US hails Gulf Arab plan to supply electricity to Iraq
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US, Iraq, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have affirmed their shared support for a project to supply electricity from the six Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates) to Iraq, helping that country to deal with its chronic electricity shortage.
“The Government of Iraq, Gulf Cooperation Council, and United States, have renewed their full support for the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) project to connect the electricity grids of Iraq and the GCC,” according to a statement released by the US State Department on Thursday.
“The United States is committed to facilitating this project,” the statement continued, adding significantly, “and providing support where needed.”
The US has a keen interest in the success of the project, as it will lessen Iraq’s dependence on neighboring Iran for electricity. So far, the US has repeatedly granted Iraq sanctions waivers for its import of electricity from Iran.
The last such waiver was announced on May 6 for a period of 120 days.
Iraq’s estimated demand for electricity is 24 gigawatts, while its production of electricity falls nine gigawatts short of that.
The agreement between Iraq and the GCCIA announced on Thursday was actually concluded on September 15, 2019, under Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, on the sidelines of a conference, the Iraq Energy Forum, held in Baghdad.
The first of its kind, the agreement was hailed as a “landmark deal” and is planned to provide 500 megawatts of electricity to Iraq’s “overstretched grid by 2020,” AFP reported then.
There has been, however, little mention of the agreement in the ten months since it was concluded—until now.
Ironically, a series of protests began in Baghdad and southern Iraq soon thereafter, on October 1. They were triggered by Abdul Mahdi’s dismissal of the popular counter-terrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a move seen as a gesture toward Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shi’a militias.
The protestors’ complaints, however, went far beyond that one event and reflected a general anger at corrupt and ineffectual governance in post-Saddam Iraq, including Baghdad’s failure to provide an adequate supply of electricity, particularly onerous in southern Iraq during the hot summer months.
As the anti-government protests continued into the following month, they led to Abdul Mahdi’s November 29 announcement that he would resign and his replacement by Mustafa al-Kadhimi on May 7.
One of Kadhimi’s first actions, three days after becoming prime minister, was to restore Saadi to his previous position. Another appears to be acting to address Iraq’s electricity problems, while also improving ties with the Gulf Arab states, the most important of which is Saudi Arabia.
According to the agreement, as concluded last September, in order to supply the electricity to Iraq, the GCC will finance a 300 kilometer transmission line from Kuwait to Iraq’s southern port of Al-Faw.
The estimated cost of the new line will be $220 million, and it could be expanded in the future to carry two gigawatts of electricity. The Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority is a joint stock company, established in July 2001. The Undersecretary of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy is Chairman of its Board of Directors. The Vice Chairman is the CEO of the Saudi Electricity Company.
The GCC itself was established in 1981, following the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the start of the Iran-Iraq war the following year. The organization was intended to provide a modicum of security to the oil-rich, but vulnerable, Arab gulf states. Saudi Arabia is, by far and away, the largest of them, and it dominates the GCC.
Editing by John J. Catherine