One of America's top allies in the Middle East offered an excoriating assessment of the U.S. role in the region, saying that the United States is "absent."
"There is a vacuum in the overall leadership in the world," Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview airing Friday. "The Americans need to ... get back to their role as an international power, an important international power." He also accused the United States of lacking an "international strategy," saying there is "no strategy for the alliances that are fighting and have helped us in this part of the fight."
Allawi also attacked America's broader fight against Islamist extremism and said the country lacks clear-cut policies.
That assessment comes as U.S.-supported Iraqi forces wage a battle for Mosul, one of the last strongholds of the Islamic State in the country. The city is now mostly controlled by the Iraqi government.
Trump administration officials disputed this characterization. National security adviser H.R. McMaster told CNN that the U.S. strategy in the region is sound. "We are being successful with our partners in Syria. We are being successful with our Iraqi partners," he said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."
But the president has a history of making Iraqis nervous.
Trump came into office promising to "bomb the hell" out of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and to squash Iran's nuclear ambitions. Just days after his inauguration, he delivered a speech at CIA headquarters in which he bemoaned the fact that Americans did not take Iraqi oil after the 2003 invasion.
"The old expression, to the victor belong the spoils," Trump said. "We should’ve kept the oil. But, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance." The country's prime minister denounced those comments, saying, "Iraqi oil is for Iraqis."
The Trump administration also alienated Iraq when it included the country in its initial travel ban. That meant that Iraqis who had worked for American troops as translators or aides could no longer come to the United States. Those who were already here were afraid that they wouldn't be allowed to bring their families.
One woman, Farah Alkhafji, was viciously targeted by militants in Iraq for working for the Americans. She told the Guardian that she had endured the kidnapping of her father, the murder of her husband and even the burning of her house. She left Iraq for America and was weeks from taking her citizenship test when the ban went into effect, scuttling her plans to bring her family over.
"If the president wants to protect the country, I understand the burden is on his shoulders," Alkhafji said at the time. "I respect his administration. But I would like to tell him, 'You want to protect America from the people who helped them in Iraq? Really?'"
The Iraqi parliament retaliated by approving a "reciprocity measure" aimed at barring Americans from entering Iraq. Trump's initial ban was struck down by courts; his more recent efforts to bar people from six Muslim-majority countries does not include Iraq.