Iraqi prime minister expresses optimism country won't be on new travel ban

Iraqi prime minister expresses optimism country won't be on new travel ban
Iraqi prime minister expresses optimism country won't be on new travel ban

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Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi expressed his belief that the Trump administration could seek to soften the travel ban that was effectively overturned by federal judges, saying Iraq should be "removed from that list" targeting travelers from countries linked to terror.

He also dismissed suggestions by President Donald Trump that the U.S. should have seized Iraqi oil as little more than campaign talk.

The order from Trump sought to restrict travelers with visas from seven Muslim-majority countries linked to terrorism from entering the U.S. for 90 days, but is currently being reworked in response to widespread opposition and court rulings. Homeland Security chief John Kelly said that a new order is likely to exclude green card holders, and won't hold up travelers in transit.

The original executive order included Iraq. However, al-Abadi told CNBC on the sidelines of Munich's Security Conference that he has asked for a review.

"We've asked for the U.S. for a review. We want Iraq to be removed from that list. And I have received positive messages from President Trump and others," he said.

No to seizing Iraq's oil

In an NBC forum back in September, then-GOP candidate Trump claimed that Islamic State would not have formed "if we would've taken the oil," making a particular reference to Iraq and American intervention in the country. Currently, ISIS has laid claims to swaths of Iraq, and the country's forces are battling to rout them from key areas.

Since his election, Trump repeated the claim to ABC in an interview last month, saying that "we should have kept the oil when we got out." And in a speech to CIA officials shortly after taking office, Trump made similar remarks suggesting that U.S. should have taken Iraq's oil in reimbursement for the 2003 invasion.

"I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn't a fan of Iraq. I didn't want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil." Trump said on January 21 at the CIA headquarters.

Yet the Iraqi prime minister suggested his country didn't take the idea seriously, telling CNBC on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that it was "an election speech."

Al-Abadi told CNBC that Trump was simply referring to historical conflicts in the region with his comments, rather than making promises that the U.S. would try and grab the country's oil reserves, one of the world's largest at 153 billion barrels.

"I never hear that from any other officials and the U.S. administration. And of course to me this is an election thing. Otherwise how can he do it?," Al-Abadi asked.

The U.S. does not "have a combative army on the ground, they don't have a force which can control oil in the south or in the rest of the country," he added.

"It's impossible, but I think President Trump was talking about history, he's talking about when U.S. forces came to Iraq, they should have controlled the oil."

CNBC

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