Iran and the U.S. jostle for influence in Iraq. As the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran, the prime ministers of Iran and Iraq met today to discuss joint economic development. They agreed to establish a free trade zone along their shared border and discussed possible electricity and natural gas swaps. These kinds of activities are made possible by a waiver the U.S. extended to Iraq that permits Baghdad to buy Iranian energy. (A U.S. State Department official clarified that the waiver only grants a 45-day exemption, which is designed to address current conditions in Basra.) Meanwhile, Iraqi and Kurdish officials reached a preliminary agreement that allows Kurdistan to resume oil exports through Iraq and Turkey. Exports were halted about a year ago after Iranian forces temporarily took control of the area. Washington supports oil development in Kirkuk, so closer ties between Kurdistan and Baghdad align with U.S. interests in Iraq.
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