The Trump Administration is about a week old, but already he is making significant changes to the way the United States will engage with the Middle East and other countries are making their own Middle East policy changes as a result.
One of his first group of executive orders was a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees into the United States. This ban will be focused on a handful of Muslim countries that are plagued with Islamic terrorism. His argument on the campaign trail was that the United States had no way to determine if a refugee was truly in need or a terrorist in disguise. As part of this temporary immigration policy, Trump also wants to suspend issuing visas to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen for at least 30 days.
“We cannot, and should not, admit into our country those who do not support the U.S. Constitution or those who place violent religious edicts over American law,” stated Trump in his executive order instituting the ban.
This ban is likely to include an exception for those fleeing from religious persecution, especially if they are part of a minority faith within their country of origin. This would apply to Christians trying to leave Muslim-majority countries where their communities are under attack.
The ban would stay in place until specifics regarding the administration’s vetting process could be worked out. This is a change from Trump’s initial call for an outright ban on immigration from Muslim nations after a round of terror attacks in Western Europe and California. These attacks have been determined to have been led by ISIS-inspired terrorists.
While refugee processing bans have been used before, particularly after 9/11 in 2001, but the processing resumed after just a few months. Human rights groups have denounced Trump’s plans.
“Never before in our country’s history have we purposely, as a matter of policy, imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Trump has also indicated that he will “rebuild traditional alliances or alliances with traditional American allies,” according to Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir in a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. He also noted that Trump has spoken about containing Iran and making sure that it abides by the agreements currently in place, a position Saudi Arabia also holds.
“We look forward to working with the Trump administration and we are very positive about the future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” said Al-Jubeir, while hailing what he called, “America returning to the region.” The Saudi Arabia minister also pointed out that the solution to Syria’s conflict should be based on Security Council resolutions and Geneva conventions.
He noted that Iran has adopted policies to support terrorism, and has also committed war crimes in Iraq and Syria, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Ayrault said that his country and Saudi Arabia are leading a battle against terrorism and extremist ideologies, while stressing that Saudi Arabia was firmly against terrorism.
The Middle East policy of the Trump Administration seems to acknowledge what most news agencies confirmed, that Iran is the number one supporter of President Bashar Assad in Syria. On January 27, at a press conference with Iranian Parliament Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Damascus. President Assad acknowledged Iran’s support in bolstering his government throughout the past six years and credited Iran for their assistance in the recapture of Aleppo.
Abdollahian congratulated Assad on the liberation of Aleppo and discussed the latest developments in the region with the Syrian president. Earlier this month, Iranian officials noted that Iran supports intra-Syrian talks to settle the conflict.
Along the lines of Iran, multiple nations and international leaders have called for the appeasement of Iran to end. 2017 has started out with a blow to the mullahs, with the death of former Iranian regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the factions of his regime are trekking down the path of further contraction, supporting and advocating extremism, as well as continuing their efforts to achieve their nuclear ambitions.
Their weakness has brought up fears of another uprising, as occurred in 2009. The general Iranian public and political prisoners are voicing their dissent as never before, taking advantage of social media. The Iranian people, despite the regime’s promises, have received nothing from the Iranian nuclear pact. On the other hand, the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have used the funds to finance lethal ambitions throughout the Middle East and Syria in particular.
Families of regime victims have been protesting, especially those who lost loved ones in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. In response to the latest Syrian ceasefire, Iran and its proxy elements continue to attempt to sabotage efforts to continue the initiative.
The idea of rooting out extremism by allying with another extremist group or regime. Therefore, no government can promote an alliance with Iran under the idea of building a security policy. Former U.S. officials have voiced their concerns with current Iran-U.S. policy, and urging President Trump to talk with the alternative to the current Iranian regime, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Trump’s administration has a plan to set up safe zones inside Syria for refugees, in light of his current ban on their coming to the U.S. Reports indicate that Trump is directing the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plank within three months for these safe zones. Russia has acknowledged they were not consulted.
Turkey and a Syrian opposition group say they have always supported the idea of these safe zones, but want to review the U.S. plan before making any further comments. Turkey backs the opposition, while Russia and Iran have supported Assad’s government. “What’s important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out,” said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu.
“I think that Europe has made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries,” said Trump in a January 25th interview. He then indicated that he sees safe zones as a way to stem the threat of terrorism that comes from admitting refugees and other immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
Reuters and AP, who claim to have seen a draft of Trump’s safe zone executive order, say it gives no details on what would constitute a safe zone, exactly where they would be set up and who would be in charge of defending them.