Iraqi street vendor on June 14, 2019 Photo: AFP

This summer has been unusually hot for Iraq, and a June heatwave is impacting the Trump Administration’s policy to sanction Iranian exports of gas — they had to waive the sanctions they recently re-imposed in order to ensure that Iraq could get the extra fuel they need to power air conditioning systems. 

  • The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the “U.S. has allowed Iraq to import natural gas and electricity from Iran without risking sanctions for another four months, Iraqi officials said, as Baghdad braces for protests over power cuts during the scorching summer months.”
  • This news comes just as a new study finds that  58% of the world could see new temperature records set in every single year by the end of the century if global warming is not curbed, with the poorest countries in the equatorial region hardest hit.

Why This Matters:  Iraq is the latest country to suffer due to an extreme heatwave that is almost certainly a result of global warming.  Voice of America reported that Iraq is averaging a daily 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit), compared with around 40 in June in previous years.  The Iraquis need additional gas and electricity imports in order to fuel air conditioning and other cooling systems which in this kind of heat are a necessity to ensure there is no social unrest.  Ironically, just as the U.S. is currently sending in extra troops to the region and heating up its rhetoric against Iran for its alleged attack on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, we are at the same time easing sanctions on Iran so that it can export fuel to keep things cool — both literally and figuratively in Iraq.  Climate change, which the Administration will not even acknowledge, is undercutting its own defense and security objectives, sending mixed messages to Iran at a crucial and tense moment.  Oh and the Acting Secretary of Defense just quit.

Iraq Heat Wave Risks Unrest.  According to The Journal:

  • “Demand for air-conditioning in the summer puts an acute strain on Iraq’s power grid, which can’t generate enough electricity even in the cooler months.”
  • “Electricity shortages last summer ignited demonstrations that grew into a broader challenge to the government from its core constituency in southern Iraq.”
  • “The power system was further degraded by the war against Islamic State, which inflicted $7 billion of damage, with eight out of 17 power plants in areas occupied by the militants completely destroyed, according to a World Bank assessment.”
  • “Scattered protests have broken out in southern parts of Iraq after soaring temperatures affected the power supply.”

Temperatures in fragile Iraq at record highs and protests breaking out as a result — yet this Administration does not recognize the threat that climate change poses.  If one is looking for evidence that the climate crisis will strain our military and threaten our security going forward, the current situation in Iraq/Iran is exhibit A.   Not to mention just the sheer human suffering in a country still trying to recover from a war with the U.S.

To Go Deeper:  The Voice of America story here explains well the cascading and devastating impacts of the heat wave in Iraq.

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