When Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire, a number of European currencies circulated alongside the Turkish pound. With the establishment of the British mandate after World War I, Iraq was incorporated into the Indian monetary system, which was operated by the British, and the rupee became the principal currency in circulation, at a rate of 1 dinar = 13⅓ rupees.
In 1931, the Iraq Currency Board was established in London for note issue and maintenance of reserves for the new Iraqi dinar. The currency board pursued a conservative monetary policy, maintaining very high reserves behind the dinar. The dinar was further strengthened by its link to the British pound, which was pegged at par with the British pound until 1959.
In 1947 the government-owned National Bank of Iraq was founded, and in 1949 the London-based currency board was abolished as the new bank assumed responsibility for the issuing of notes and the maintenance of reserves. The National Bank of Iraq continued the currency board's conservative monetary policy, maintaining 100 percent reserves behind outstanding domestic currency.
Initiated during the last years of Ottoman rule, commercial banking became a significant factor in foreign trade during the British mandate. British banks predominated, but traditional money dealers continued to extend some domestic credit and to offer limited banking services. The expansion of banking services was hampered by the limited use of money, the small size of the economy, and the small amount of savings; banks provided services for foreign trade almost exclusively. In the mid-1930s, the Iraqi government decided to establish banks in order to make credit available to other sectors of the economy. In 1936, the government formed the Agricultural and Industrial Bank. In 1940, this bank was divided into the Agricultural Bank and the Industrial Bank, each with substantially increased capital provided by the government. The government established the Rafidayn Bank in 1941 as both the primary commercial bank and the central bank, but the National Bank of Iraq became the government's banker in 1947. The Real Estate Bank was established in 1948, primarily to finance the purchase of houses by individuals. The Mortgage Bank was established in 1951, and the Cooperative Bank in 1956. In addition to these government-owned institutions, branches of foreign banks and private Iraqi banks were opened as the economy expanded.
In 1956 the National Bank of Iraq became the Central Bank of Iraq. Its responsibilities included the issuing and the management of currency, control over foreign exchange transactions, and the regulation and supervision of the banking system. It kept accounts for the government, and it handled government loans. Over the years, legislation has considerably enlarged the Central Bank's authority. In 1959 the peg was switched from the British pound to the United States dollar at the rate of 1 dinar = 2.8 dollars.
On July 14, 1964, all banks and insurance companies were nationalized, and, during the next decade, banking was consolidated. Following the devaluations of the U.S. currency in 1971 and 1973, the dinar rose to a value of US$3.3778,
By 1987 the banking system consisted of the Central Bank, the Rafidayn Bank, and the Agricultural, Industrial, and Real Estate banks. A 5 percent devaluation reduced the value of the dinar to US$3.2169, the official rate which remained until the Gulf War, although in late 1989, the black market rate was reported to be 1.86 dinars for US$1.
After the Gulf War in 1991, and due to the economic blockade, the previously used Swiss printing technology was no longer available. A new, inferior quality notes issue was produced. The previous issue became known as the Swiss dinar and continued to circulate in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Due to excessive government printing of the new notes issue, the dinar devalued quickly, and in late 1995, US$1 was valued at 3,000 dinars.
Following the deposition of Saddam Hussein in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Governing Council and the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance began printing more Saddam dinar notes as a stopgap measure to maintain the money supply until new currency could be introduced.
The Banking Law was issued September 19, 2003. The law brings Iraq’s legal framework for banking in line with international standards, and seeks to promote confidence in the banking system by establishing a safe, sound, competitive and accessible banking system.
Between October 15, 2003 and January 15, 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority issued new Iraqi dinar coins and notes, with the notes printed using modern anti-forgery techniques, to "create a single unified currency that is used throughout all of Iraq and will also make money more convenient to use in people’s everyday lives. Old banknotes were exchanged for new at a one-to-one rate, except for the Swiss dinars, which were exchanged at a rate of 150 new dinars for one Swiss dinar.
The Central Bank of Iraq (Arabic: البنك المركزي العراقي ) was established as Iraq's independent central bank by the Central Bank of Iraq Law of March 6, 2004
The bank is in charge of:
- Maintaining price stability
- Implementing monetary policy (including exchange rate policies)
- Managing foreign reserves
- Issuing and managing the currency
- Regulating the banking sector for promoting a competitive and stable financial system