Iran is expected to ban the use of virtual currencies and other digital currencies as part of a plan announced Tuesday that will ban them on the government’s list of banned assets.
The move comes amid heightened concerns about virtual currencies as a result of the financial crisis.
But Iran’s announcement is unlikely to be immediately followed by other countries, who have already announced their own bans on virtual currencies.
Bitcoin, the most popular digital currency, was banned in Iran in January after Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared it to be an “enemy of the Islamic Republic.”
That followed a decree in July that declared it a foreign currency.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in July the virtual currency had not been properly vetted.
Iran has not previously declared virtual currencies to be assets under its ban, which will apply to the currency and all of its derivatives.
That means it will be difficult to regulate, said Ahmad Khorrami, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It’s going to be a major problem,” Khorramsi said.
“I think it’s going at least partly a question of the political will of the country, not a question about the law itself.”
A spokeswoman for Iran’s Ministry of Commerce, which regulates the currency, did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran also banned bitcoin as part to the broader measures to curb the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ activities, a move the Treasury Department has said will cost the government $2.8 billion.
The Treasury Department says Iran’s move is intended to ensure the country’s financial system is stable, not to impose a hard-and-fast ban on bitcoin.
It says the Islamic republic will continue to issue “valid and legally recognized” currency to help finance the economy, including in “sensitive and volatile sectors.”
The announcement came as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) is being pushed out of the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, where the U.N. says it is trying to establish a caliphate.
ISIL, which has claimed responsibility for most attacks in Iraq, has seized large swathes of territory in Iraq’s Anbar province and eastern Syria.
It has been fighting for the past year to establish its own caliphate in the region.