(Reuters) Iraq’s prime minister has squashed a move by pro-Iranian factions in his government who wanted to retaliate against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. The struggle shows the difficult position the Iraqi leader finds himself in – pulled between his most powerful neighbor and the United States under Trump.
For Haider al-Abadi, the situation had looked difficult on Sunday night. At a meeting of the most powerful Shi’ite leaders and their representatives, he faced calls to respond in kind to the ban affecting seven mainly Muslim nations, including Iraq.
Trump’s order had triggered angry reactions among Shi’ite politicians in Iraq. Those who are closest to Iran were insisting that Iraq should retaliate with a ban on U.S. nationals, just like Tehran did the day before.
But matters were resolved smoothly in Abadi’s favor. The prime minister warned the Shi’ite leaders that a ban on Americans would jeopardize U.S. support for the war on ISIS. So they were prepared for the time being at least to reject the demands of the pro-Iranian lobby.
While the Shi’ite leaders agreed that the U.S. order was unfair, it was understood that Iran’s allies had no alternative plan on how to finish the battle in Mosul, the last major city under the control of IS militants, without U.S. help.
Abadi said at a news conference on Tuesday that Iraq was best served by preserving the U.S. alliance. “We are … in a battle and we don’t want to harm the national interest.”
Iran’s allies are, nevertheless, preparing to press their cause again should relations deteriorate further between Washington and Iran after the battle of Mosul, said Ahmed Younis, a professor of international relations at the University of Baghdad.