US extends Iraq waivers but intensifies Iran sanctions as COVID-19 breaks records

US extends Iraq waivers but intensifies Iran sanctions as COVID-19 breaks records US extends Iraq waivers but intensifies Iran sanctions as COVID-19 breaks records

The US has once again extended a waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian electricity and natural gas, but at the same time intensified its sanctions against Iran despite the coronavirus pandemic which is infecting more and more Iranians.

Morgan Ortagus, a US State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Thursday that “Iraq is permitted to engage in financial transactions related to the import of electricity from Iran” under a US-issued sanctions waiver.

"The purpose of this waiver, which the United States is renewing today, is to meet the immediate energy needs of the Iraqi people,” she added.

The extension is for 30 days, the shortest extension yet for Iraq, and will be the last extension issued, according to AFP.

The US, at the same time, imposed new sanctions against 20 entities based in Iran and Iraq, which she claimed were funneling money to Iran's Quds Force.

Ortagus claimed that these entities were exploiting Iraq's dependence on Iran as an electricity source.

The fresh US sanctions were imposed on the same day the novel coronavirus infected a record-high number of people in Iran.

According to Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, 2,926 new cases of infection were confirmed in the 24 hours to Friday noon.

He said 144 people also died in the 24-hour period, increasing the death toll to 2,378. 

The spokesman said the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 32,332, out of whom 11,133 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.

He also predicted that the epidemic will be fully contained by April 19. 

Iran is fighting the novel coronavirus while it is under the most cruel sanctions imposed by the US government.

While many countries in the world have called on Washington to lift the bans at the height of the global pandemic, the administration of Donald Trump is “vengefully” refusing to end its “unlawful and collective punishment”, partly under the pressure of Israeli lobby groups.

Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that any sanctions relief for Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic must be linked to a pledge by Tehran that it would halt its nuclear program.

He spoke out in the aftermath of an appeal by Tehran to the UN to help ensure that the United States eases its crippling sanctions against Iran.

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