Meghan L O’Sullivan writes for Bloomberg View about how the ban on Iraqis’ entry specifically, by demonstrating a lack of American trust, undermines the US-Iraqi relationship more generally.
There are many good reasons to object to the Trump administration’s new ban on allowing people from seven predominantly Muslim Middle East countries to travel to the U.S. and halting the acceptance of Syrian refugees. I am among the many Americans ashamed that our great country could so easily push aside its history of caring for people with the most desperate needs in the world. I also am among the national security analysts who don’t see how this helps deliver on the promise of protecting the U.S. from terrorism, and worry that they will inflame the resentment and anti-Americanism that fuel attacks against our citizens at home and abroad.
But, most tangibly and practically, I am among the millions of Americans who served as soldiers, diplomats or humanitarian workers in Iraq or Afghanistan, and therefore have insights into how the immigration ban has made Defense Secretary James Mattis’s job of devising a plan to eradicate Islamic State a whole lot more difficult.
On Saturday, Trump issued a national security memo giving Mattis and the Pentagon 30 days to “develop a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS.” Yet the immigration ban seriously complicates that task by jeopardizing the cooperation of Iraqis. Iraqis are among the most important partners we have in fighting the Islamic State. While the U.S. and its allies are providing critical air, intelligence and logistical support in northern Iraq, it is Iraqi forces — both Arab and Kurd — that are pushing Islamic State out of Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city.
As evidenced by Mattis’s efforts to get exceptions to the immigration ban for Iraqis who worked alongside American forces, we rely heavily on Iraqis willing to risk their lives, and those of their families, to work with us. Such cooperation has cost many Iraqi lives. Signaling that we may need them while we are operating in Iraq, but see them as a security threat in the U.S., will have an immediate chilling effect. This distrust will not be limited to those Iraqis who want to become U.S. residents or citizens, but will permeate all of our relationships there.