President Trump and the Middle Eastern Game of Revenge

Last week, President Trump signed off on an executive order by the name of “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. This order temporarily ends the United States Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, while denying entry to all citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

Arguably, this move was made by President Trump to make good on his campaign promise to ban immigration from countries with a “proven history of terrorism”, specifically, Muslim-majority countries located in the Middle East. However, it was met with criticism from those who pointed out that all of the countries of origin of the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates). In fact, not one person was killed in America by terrorists from any one of the banned countries (despite there being three non-deadly attacks committed by people connected with Iran and Somalia). In addition, prominent figures around the world condemned the ban as an example of religious prejudice. This included lawmakers from the Republican Party.

President Trump and his supporters justified the ban by point out the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism. For example, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer asked “what happened if we didn’t act and someone was killed?” to provide support for the order.

This order also set off a series of negative (to say the least) reactions across the Islamic world. Iran went to the most extreme length, by issuing a similar ban on citizens of the United States. This is the statement issued by Iran on this ban:

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic of Iran

The decision of the Government of the United States to impose restrictions on the travel of
Muslims to the United States – though temporarily for three months – is a clear insult to the
Islamic world, and especially the great nation of Iran; and despite claims of being made to
combat terrorism and protecting the people of the United States, it will be recorded in history
as a great gift to extremists and their supporters.

While the international community needs dialogue and cooperation to address the roots of
violence and extremism in a comprehensive and inclusive manner, and at a time when the
United Nations General Assembly approved by consensus the proposal of the President of the
Islamic Republic of Iran for a World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE), the imprudent
decision of the US. Government to apply collective discrimination against citizens of Muslim
countries will only serve to provide a fertile ground for more terrorist recruitment by deepening
the ruptures and fault-lines which have been exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their
ranks with disenfranchised and marginalized youth, and further promote their campaign of
hatred, violence and extremism. Moreover, with this decision, the reports of US. intelligence
and security organs and past statements of current US officials which emphasized on the role of
the United States and its regional allies in fomenting and expanding extremist groups, including
Da’esh (ISIL), appear to have been conveniently forgotten.

The decision of the Government of the United States to target the people of Iran and clearly
insult all sections of this great nation has put on clear display the baselessness of the US. claims
of friendship with the Iranian people while only having issues with the Government of Iran. It
also shows the rancor and enmity of some in the US government and influential circles both
within the United States and abroad towards all Iranians around the world: The Iranian nation
who, benefiting from an ancient and rich civilization and religious beliefs founded on
humanitarian values, has always promoted the message of constructive engagement, not only
resisted domination but also the temptations to dominate others, and fought extremism and
violence; a resilient nation which has stood firm in the face of extremist terrorists and which
was among the first victims of organized terrorism; a great people which has had no presence
in any extremist terrorist operation, but instead in all societies in which it has traveled or resided
as scientists, students, entrepreneurs, tourists or immigrants, has been known as one of the
most law abiding, cultured, educated and successful communities, thus representing its Iranian
and Islamic culture and civilization in the most dignified and peace-loving manner.

To ensure respect for the dignity of all members of the great Iranian nation at home and abroad,
the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will engage in a careful assessment of the short
and medium-term impact of the decision of the US. Government on Iranian nationals, and will
take proportionate legal, consular and political action and – while respecting the American
people and differentiating between them and the hostile policies of the US. Government – will
take reciprocal measures in order to safeguard the rights of its citizens until the time of the
removal of the insulting restrictions of the Government of the United States against Iranian
nationals.

In order to monitor the implementation of this decision and adopt appropriate measures
commensurate with national interest in specific cases, a mechanism is established in the
Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the participation of relevant
organizations.

Meanwhile, all diplomatic and consular missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been
instructed to prioritize the provision of consular facilities to all Iranian nationals who due to the
illegal step of the Government of the United States have been prevented from returning to their
places of residence, work and education.

The decision of the Government of the United States incorporates certain requests that are
illegal, illogical and contrary to international law. Considering the absence of relations between
the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States, those requests are not applicable to and
cannot be accommodated by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Any abuse by the
United States of this situation to prolong the discriminatory measures and cause any further
inconvenience for Iranian nationals is not only illegal but against common sense.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will carefully examine and legally pursue any negligence or violation
of the international obligations of the United States under bilateral agreements and multilateral
arrangements and reserves the right to respond as deemed necessary.”

Iran also went a step further by eliminating the use of the US dollar on financial statements. Of course, this is a largely symbolic statement. However, it is indicative of what could very well become a dangerous precedent in relations between the United States and Muslim-majority states.