By imposing a blanket ban on immigration for selected countries and suspending the U.S. Refugee program, Donald Trump will not effectively counter the threat of a terrorist attack on American soil, nor will he ‘Make America Safe Again’.
Executive orders, immigration bans, airport protests and the firing of the Acting Attorney-General have punctuated what has been a tumultuous past few days in the United States of America. In his second week of presidency, Donald Trump has caused much consternation amongst the global community.
Under the guise of fighting what he calls ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’, Trump’s executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven Middle-Eastern and African countries from entering the United States has been subject to intense scrutiny as it continues to cause severe disruption for families caught in this immigration debacle.
Named ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’, Executive Order 13769 also suspends the United States Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, fulfilling a campaign promise Trump made in 2016.
Questions have already arisen in relation to Trump’s selection of countries which have made the immigration ban list. Alex Nowrasteh from the Cato Institute astonishingly finds that no terrorist attacks were committed by nationals on the immigration ban list between 1975 and 2015. In fact, the death toll for Americans killed by Syrian refugees in terrorist attacks on American soil is zero.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia does not make the list. This is despite Trump himself calling Saudi Arabia “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism”. Fifteen of the 19 Al-Qaeda affiliated hijackers in the 9/11 attacks, which killed 2,977 people, were Saudi citizens. Moreover, it is no secret that Saudi Arabia remains the bastion and main exporter of militant Wahhabism – a destructive ideology that promotes a literal, puritanical and ultraconservative firebrand version of Islam.
History is rife with examples of pernicious Saudi interference in the Muslim world as the Kingdom has spread its Wahhabi tentacles, funding extremist groups such as the Taliban in the Afghanistan since the Soviet-Afghan War and radical militants fighting in the Syrian Civil War.
Reports have already emerged remarking that the travel restrictions imposed by the executive order omits countries where Trump maintains business interests. This may also explain Qatar’s absence from the immigration ban despite evidence of the Gulf state sponsoring terrorism in Syria.
Trump’s inclusion of Iran in the immigration ban list also serves to satisfy the Saudis (and the Qataris) as the Saudi-Iranian battle for supremacy across the Middle-East continues across Syrian and Yemeni fronts. The inconsistency between Trump’s rhetoric and his actions is all the more apparent when one considers Saudi Arabia has recently pledged its support for Trump’s idea to establish safe zones in Syria and Yemen. So much for confronting state sponsors of terrorism.
Pakistan also remains a dubious omission from the travel restrictions imposed although the idea of the country being included in the future is being considered. Pakistan’s continual express and covert financial, logistical, military and intelligence support for Taliban, especially through its notorious secret service, the ISI, is no secret.
From 2001 to 2016, the US had spent $US 783bn in Afghanistan – much of this dedicated to fighting a Pakistani-backed Taliban. Given the atrocities Afghans have suffered in the past under Taliban rule and indiscriminate civilian attacks in the ongoing Taliban insurgency, it is strikingly odd to see Pakistan missing from the list. Meanwhile an impoverished nation like Yemen with 18.8 million people in need somehow makes Trump’s cut.
It appears Trump is genuinely uninterested in effectively combating terrorism or protecting America. By imposing these ridiculous travel bans and suspending the Refugee Program, the executive order effectively targets the main victims of terrorism. Iraqis, Syrians and more recently Yemenis, have suffered the most at the hands of terrorist groups and yet it is citizens of these countries who will indiscriminately be denied entry into the United States.
The order also places the United States in breach of its obligations under the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Obligations in relation to the imposition of penalties or restrictions on the movement of refugees (Article 31) and non-refoulement (Article 33) are clearly violated. Refugees fleeing the horrors of violence and persecution, whether at the hands of non-state terrorist groups like ISIS or by Assad’s barrel bombs in Syria, will be forced back to their doom.
Whilst Trump’s executive order serves to placate the interests of the far-right and the emerging alt-right who have hilariously dubbed the refugee crisis an invasion, the damaging consequences of this policy on people have been real.
Ironically, the immigration ban only serves to make America more vulnerable to attacks rather than ‘safe again’. Groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are salivating at these recent developments as the executive order will almost certainly be used for propaganda purposes to reinforce the extremist narrative that America and the West are at war with Islam.
No one denies that domestic security measures should be taken to address the global terrorism phenomenon. But a blanket immigration ban and the suspension of the Refugee Program does nothing to alleviate the threat of terrorism especially when existing screening measures for refugees appear to be both rigorous and effective.
The consequences of Trump’s recent executive order remain yet to be fully realised. Besides devastating civilians and their families, and perhaps rejuvenating terrorist groups, any other positive effect on national security or counter-terrorism is so far both imperceptible and inconceivable.