Iraq, Asharq Al-Awsat – Iraqi officials and businessman informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Tehran’s influence in Iraq is on the rise via mutual trade and thanks to Iraq’s increased economic reliance on Iranian products.
The Iranian Consulate valued the trade exchange between the two countries as standing at more than 6 billion dollars, of which 5.4 billion dollars is official trade. Whilst Iraqi officials claimed that the trade exchange between Iraq and Iran stands above 7 billion dollars. With the increase of trade exchange between the two, Iranian investors are moving to open branches of Iranian banks in Kurdistan and Iraq with the objective of facilitating mutual business activities.
Iraqi Finance Ministry Undersecretary Fadil Nabi informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the opening of Iranian banks in Iraq does not clash with the international sanctions issued by the UN Security Council against Iran because these banks are domestic banks or funded by Iranian figures and the Iranian government has nothing to do with them.”
Nabi also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the banks that are currently present and operating inside Iraq are not affiliated to the Iranian government that international sanctions have been imposed upon. We closely examine the identity of all banks that want to open branches in Iraq, and we follow the international rules.”
He added “Iraq is committed to following legitimate international resolutions and therefore cannot allow the opening of banks whose operations have been banned, and the banks that are currently present in Iraq are domestic banks that are owned by individuals not subject to sanctions.”
The Iraqi Finance Ministry Undersecretary told Asharq Al-Awsat that “in any case…most of these banks essentially belong to Iraqi groups however their funding comes from Iranian figures. This is not considered a violation of the international resolution and Iraq’s position is completely fine with regards to this.”
The UN Security Council has issued six resolutions calling for Iran to halt its controversial atomic work, four of which impose economic sanctions on Iran.
The president of the Najaf Chamber of Commerce in Iraq, Ismail Abdullah al-Shamarti also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Iranian economic influence in Iraq is based solely upon trade, despite our many and high-level requests…for the transfer of part of the [Iranian] technological industry to Iraq, however they [Iran] reject this and the reason for this rejection is clear, which is their desire for Iraq to remain a consumer of their goods, keeping it away from the production sector.”
Al-Shamarti added that “it is not easy to make profit from trade…and the trade exchange between Iraq and Iran stands above seven billion dollars, and I believe that the ceiling is far above this, and that is for a simple reason, which is that the primary food source for the people of Iraq today comes from Iran, whether this is fruit, vegetable, grain, sweets, drinks, and other products, and you can measure how much 30 million Iraqis consume per day, especially as Iraq’s domestic production only makes up 10 percent of Iraq’s total intake.”