US President Donald Trump will exclude Iraq from the list of Muslim countries targeted in a travel ban when he signs a revised executive order as part of his promised overhaul of the nation’s immigration and refugee policies, according to a White House official.
The new directive, which is expected to be signed on Monday, will maintain a 90-day entry ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
The Pentagon and the State Department have reportedly been pressuring Trump to remove Iraq from the list of countries in the original order, which he introduced soon after taking office.
An unnamed White House official told Reuters that Iraq was taken off the list because the Iraqi government is working with the US to counter the threat of Daesh (ISIL) and has introduced new vetting procedures, including tighter visa screening and better data sharing.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had threatened the White House with reciprocal measures after the introduction of the original ban.
Iraqi lawmakers urged the prime minister to ban American nationals as a countermeasure, prompting concerns in Washington over the fate of over 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
Thousands of Iraqis have also resettled in the United States since the US-led invasion of their country in 2003.
The new executive order will also spare the green card holders, or legal permanent residents, the White House official said.
Upon signing the original order, Trump said he was trying to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” away from the United States. However, he later on changed his tone and said the ban was not specifically targeting people based on their religion.
The controversial ban faced more than two dozen lawsuits in US courts, and the 9th Circuit court of Appeals in the state of Washington succeeded in halting the order, arguing it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.
Trump criticized the ruling as ridiculous and promised to fight the case in the Supreme Court. However, the president apparently changed his mind and decided to devise a new order with changes that would make it easier to defend in courts.
The measure, which the administration insisted was not a Muslim ban, sparked mass protests in major cities in the US and other countries.