September 27, 2021
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) issued an order to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) on Sunday to repatriate Iranian funds blocked overseas because of US banking sanctions.
In a meeting of the Economic Coordination Headquarters, Raisi said that CBI should “activate banking and economic measures” to return funds blocked overseas. South Korea, Japan, Iraq and other countries have blocked nearly $20 billion of Iran’s money, mostly oil and energy exports.
Raisi’s order has baffled some observers who have commented on social media that the central bank would not be able to solve the issue without an agreement with the United States over Iran’s nuclear program.
Tehran has suspended nuclear talks since June, saying its new government needs time to sort out its policies. Western powers have been urging Iran to return to talks more than a month after Raisi formed his cabinet in August.
US sanctions allow the use of the blocked funds for imports of humanitarian goods, usually after a review by Washington.
Iran also has foreign currency reserves overseas generally hidden in various accounts that it has been able to spend since the US imposed its sanctions in 2018. Estimates say that since 2018 Iran has spent most of its $122 billion reserves and now has around $36 billion left.