WASHINGTON — Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered remarks on Monday about the changes to President Trump’s travel ban executive order, related to visas and travel.
They announced Iraq has been removed from the ban, which now instead covers Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Iraq will “increase cooperation with the US government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States,” according to an administration fact sheet.
Iraq was removed from the revised travel ban executive order after intensive lobbying from the Iraqi government at the highest levels, a senior US official told CNN Monday.
Top White House aide Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Monday morning that the revised travel ban would not include Iraq. Her comments were the first time an administration official has definitively and publicly said the nation will be removed from the order.
The lobbying from the Iraq officials included a phone call between President Donald Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on February 10 and an in-person conversation between Abadi and Vice President Mike Pence in Munich on February 18.
Those conversations were followed by discussions between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and members of the Iraqi government about vetting measures in place that would prevent suspected terrorists from leaving Iraq and coming to the United States. Iraq did not implement new measures; rather, the country provided more detail to US officials about how it screens travelers.
In Trump’s call with Abadi, the President vowed to seek a resolution to his counterpart’s concerns about his citizens’ being unable to enter the United States, according to a readout of the phone call from Baghdad. The US official said Trump asked Tillerson to get greater clarity on vetting measures in Iraq.
Trump also faced pressure to remove Iraq from the order from some American national security officials, who argued the restriction burdened a key anti-ISIS partner. Some of those voices were holdovers from the Obama administration.