Iran beats Rick Perry to the punch in Iraq

Washington Examiner – Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s mission to Iraq this week may have been undermined by a delegation of Iranian advisers that met with members of the Iraqi leadership just days before his visit.

Perry arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday, just days after advisers from Iran sat down with Iraq’s Minister of Electricity Luay al-Khatteeb on Dec. 9.

Al-Khatteeb posted a photo from his meeting with the Iranian delegation on both Twitter and his Facebook page.

Al-Khatteeb met with Hasan Dremob Fer, adviser to the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran for economic affairs, according to a translation of a Dec. 9 Twitter post, which was in Arabic.

Al-Khatteeb discussed with Iran “the prospects for joint cooperation in the field of #energy between the two countries.”

On Tuesday, Perry arrived in Baghdad to attend a conference put on by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce meant to show that the U.S. was ready to invest in Iraq to wean it off its dependence on Iranian energy.

Perry met with both Iraqi Minister of Oil Thamir Ghadhban and Al-Khatteeb on Wednesday to discuss the importance of a “transparent, predictable, and accountable business environment to attract investment in Iraq’s energy sector,” Perry tweeted. The subject of the meeting resembled that of the Dec. 9 meeting Al-Khatteeb held with the Iranian delegation. The Energy Department had not responded to a request for comment on the Iranian talks at press time.

Al-Khatteeb tweeted early on Thursday that Iraq is “looking forward to stronger partnership and continuous joint cooperation with the United States and allies as we embark on #Iraq’s #powerrenaissance.”

In the meantime, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said his main focus will be seeking exemptions from the Trump administration to continue buying natural gas from Iran. He plans to send a delegation to Washington soon to lobby for the waivers Iraq needs to get around U.S. sanctions on Iran’s energy exports.

The Trump administration on Nov. 5 granted Iraq a 45-day waiver, which is about to expire.

Perry’s last stop in Iraq was made Wednesday evening to the Kurdish-controlled semi-autonomous zone in the northern part of the country.

Perry met with Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Security Council, where they discussed “the importance of energy collaboration and the role that Kurdistan plays in an energy secure Iraq and eliminating the influence of Iran,” the secretary tweeted.