Block American citizens from entering our country! This was echoed in the political circles of Iraq soon after US President Donald Trump’s executive order of January 2017. The order banned travel of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq to the US. The Iraqi legislators in a tit-for-tat move voted to demand their government for a retaliatory measure. The proposal was to bar American citizens from entering Iraq if the US did not withdraw the travel ban against Iraqi travelers.
Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi refused to strike back, the request by the Iraqi parliament’s foreign affairs committee to deal reciprocally in ‘all’ issues with the US is enough for Washington to contemplate over its policy towards Iraq. The reasons are numerous. It is the same parliament which US reinstated after its Iraq invasion of 2003. Within a few years of its re-establishment, instead of being under US influence, many powerful lawmakers are urging their government to take measures against Americans. In spite of the fact that Washington is providing considerable aid, arms and training to Iraqi soldiers in their tough battle of Mosul, such criticism shows the resentment against Trump’s decision. It was taken as an insult by Iraqis who are sacrificing their lives for battle against terrorism.
The travel ban order also strengthened the anti-US narrative of prominent anti-American forces. Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential cleric, swiftly issued a statement on his website saying: “It would be arrogant for you to enter freely Iraq [sic] and other countries while barring them the entrance to your country … and therefore you should get your nationals out”. Similarly, Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilisation Forces, Hashd al-Sha’abi, urged the government not just to stop the entrance of Americans but also send back US citizens already present in Iraq. Troops of Hashd al-Sha’abi are fighting along with Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the battle to recapture the northern city of Mosul. Hashd fighters have played an instrumental role in the liberation of city of Tikrit, Fallujah city in the western province of al-Anbar and many other areas in Iraq. Hence, Hashd is considered a vital and powerful voice.
Read more at: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1354352/fighting-daesh-test-us-iraq-relations/
The Express Tribune, March 14, 2017