Iraq & Iran Deplore Trump’s Travel Ban

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POWERFUL Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Spokesman of Hashd al-Sha’abi (the Iraqi popular forces) Ahmad al-Assadi, deplored US President Donald Trump’s decision to ban citizens of seven Muslim nations, including Iraq, from travelling to the US, calling on Baghdad to reciprocate the move.

Sadr reacted to the order on his twitter page on Sunday, calling it as an arrogant and bullying behaviour. He addressed Trump, and said, ‘Take your citizens out of Iraq before expulsion of the Iraqi nationals from the US.’

In a similar statement, the spokesman of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces also condemned the ban, and called on the Iraqi officials to prevent the US citizens’ trip to Iraq and expel those Americans who are still in Iraq.

Earlier on Sunday, Iraq parliament’s foreign affairs committee said that the US travel curbs imposed on Iraqis were ‘unfair,’ and asked the government in Baghdad to ‘reciprocate’ the American decision. The committee made its call after a meeting in Baghdad in response to Trump’s executive order which bans citizens of Iraq and six other Muslim nations to enter the US.

”We ask the Iraqi government to reciprocate the decision taken by the US administration,’ said the committee in a statement. ‘Iraq is in the front line of the war of terrorism…, and it is unfair that the Iraqis are treated this way.’

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump issued an order freezing for 90 days issuance of visas for immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia for national security considerations. The move caused a state of chaos across world airports as authorities and US embassies began to implement the directives. Protests broke out in the US against the move.

• Iraqis dismissed comments by US President Donald Trump as ‘nonsense’ on Thursday, after he argued that the United States should have taken possession of the nation’s crude reserves. Trump, in a speech to CIA officials on Saturday, suggested that the United States should have taken Iraq’s oil in reimbursement for the 2003 invasion that put an end to Saddam Hussein’s rule, NRT reported.

Trump also suggested that taking Iraq’s oil would have prevented ISIL from rising up by removing a source of the group’s funding, according to a Huffington Post report of the encounter.

‘His comment on oil is an insolent interference on top of previous interferences since the American invasion of 2003. Neither Trump, nor anyone else, can do the same in Iraq by invading it because the Iraqi people are now running their own affairs.

‘We are a sovereign people with dignity and ancient history and we will defend ourselves,’ said Baghdad resident Hassan Walhan. For Ali al-Moussawi, he sees Trump’s statement as a reflection on the Iraqi government’s weakness and lack of unity.

‘Trump is currently making terroristic statements in our view. Oil is not the property of America and it is not the property of Trump. It is the property of Iraq and the Iraqis.

‘Trump’s statement is nonsense. If Iraqis had been united and if we had a strong national government, he would not have dared to make such a statement,’ he said.

Commenting on Trump’s statement on oil, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that Iraq’s oil is the property of Iraqis. ‘It wasn’t clear what he meant,’ Abadi told a news conference when asked about Trump’s comments. ‘Did he mean in 2003 or to prevent the terrorists from seizing Iraq’s oil?’

‘Iraq’s oil is constitutionally the property of the Iraqis,’ he said. The new US president has also sent messages offering to increase the level of assistance to Iraq, Abadi said, without giving details on the nature of the assistance.

• Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised his US counterpart Donald Trump on Saturday, saying now was ‘not the time to build walls between nations’. They have forgotten that the Berlin Wall collapsed many years ago. Even if there are walls between nations, they must be removed,’ Rouhani said at a tourism convention in Tehran.

His remarks came after Trump ordered construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border and imposed tough new controls on travellers from seven Muslim countries, among them Iran.

Rouhani did not comment directly on the visa ban, but said Iran had ‘opened its doors’ to foreign tourists since the signing of a nuclear agreement with world powers in 2015. With more than a million Iranians living in the United States, many families are deeply concerned about the implications of Trump’s visa ban, which also affects citizens from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On Thursday, one of Iran’s most popular actresses said she would boycott next month’s Academy Awards in protest at the ban. ‘Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist. Whether this will include a cultural event or not, I won’t attend the #AcademyAwards 2017,’ tweeted Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in the Oscar-nominated ‘The Salesman’.

No visas will be issued for migrants or visitors from the seven countries for at least 90 days, a restriction which can be extended if the countries in question do not provide extensive information on individuals seeking to enter the United States. Quizzed on the street, many Iranians said they were baffled by the move.

‘Americans themselves are mostly immigrants. To pick out a few countries and call them terrorist is not logical,’ said Mohsen Najari, a 33-year-old resident of the Iranian capital. Tehran and Washington have not had diplomatic ties since students stormed the US embassy in 1980 following an Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

‘It’s got nothing to do with terrorism. Iran and the US just don’t have good ties. The US has good relations with Saudi Arabia so it doesn’t matter how many terrorists come from Saudi Arabia,’ said Sima, a 27-year-old.

• President Donald Trump signed an executive order Saturday giving the US military 30 days to devise a plan to ‘defeat’ the Islamic State group. The plan makes good on a key campaign pledge of Trump, who mocked and criticised the slow pace of his predecessor Barack Obama’s progress in the fight against the extremist fighters.

The text, which calls for a ‘comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS,’ is seen as meaning more US forces and military hardware moving into Iraq and Syria. Pentagon chief James Mattis is also tasked with recommending changes to US rules of engagement and policy restrictions to eliminate those that ‘exceed the requirements of international law regarding the use of force against ISIS’ under the order, which also seeks to cut the group’s financial support.

Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone call to establish ‘real coordination’ against the Islamic State group in Syria, according to the Kremlin. Yet many in the US military are suspicious of Russia’s role in Syria, with Moscow seen as seeking first and foremost to support and defend President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

‘We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice,’ Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast Thursday, using another acronym for the jihadist group. This is evil. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.’

Barack Obama took a longer-term view of the anti-IS fight, with a more cautious commitment of US forces and instead ramping up an air war against the violent extremists. President Trump might be looking for something with quicker results, that could put some more options on the table,’ retired lieutenant general David Barno, who led coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, told National Public Radio on Friday.

The United States currently has 5,000 troops in Iraq and 500 in Syria as ‘advisers’ – but also US artillery and aircraft to help in the fight. They have provided substantial support to the assault led by Iraqi forces on Islamic State’s hold on the key city of Mosul. The slow, steady assault has driven IS fighters out of part of the city on the east bank of the Tigris River, and forces are now preparing an assault on IS-held Mosul neighbourhoods on the river’s west bank.

According to reports, an escalation of the US role could involve more US armour and helicopters engaging in the assaults on IS positions together with Iraqi, Turkish and Kurdish forces. Trump ‘could elect to put American boots on the ground in larger numbers,’ Barno said. ‘That all entails new uses of military power… and that opens the prospect of a deeper involvement with more casualties.’