While a good chunk of Iraq's parliament wants American troops to begin a safe withdrawal from the country in the wake of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Washington is in turn threatening to block Baghdad's access to its central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in an effort to keep the forces in place, Iraqi officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Iraq, like many other countries, maintains government accounts at the New York Fed, which helps them manage national finances, including revenue from oil sales. If the government can't access those accounts, it could reportedly do some significant damage to an already-struggling Iraqi economy. An official in Mahdi's office said the prime minister received a warning about the bank account during a phone call Wednesday.
The warning appears to have some members of the Iraqi government on edge, with officials stressing the need to maintain friendly ties with the U.S. despite pressure from pro-Iran militias. Some have pointed out that international pressure on Iraq's economy would hurt Baghdad's efforts to answer to its citizens, who have launched massive anti-government protests in recent months. "The U.S. Fed basically has a stranglehold on the entire [Iraqi] economy," said Shwan Taha, chairman of Iraqi investment bank Rabee Securities.
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