The Biden Administration has decided to extend by 120 days a sanctions waiver that allows Iraq to pay for the much-needed fuel it has received from Iran without running afoul of U.S. sanctions.
The waiver permits Iraq to deposit payments into non-Iraqi banks with restricted accounts, accessible to Iran for spending only on humanitarian goods. An estimated $10 billion has been built up in Iraqi escrow accounts for the Iranian gas, and Iran has responded to lack of payment by periodically cutting gas supplies to Iraq.
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller noted that there are 20 U.S. sanctions waivers dealing with payment by Iraq for Iranian fuel imports, and that they were initiated under the previous U.S. administration. The waivers are consistent, he said, with the U.S. goals of reducing Iran’s leverage over Iraq, and of ultimately weaning Iraq from dependence on Iranian fuel.
Also, and importantly, Spokesperson Miller said allowing Iran to access funds for the purpose of buying food and medicine is a good thing for the Iranian people “with whom we have no quarrel.”
“Our quarrel is with the Iranian regime and its destabilizing activities. And what we see is an Iranian regime that – whether these waivers are issued or not, whether their people benefit from these monies or not – continues to fund hostile activities. That has not changed; it has not changed going back years,” he said. “It has done that first and foremost; it’s one of its top priorities. It does that whether its people receive humanitarian benefits or not.”
Regarding Iran’s malign activities, Spokesperson Miller said, the United States will continue to hold the Iranian government accountable.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby underscored U.S. resolve: “We have added force posture to the region. We have sanctioned in two and a half years some 400 entities – 300 in just the last year alone - for all manner of Iranian destabilizing behavior: the way they’re treating their protesters; the way they’re supporting Russia; and the way they’re threatening maritime shipping in the Gulf region,” he said.
“Nobody is turning any blind eye to Iran’s destabilizing activities,” declared Mr. Kirby. “We’re going to continue to keep the pressure on them.”