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Iran and Iraq mull reciprocal ban for US

January 29, 2017

Some Iraqi leaders have gone as far to call for the expulsion of all US nationals. Iran will implement a travel ban on US citizens but unlike Trump's policy, anyone with a visa will still be allowed entry.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif said any Americans still holding visas would be allowed entryImage: Getty Images/F.Bahrami

As Iran implemented a travel ban on Americans, popular and influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for Americans to leave Iraq in response to US President Donald Trump's recent travel ban.

On Friday Trump signed an executive order immediately barring entry to the US for 90 days any travelers from Muslim majority nations Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday that Trump's move "will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters."

"Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks," he tweeted.

His ministry announced a reciprocal ban on Americans entering the country, though it will not apply to those who already have a valid visa.

rominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during news conference in Najaf
Prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr called for the expulsion of US nationals from IraqImage: Reuters/A. Al-Marjani

A statement by his ministry said the country "will take reciprocal measures in order to safeguard the rights of its citizens until the time of the removal of the insulting restrictions of the Government of the United States against Iranian nationals."

Similar moves in Iraq

While the Iraqi government held back from launching a reprisal, many Iraqis called for similar measures.

Influential Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr said on Sunday American nationals should leave Iraq.

"It would be arrogance for you to enter freely Iraq and other countries while barring to them the entrance to your country ... and therefore you should get your nationals out," al-Sadr said on his website.

Some members of the Iraqi parliament said their country should retaliate with similar measures against the United States.

"Iraq is in the frontline of the war on terrorism ... and it is unfair that the Iraqis are treated in this way," said the parliament's foreign affairs committee.

"We ask the Iraqi government to reciprocate to the decision taken by the US administration," the committee said in a statement after a meeting on Sunday in Baghdad.

Popular Mobilization, a coalition of mainly Shi'ite paramilitary groups armed and trained by Iran to fight the so-called "Islamic State", called for the expulsion of US nationals.

An MP who sits on the parliament's foreign relations committee told Reuters, "the foreign ministry will be contacting the US administration to review their decision."

The Iraqi government will "explain that Iraq as a sovereign country will be forced to reciprocate, and that would affect negatively cooperation, including military cooperation in the war" on IS, a second lawmaker told Reuters.

An Iraqi government spokesman said the country understands the security motives behind Trump's ban, but underlined that their "special relationship" should be taken into consideration.

Saad al-Hadithi told AP that Iraqis were hoping that the new orders "will not affect the efforts of strengthening and developing the bilateral relations between Iraq and the United States."

The ongoing battle to seize Mosul, the last Iraqi city under control of IS, was led by a US coalition.

Local forces backed by coalition air strikes and advisers on the ground recently announced they had taken back the east bank of the Tigris, the river the divides the city.

aw/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)