Disastrous invasions, seized oil and blocked visas: Same old America for Iraqis under Trump
Council on American Islamic Relations holds protest in Washington (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)
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To this day, Iraq continues to reel from the shockwaves of the 2003 American invasion. Coming up to fourteen years on, several thousand US troops remain and the country is wracked by sectarian divisions, the seeds of which were sewn during the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein. As if listening to a broken record, Iraqis continue to see suicide bombs rock the capital on a weekly basis, while troops battle to liberate the north from Daesh.
Newly inaugurated President Trump may have previously claimed he was opposed to the Iraq war, but his actions show little inclination to make amends. Quite the opposite; Trump’s first few days in power have delivered two slaps in the face for Baghdad.
First, the President has restated his suggestion, made during his campaign, that the US ought to have “taken the oil”.
Trump claims this makes sense both economically, to reimburse America for its $2 trillion expenditure in the country, and to combat terrorism. Daesh seized significant oil reserves in 2014 when it took over swathes of northern Iraq, making $500 million from oil and gas sales in 2015.
“To the victor belong the spoils,” Trump said on Saturday while speaking at the CIA headquarters.
“So we should have kept the oil,” he added. “But, OK, maybe you'll have another chance.”
It is safe to say that Iraqis have not been impressed by Trump’s words.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said: "It wasn't clear what he meant. Did he mean in 2003 or to prevent the terrorists from seizing Iraq's oil?"
"Iraq's oil is constitutionally the property of the Iraqis," he continued.
“This is totally wrong,” one Irbil market stall owner told the Independent. “They came here by themselves and occupied Iraq. And now they want the Iraqis to pay for that?”
Meanwhile, Iraqis online suggested they would happily exchange the oil for peace and security, and an end to unhelpful American interventions:
Daesh is an American idea which they implemented, they even took the money from Iraq to destroy it. Trump's got it right, there can be no contesting it, many Iraqis have died in the war, come take the oil and give us security and stability.
I swear, just let him take the oil and let us live in peace. The problem of the Iraqi oil wasn't created yesterday. We have been asleep since the beginning of the First World War until now, while they steal from us.
In the second anti-Iraqi move of his first week as President, Trump is expected in the coming days to sign an executive order temporarily suspending visas for Iraqis, as well as individuals from several other war-torn Arab countries.
This move has stirred a more muted response from Iraqis, who have learned to live with years of frustration.
One resigned Iraqi told Albawaba: “What difference does it make? I can’t get a visa to Europe or America anyway.”
Another commented on Facebook:
America is the vilest country in the world. They attacked the houses of Iraqis and took half the oil. They stirred conflict between the sects and prevented [Iraqis] from living. Anyway, I am surprised that anyone wants to go to such a pathetic country, Europe is much preferable.
Trump might be seen as unorthodox by many, but for Iraqis it seems to be a case of “same old, same old” as yet another intervening American president takes the reigns, offering them only greater suffering.