Iraq's Ex-Ambassador To Us Calls Trump Travel Ban

Iraq's Ex-Ambassador To Us Calls Trump Travel Ban "Unfair"

Iraq's former ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, said on Friday (February 3) that President Donald Trump's order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, was "unfair" and could backfire.

"Being an ordinary Iraqi citizen now, in my opinion, the decision is unfair and it is a wrong message addressed by the new U.S. administration which will make it lose support of the Iraqi public," Faily told Reuters during the interview.

"It (the decision) shows that the U.S. administration does not view Iraq as a victim of terrorism, but on the contrary it views the Iraqi citizen as a terrorist until proven innocent. I see it as a bad message towards us," he added.

Faily, who has British citizenship, said he was told that the travel ban would still affect him as a person of Iraqi descent.

"As an Iraqi citizen I am affected by the restrictions. I have British nationality which I have acquired after living in the United Kingdom for 20 years. I contacted the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and to be more accurate, when the decision was issued and I was informed that regardless of any other nationality which I might have, I am affected by the ban because I am of Iraqi descent," said Faily, who served as Iraq's ambassador to Washington from 2013 until June 2016.

"I was informed by the U.S. ambassador himself two days ago that I am not being banned as a British citizen, but rather as an Iraqi national," he added.

The immigration executive order signed by Trump a week ago temporarily halted the U.S. refugee program and imposed a 90-day suspension on people travelling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump said the measures would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

"The United States has to know that terrorism and the turmoil in the region will continue even after the liberation of Iraq from Daesh, God willing, therefore, the need for Iraq as a partner will continue and the new administration has to know and realize this fact," Faily said.

The U.S. travel curbs had triggered angry reactions among Shia politicians in Iraq and fuelled the arguments of pro-Iranian political factions who seek to bolster Tehran's influence at the expense of Washington.

Those who are closest to Iran were insisting that Iraq should retaliate with a ban on U.S. nationals, just like Tehran did the day before.

While calling the U.S. order "unfair", Faily said Iraq was still a U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism.

"We have to benefit from and concentrate on the cooperation in the security sector and it is necessary to give it a priority in all the Iraqi measures because we need it. But in my opinion we have to reconsider cooperation in all other fields on the basis of mutual respect between the two countries and the fact that Iraq is a partner in fighting terrorism," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last week that Iraq would not retaliate to Trump's travel ban against Iraqi nationals because it did not want to lose Washington's cooperation in the war on Islamic State (ISIS).

The United States provides critical air and ground support to Iraqi troops fighting the militants who overran a third of Iraq in 2014. More than 5,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Iraq.

In his most sweeping decision since taking office last month, Trump, a Republican, put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries.