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Mattis Influence Shows As Trump Travel Ban May Drop A Country

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump’s new order suspending travel from terror-rife countries will reportedly not include Iraq, in a nod to Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s past requests.

Trump’s original Jan. 27 ban included Iraq and six other countries that were temporarily prohibited from entering the U.S. Mattis reportedly implored Trump to at least grant exceptions to Iraqis fighting with the U.S. against the Islamic State, even before the ban was struck down by a federal court.

Mattis previewed the likely change to the executive order in a Feb. 20 visit to Baghdad, telling reporters, “I am assured that we will take steps to allow those who have fought alongside us, for example, to be allowed in to the United States.”

The Jan. 27 ban deeply offended many members of the Iraqi government, who consider themselves steadfast allies of the U.S. in the fight against radical Islam. The Iraqi parliament even considered banning U.S. citizens to Iraq in response, potentially endangering the counter-ISIS effort.

The ban also engendered criticism from U.S. service members who saw many former Iraqi translator’s visas canceled to the U.S., an act they saw as betrayal by the government.

The U.S. has been training, advising, and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in the fight against ISIS since 2014. Trump even loosened U.S. rules of engagement in the ongoing fight against in Mosul, to allow U.S. special operators to accompany Iraqi forces inside the city.

Trump’s executive order will still include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen along with a 120 day suspension of admittance of refugees from any country. Trump’s previous order included the refugee suspension, but also indefinitely suspended the Syrian refugee program. The order will also no longer prioritize the admittance of refugee’s by religious group.

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