Cabinet members lobby Trump to remove Iraq from new travel ban -officials

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WASHINGTON Senior U.S. administration officials
have lobbied President Donald Trump to remove Iraq from a list
of seven Muslim-majority nations included in an initial travel
ban, and two sources said they were confident the country would
not appear on a new executive order expected soon.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser H.R.
McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security
chief John Kelly all made the case to Trump to remove Iraq
because of ongoing U.S. military and civilian operations in the
country, according to three U.S. officials who said the Cabinet
members made the case separately at recent meetings.

One of the officials said the State Department was confident
Iraq would not appear on a new executive order limiting travel
to the United States, while a congressional aide said Iraq would
be removed following conversations among White House advisers on
Tuesday.

Trump is expected to issue a new travel ban in coming days
after federal courts blocked his Jan. 27 executive order that temporarily barred travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump has said the travel limitations were necessary to
protect the United States from attacks by Islamist militants.
Americans were deeply divided over the measure, which had some
support but stirred national protests and were condemned by
prominent U.S. companies and allies.

When asked whether Iraq would be left out of the revised
order, the White House said it did not have any announcements on
the executive order right now.

A White House official said the order was likely to come on
Monday.

There are currently 5,200 American troops deployed in Iraq
to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in retaking Mosul – the last
city in Iraq under the control of Islamic State militants.

Iraqis have fought alongside U.S. troops for years and have
worked as translators. Many Iraqis have resettled in the United
States following threats over their affiliation with U.S.
troops.

“We cannot claim we are an ally of Iraq and at the same time
say all Iraqis are our enemies,” said the official, who spoke to
Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Lumping Iraq together with
Iran and Syria, especially in a blanket fashion, only makes a
hard job harder.”

The United States also relies on Iraq to provide visas for a
substantial contracting force that supports the U.S. military
presence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked Trump to lift the
ban on people from his country during their first phone call on
Feb. 10, resisting calls from influential pro-Iranian Shi’ite
politicians to retaliate against the ban.



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