Photo Credit: Courtesy of National Iranian Gas Company
Asalouyeh Gas Refinery in south Iran

Seyed Hamid Hosseini, Secretary-General of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, on Friday announced the release of Iran’s frozen assets in Iraq.

Hosseini said in a February 2 interview to the state-run Iranian newspaper Iran that some of the Iraqi debts to Iran for the export of electricity and gas had been paid, but not in full. He revealed that some of the Iraqi debt was paid to private Iranian companies that operate in Iraq and are able to use Iraqi dinars in their operations. Hosseini added that an additional part of Iraq’s debt to Iran’s national gas company would be paid through barter of Iraqi goods.

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But according to Tehran Times, Hosseini said on Friday that Iraq, which is partially under US military control, has begun repaying its energy debts to Iran and part of the dues has been settled – and part of it will be paid in imported basic goods to Iran.

According to IRNA, a shipment of corn was recently imported to Iran through Iraq and was paid for by the funds allocated to repaying the energy debt, Hosseini said. Iraq’s corn production (365 thousand metric tons in 2020) is not sufficient to support export. But there may be a country that produced 360 billion metric tons of corn in 2020 that could possibly spare some…

Iraq owes Iran more than $6 billion for electricity and gas imports, of which $3 billion is claimed to be blocked and inaccessible in the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI). Now the funds are becoming available, Iran is boasting.

State Dept. spokesperson Ned Price was asked on Friday by a reporter: “According to Iranian news reports citing one Iranian official, the US Government agreed to release frozen Iranian assets in the Commercial Bank of Iraq. […] Do you confirm or deny those reports?

Price answered: “I believe you are referring to reports about Iraq’s electricity waiver. When it comes to that, we don’t have any updates to offer. As I understand it, Iraq’s 90-day electricity waiver remains valid. We are not aware of any interruptions when it comes to that.”

On Dec. 30, the US granted Baghdad a 90-day waiver to continue to import electricity from Tehran. A spokesperson for the Trump State Dept. said, “We believe that it is possible within the 90 days for the government of Iraq to take meaningful actions to promote energy self-sufficiency and reduce its dependence on expensive Iranian energy.” With that in mind, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “has determined it is in US national security interests to renew the waiver. We are not in a position to preview any future decisions about whether to renew the waiver.”

Price was then asked about Iran’s president saying the Trump-era sanctions cost the Iranian economy $200 billion in damages – and the notion that Iran wants to be paid that amount before moving on with talks about the renewal of the nuclear deal.

Price answered that he didn’t want “to get into a tit-for-tat on this question. What we have said and the offer that we have put on the table together with our European partners still stands. It’s been a couple weeks now that we indicated our willingness to accept an invitation on the part of the EU to engage in direct diplomacy. On our part, it would be clear-eyed, principled, direct diplomacy with Iran in the context of the P5+1. That’s where we believe these issues need to be addressed and need to be discussed if we are to make progress in a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA commitments. I think I would leave it at that.”

Abdolnaser Hemmati, Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, announced in mid-October that “tens of billions of dollars of our assets are frozen in foreign banks and even countries that have good relations with Iran cannot cooperate with us due to the US pressure.”

And Iran wants it all.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.