Report: Iraq planning to ask U.S. for exemptions on Iran sanctions

Iraqi man holding Iranian rials
An Iraqi holds Iranian rials for exchange. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

An Iraqi delegation will travel to Washington to ask the Trump administration to allow it to ignore some sanctions against Iran, its neighbor and close trading partner, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: In addition to being a strategic U.S. ally, Iraq imports about $12 billion in oil and $6 billion in goods from Iran, including food and agricultural products crucial to its political stability. The U.S. has said it will offer limited exemptions only for human rights and national security reasons, having previously rejected a joint European request for exemptions in July.

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In Europe, fears loom that the U.S. is seeking regime collapse in Iran

President Trump, flanked by National Security Advisor John Bolton, speaks to the media at a press conference on the second day of the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium
President Trump, flanked by National Security Advisor John Bolton, at the NATO Summit on July 12, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Sean Gallup via Getty Images

European analysts and diplomats alike are increasingly concerned that the Trump administration might be pursuing a policy of destabilizing Iran. The administration's abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal, new economic sanctions and explicit encouragement of continued protests in Iran have contributed to the ongoing unrest there, which has begun to seem a goal in itself.

The big picture: The combination of Secretary of State Pompeo’s demands and the massive sanctions have left Iran with no ability to negotiate. And since Trump likely isn't seeking military confrontation with Iran (despite his bombastic rhetoric) or Iraq-style regime change, many in Europe are worried that Washington’s policy might be geared toward a third scenario: regime collapse.