Travel ban threatens US-Iraq fight against IS

Trump’s executive orders have rattled United States and many capitals around the world. The Republican billionaire seems to have fallen for campaign-style rhetoric, which was meant to gain votes. But he continues to shoot from the hip undermining the US values and diplomatic gains with many countries so far. And Iraq is one of such cases.
It is the prerogative of every country to devise the policies to safeguard the interests of its people. And so it would be wrong to question the wisdom of Trump’s travel ban. American judges have blocked it citing many reasons, including new President’s take on Christian refugees. Trump said that US would give priority to Christians fleeing war-torn countries. But the truth on the ground flies in the face of Trump’s understanding of the suffering of people in those countries.
Iraqis have reacted fiercely to the Trump’s travel ban. They feel cheated by US decisions. Travel ban and other stances are threatening to undermine future US-Iraqi security cooperation. And it may rattle a key alliance that over the past two years has slowly beaten back the IS group.
Iraqi anger at Washington comes at a crucial juncture in a long and often contentious relationship. US-backed Iraqi forces are about to launch an assault aimed at retaking the western half of Mosul that is still under IS control. If Mosul is completely secured, it largely would break the extremist group’s so- called ‘caliphate’ in the country. But the challenges will remain. Today’s Iraq is totally different from what it was before. The country is divided on many fronts. Maintaining security in a post-IS Iraq will be just as difficult — preventing a resurgence of the militants and containing political divisions among Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
Trump’s decision banning Iraqis from travelling to the US has embarrassed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi. The executive order has put Al Abadi in a bad spot. Al Abadi is trying hard to contain any backlash from public anger. Trump’s repeated statements that the Americans should have taken Iraq’s oil had already sown resentment and suspicion among Iraqis.
Now Al Abadi is coming under pressure. Lawmakers want Abadi to reduce cooperation with Washington in the future, limit or prevent American troops from staying in the country after the defeat of IS, and reciprocate for any travel ban on Iraqis.
It is no secret that Iraqi politics is dominated by powerful Shiite blocs with close ties to Tehran. Al Abadi finds himself trapped in US-Iran pincer. Iraqi PM is struggling to balance his reliance on the two rivals.
Members of the Iraqi military fume at being grouped in with terrorists by the travel ban when they have been engaged in slow, grueling combat against IS for more than two years. Iraqi forces have fought IS extremists in Anbar, Fallujah, Salahuddin and now currently fighting them in Mosul. They have undoubtedly given a lot of blood fighting extremists. But Trump’s statement about taking Iraq’s oil and his travel ban have developed among Iraqi forces a sense of distrust towards US.
There is a growing consensus that Americans should not stay in Iraq after Mosul. Iraqi forces said they are fighting IS on behalf of the entire world. But the travel ban has been a severe, severe disappointment for them. They believed that Iraq had strategic agreement with the US. Now they have become disillusioned.
Both governments must try to prevent the situation from escalating. Trump and Al Abadi should take a positive step towards defusing tension. The acrimony between the two countries will only benefit extremists against whom Washington and Baghdad have been fighting for years.

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