Iraq to Be Removed From Trump’s New Travel Ban List: Official

Iraqi forces in Mosul
Members of the Iraqi forces watch Donald Trump giving a speech after he won the U.S. president elections in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016. He is set to remove Iraq from the list of countries subject to travel ban. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

President Donald Trump is set to remove Iraq from the list of seven Muslim-majority countries included in his temporary travel ban, according to an Iraqi official who says the delay in issuing a new executive order is partly because Trump is considering adding further countries to the list.

The new order, expected to be released later this week, comes after a federal court suspended the initial ban, signed on January 27, a week after Trump’s inauguration. It outlawed citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, with refugees suspended for 120 days and Syrian refugees barred indefinitely.

Read more: Iraqi leader tells Trump to remove country from the travel ban

The Department of Defense and the State Department both lobbied Trump and his team to remove Iraq from the ban, according to the Baghdad-based official, speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the matter. Reports have also emerged that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster also advocated for Iraq’s removal. Ahead of the first Iraqi signal that it would be removed, U.S. officials on Wednesday told several publications that Trump’s team had reached this conclusion. It is expected that the other six countries will remain on the travel ban list.Trump’s team did not respond to Newsweek ’s request for comment at the time of writing.

“I think it is sitting with the president to make the announcement now,” the official says. “Everybody has given the recommendation to take [Iraq] off, the DoD specifically, and the State Department also chipped in and supported it. The early signs are that...Iraq will be removed.”

Trump’s administration was set to reveal the order on Wednesday but delayed its rollout. The positive reaction to Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday was behind the delay, a senior White House official told CNN Wednesday. But the Iraqi official says it was for another reason. Iraq’s removal may not be the only change made to the list. Trump is reportedly considering adding new countries to the list, he says.

“There was an issue that they may want to add other countries, that was the problem, that’s my understanding. It’s not the Iraqi part.”

The decision in January to include Iraq sparked outrage in Baghdad, with lawmakers quickly passing a motion for the government to implement a reciprocal ban of U.S. citizens entering the country, putting domestic pressure on unifying Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who personally lobbied Trump for Iraq’s removal.

In a visit to the Department of Defense after issuing the order, Trump said the ban was essential “to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of” the country. Iraqis countered that they were a key ally in the campaign against ISIS and had not exported terrorism to the U.S., alleging that other countries excluded from the list, such as Saudi Arabia, had.

The souring of relations came at a crucial moment in the fight against ISIS, as Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. airpower and advisers, advanced in Mosul, the northern Iraqi stronghold of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). U.S.-led coalition officials estimate that the liberation of the city remains months away.

The Iraqi official believes the removal of Iraq shows that Washington may have realized that “from a military perspective [having it on the list] doesn’t make sense for them, for cooperation,” the official says. The order has already somewhat damaged the relationship, with Baghdad more likely to treat Washington with “cautiousness” and be “less forward” with the administration in future discussions, he says.