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Iraqi Helpers Will Be Exempt From Travel Ban; Mattis

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Iraqis who aided the American military on the battlefield will be exempt in President Donald Trump’s revised immigration executive order, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday. Trump has vowed to issue a new executive order this week after his initial order banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, including Iraq, was blocked by the courts.

Mattis made an unannounced trip to the Iraqi capital Baghdad Monday, in an act of support for an operation to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. While there, he assuaged fears that the United States would attempt to take the country’s oil, as Trump has often stated is his wish.

But he also attempted to reassure thousands of Iraqis who had played crucial roles in aiding U.S. military efforts in the country over more than a decade.

“Right now, I am assured that we will take steps to allow those who have fought alongside us, for example, to be allowed into the United States,” Mattis said. “They will be vetted obviously by their performance on the battlefield beside us.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) walks with Iraq’s Defence Minister Erfan al-Hiyali (C) at Ministry of Defence in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. Photo: Reuters

The initial executive order, signed last month, made no accommodations for those interpreters, advisors and others that have worked alongside the U.S. military.

Trump said when announcing plans for a revised executive order last week that it would be tailored to the federal court decision that so earned the president’s ire by halting its implementation.

However, any changes to the executive order will not include altering the list of seven countries. A senior administration official told the Associated Press that it will again be limited to those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. However, the official said that the revised draft currently circulating would exempt travelers to the U.S. who already have a visa, even if they haven’t used it yet. Green-card holders and dual citizens would also be exempt.

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