Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that will restrict migration from seven Muslim-majority countries, with potentially disastrous consequences for U.S. national security interests.
According to the “Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States” order, the United States will prohibit nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, will assess whether these countries provide enough information to the U.S. government about their visa applicants; if they don’t, they’ll have 90 days to do so. After 90 days, depending on the information provided to him by the Secretary of Homeland Security, Trump can permanently prohibit the nationals of those seven countries from entering the country.
The news isn’t surprising given that Trump repeatedly called for a total ban on Muslim immigration throughout his campaign. But aside from the obvious racism in a blanket ban like this, the order also has huge implications for U.S. national security.
The news comes after Trump expressed regret that the United States hadn’t taken Iraq’s oil after invading in 2003. “We should’ve kept the oil,” Trump told the CIA last week. “Maybe you’ll have another chance.” He repeated the claims again during the ABC News interview Wednesday, calling people who say international law prohibits taking another country’s natural resources “fools.”
U.S. and Iraqi troops are still trying to regain control over Mosul, the largest ISIS-held city in Iraq. Eastern Mosul is now back in government hands for the first time since 2014, but ISIS still has control over the western part of the city. About 750,000 civilians are trapped here, and the humanitarian situation is dire.
Threatening to ban all Iraqis as the United States is working with the Iraqi military to combat ISIS could prove disastrous for team morale and joint missions against the militant organization.
“It’s a catastrophe to issue bans based on nationality — or religion or race. Of course it is contrary to basic American values,” said Vikram Singh, the Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. “But also think of Iraq, where American soldiers are literally fighting ISIS alongside their Muslim, Iraqi military counterparts. Along with reckless statements about taking Iraq’s oil, this is downright dangerous to American troops in harm’s way. Donald Trump is now Commander-in-Chief, and this is a dereliction of duty to his men and women on the battlefield.”
After the reports of the executive order, the Department of Defense shared the story of a U.S. Marine born and raised in Iraq — perhaps to stress the value that refugees and immigrants actually play in U.S. national security.
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) January 25, 2017
In addition to fraying U.S. ties with Iraq, the Muslim ban is likely to compromise the Iranian nuclear agreement.
When the visa ban proposal was announced earlier this week, Iranian state media was quick to react. One article on Press TV said that the United States is “seeking [a] pretext to impose sanctions on Iran.” Under the Iran deal, limits on Iran’s nuclear program hinged on the removal of U.S., E.U., and U.N. nuclear-related sanctions, allowing Iran economic benefits.
The Iranian government already accused Congress of violating the agreement with new sanctions last month. Similarly, Trump’s own foreign policy team looks set to escalate hostilities with Iran. Many of them have called for withdrawal from the Iran deal entirely.
On Saturday, after Trump officially signed the executive order, Iran’s Foreign Ministry released a statement calling it “an insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.”
“The decision of the Government of the United States incorporates certain requests that are illegal, illogical, and contrary to international law,” the statement read. “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 and multilateral agreements and reserves the right to respond as necessary.”
BuzzFeed News’ Middle East correspondent Borzou Daragahi announced Saturday that the Iraqi parliament will be looking to pursue reciprocal measures, blocking visas for Americans who wish to travel to Iraq.
Breaking: Iraqi parliament to discuss retaliatory blocking of visas for all Americans, including contractors & journalists (MoFA source)
— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) January 28, 2017
The order also calls for a permanent ban on all Syrians entering the United States through the refugee resettlement program, as well as a 120-day ban on all other refugee admissions. In addition, it suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allowed frequent visitors to the United States to forgo an in-person interview before traveling to the country.
While the order doesn’t include many other Muslim-majority countries in the list — Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, for example, are excluded — it’s still effectively a Muslim ban. The order includes an exception for refugees facing “religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” In other words, non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries get an exemption.
An earlier leaked draft of the order called for the establishment of safe zones in Syria. This reference has been removed. The earlier draft also called for a 60-day ban on nationals from the targeted countries entering the United States. The final text increases this to a 90-day ban.
The list of seven countries targeted in the recently proposed executive order is based on laws passed last year requiring new visa requirements for those who recently traveled to or are dual nationals of those countries. Trump’s blanket ban, however, takes it a step further.
This piece was updated to reflect Trump’s signing of the order on Friday, January 27. Discrepancies between the draft and the final text have been clarified.