US President Donald Trump to remove Iraq from Muslim ban: US officials

March 1, 2017 10:30 pm

President points to the audience after addressing a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump plans to remove Iraq’s name from the list of the Muslim countries included in his controversial entry ban, American officials say.
The Pentagon and the State Department have been pressuring Trump to exclude Iraq from the seven-country travel ban that he introduced soon after taking office, the Associated Press reported, citing four unnamed officials.
On January 28, Trump signed an executive order that barred entry for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and imposed a 120 day halt on all refugee resettlement programs.
The ban, which also suspended Syrian refugee admission indefinitely, was later on halted by a federal court and multiple attempts by the White House to reverse the ruling ended up in failure.
According to the report, a draft of Trump’s revised ban, which may be introduced as early as next week, has removed Iraq from the list because of the country’s active role in the fight against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists.
The officials did not explain why countries like Iran and Syria were included in the list despite their efforts to curb the threat of Daesh and extremism.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened Trump with reciprocal measures after the introduction of the original ban.
Iraqi lawmakers urged the PM to ban American nationals as a countermeasure, prompting concerns in Washington over the future of America’s alleged fight on Daesh. There are over 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
Trump further angered Baghdad by suggesting that Washington could take Iraq’s oil in exchange for providing military assistance. Pentagon chief James Mattis tried to take back the statements in a recent meeting with al-Abadi.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis (L) speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, February 20, 2017. (Photo by Iraqi PM Office)

According to American officials, Trump’s revised measure also softens the ban on Syrian refugees and includes them in the general 120-day suspension.
The officials noted that the plan still does not differentiate between Muslims and the religious minorities living in the predominantly Islamic countries, a key grip of the ban’s opponents.
Upon signing the directive, Trump said he was trying to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of America. However, he later on changed his tone and said the ban was not specifically targeting people based on their religion.
Earlier reports indicated that Trump was also excluding dual citizens of the US, green card holders and people who already had a visa to travel to America, even if they had not used it yet.
An investigation by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to return evidence that the seven Muslim countries included in the entry ban posed a terror threat to America.
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