New plates are also available under a government program aimed at getting the large number of aging clunkers off the road — the legacy of a flood of used cars that poured into Iraq following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Those cars received black temporary plates issued amid the chaos after Saddam Hussein's fall. So owners of a temporary-plated car above a certain age can bring it to a state junkyard and walk away with a new, white plate to put on a new car — though after paying what might add up to hefty back fees.
Brig. Najim Abdul-Jaber, spokesman for the Traffic Police Directorate, defends the limits on new plates as a way to limit congestion and remove aging vehicles. He has little sympathy for Iraqis who complain the unregulated plate market drives up prices.
"The people who buy new cars don't care. They're happy to pay that much to show off their new cars," he said.
Khadr, from the GM distributor, argues that the number of old cars has thinned, and it's time for a straightforward registration system "like anywhere in the world.
"More people would be willing to buy new cars if you didn't have this system," agreed Diwan, the Hyundai and Kia salesman. "It makes things difficult."
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.
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