The Iraqi government will ban all cash withdrawals and transactions in the US dollar as of January 1st 2024, according to Mazen Ahmed, director-general of investment and remittances at the Iraqi Central Bank (CBI).
The CBI official says that people who deposit dollars into banks before the end of 2023 will still be able to withdraw these funds in dollars next year. However, dollars deposited in 2024 will only be available in local currency at the official rate of 1,320 dinars.
“You want to transfer? Transfer. You want a card in dollars? Here you go, you can use the card inside Iraq at the official rate, or if you want to withdraw cash, you can at the official rate in dinars… But don’t talk to me about cash dollars anymore,” Ahmed told Reuters.
He also claimed the move is meant to “stamp out the illicit use” of about 50 percent of the $10 billion that Iraq imports in cash each year on semimonthly cargo flights from the New York Federal Reserve.
With more than $100 billion in reserves held by US banks, Baghdad heavily relies on the goodwill of US officials to ensure the economy doesn’t collapse. Furthermore, since 2003, all Iraqi oil revenues have been paid into an account with the US Federal Reserve, allowing Washington to control the Iraqi economy and pressure its government.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that US officials last month refused to approve the transfer of an extra $1 billion in cash to Iraq from the country’s oil sales proceeds.
“After the US denied Iraq’s initial appeal last month, the [CBI] last week submitted a formal request, which the [US] Treasury is still considering,” a senior Iraqi official told the WSJ.
The move reportedly angered Iraqi officials, who said they need access to their oil revenues to protect Iraq’s cash reserves after recent restrictions from the White House “set off panic buying of greenbacks and hoarding of dollars by exchanges.”
US Treasury officials reportedly told CBI officials that “sending a large extra shipment is contrary to Washington’s goal of reducing Iraq’s use of US banknotes in favor of more easily traceable electronic transactions.”
With more than $100 billion in reserves held hostage by the US, Washington has significant leverage over the Iraqi economy and banking system. In July, the US Treasury sanctioned fourteen Iraqi private banks accusing them of facilitating US dollar transfers to Iran, a country whose economy Washington seeks to suffocate via sanctions. As a result of this, nearly a third of Iraq’s 72 banks are now banned from facilitating dollar transactions.
In 2022, Iraq’s central bank enforced tight regulations under US pressure to ensure dollars do not reach Iran. Bank clients wishing to transfer dollar funds must apply through an online platform and provide detailed information on end recipients before a transfer is approved.
My district wants to know – Why are we prioritizing sending hard-earned American tax dollars to foreign countries that are completely corrupt and hate us?
No money for Iraq.
No money for Lebanon.
No money for Ukraine.
America First. pic.twitter.com/pVg43KD6yL
— Congressman Greg Steube (@RepGregSteube) September 28, 2023
Iraqi MP and member of the Finance Committee in Iraq’s Council of Representatives, Hussein Mouanes, told The Cradle in an exclusive interview in May: “Iraq has been and continues to be a slave to the US dollar… every country’s economic strength depends on the strength of its currency.”
“It is clear that Iraq is economically dominated by the US, and our government does not truly control or have access to its own money… We believe that it is crucial to move away from the hegemony of the dollar, especially as it has become a tool to impose sanctions on countries. It is time for Iraq to rely on its local currency,” he added.