity supply to Iraq after a month of unrest 

Iraq to apply for an exemption from US sanctions against Tehran

An Iraqi man checks an electric generator supplying homes with electricity in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital on July 26, 2018. AFP
An Iraqi man checks an electric generator supplying homes with electricity in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital on July 26, 2018. AFP

Iran has resumed supplying electricity to Iraq, after shortages in Iraqi cities triggered a wave of unrest.

Deputy Energy Minister Mahmoudreza Haghifam said Tehran had restarted electricity export to Iraq and would further increase it, Tasnim news agency reports.

“Currently, we are exporting 200 to 250 megawatts of electricity to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” he said.

Iran halted electricity supplies to its western neighbour in July partly due to unpaid bills but also because of a spike in demand over summer. The cut led to accusations that Tehran was seeking to create unrest in the neighbouring country.

Baghdad's electricity problem triggered protests last month when residents in the south vented their anger over the government's failure to provide adequate public services and jobs. The unrest spread across Basra and eventually reached the capital, Baghdad.

The scourge of poor services continues in southern Iraq, where nearly 4,000 Basra residents have reportedly been treated for water-borne illnesses due to polluted drinking supplies over the past week.

“The real culprit has not been identified. Blame is thrown at industrial plants discharge, water treatment plants, ice factories, tankers,” Yesar Al Maleki, resident fellow at Iraq Energy Institute, said on Twitter.

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Across the border, Iran has also experienced protests in recent months driven in part by the collapsing value of the rial. Tehran's economic woes are anticipated to worsen in the face of renewed US sanctions.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from an international deal aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear programme earlier this year and reimposed trade sanctions this month.

Baghdad is planning to send a delegation to Washington to petition for an exemption from the sanctions, Reuters reports.

A diplomatic source declined to comment when asked by The National about the visit.

Earlier Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said that Iraq would only reluctantly comply with the embargo and will respect the requirement on US dollar purchases, which is a major part of the sanctions and one of the most awkward for business.

Iran is Iraq’s second-largest trading partner after Turkey, exporting everything from gas and electricity to fruits and vegetables, across numerous crossings along the nearly 1,500-kilometre shared border.

The sanctions have prohibited the Iraqi government and banks from paying anyone in Iran in dollars.

President Trump has warned there will be serious consequences for countries that do not respect the sanctions.