Trump's Immigration Order Creates Political Tension With Iraq

Jan 30, 2017
Originally published on January 30, 2017 10:30 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to hear what's happening in one of the countries named in President Trump's executive order on immigration. That's Iraq. With limited exceptions, Iraqi citizens are temporarily banned from traveling to the United States under the order. It's a particularly important case for the U.S. because Iraq is a key ally in the war against ISIS. There are roughly 6,000 U.S. troops there. NPR's Alice Fordham joins us now. Hi, Alice.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Good afternoon, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How is Iraq responding to this ban?

FORDHAM: Well, in Parliament today, they voted that the ban be reciprocated for Americans to be banned from Iraq. It's not 100 percent clear whether this vote is actually legally binding, but what it does show is that the prime minister is under a lot of pressure to respond to this ban. There's been statements from influential clerics in Iraq and from the spokeswoman of a really powerful paramilitary group calling for Americans to leave Iraq.

And I've been speaking to individual regular Iraqis and lawmakers. There's a really palpable sense of an insult here both from the ban and also from President Trump's recent remarks on ABC that the United States should have taken all Iraq's oil. People, you know, see the U.S. and Iraq as allies, but there's some calls to re-evaluate that now.

SHAPIRO: What would it mean for the U.S. if the relationship with Iraq is damaged?

FORDHAM: Well, as you said, the U.S. works directly and extensively with the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS. And for all of those thousands of United States soldiers and advisers and diplomats to be there permission was actually painstakingly negotiated over years. They could all in theory be asked to leave, which, as I say, is what some people are calling for. So to get some context, I spoke to a man who used to be the Iraqi ambassador there in D.C., Lukman Faily. And he said he thinks the ban is detrimental to the fight against terrorism.

LUKMAN FAILY: I feel that we are sort of moving backwards rather than moving together forward in the fight against terrorism and in providing more stability in the world.

SHAPIRO: Moving backwards rather than forwards, he says. Now, you mentioned he used to be the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Is he personally affected by this order?

FORDHAM: He absolutely is. He says he personally can't come to the United States anymore. And he feels betrayed because he says he worked really hard to build up positive bilateral relations. But much more than his personal situation, he is worried that the United States is no longer going to be a reliable partner to Iraq.

FAILY: These latest steps and statements have been, I would say, damaging to it. It certainly damaged the reputation of the United States as a reliable partner, and also damages the aspect of planning together security and cooperation in the region, and therefore in the globe.

SHAPIRO: Just to restate because it's not a great phone line, he's saying this is damaging to the reputation of the United States as a reliable partner and it damages planning, security and cooperation in the region and around the world. Now, Alice, you say Parliament in Iraq is recommending that the country ban Americans. Is that likely to happen?

FORDHAM: Well, the prime minister in Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, he himself has been a staunch ally of the United States. He and American leaders have had nothing but good things to say about each other. But he is not operating in a vacuum. He, in fact, has a very delicate political balance to maintain in Iraq. It is not just ISIS who are anti-American. There are powerful political currents in Iraq who are basically deeply mistrustful of the United States, so the prime minister has had to constantly make the case for the presence of the U.S. in Iraq. And that's just gotten a lot more difficult for him.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Alice Fordham. Thanks very much, Alice.

FORDHAM: Thanks for having me, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.