When it comes to the seven countries on President Trump’s list for a temporary immigration ban, one of these things is not like the others. Visitors from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia are prohibited from coming to the United States for at least 90 days. For Syrians, the ban is indefinite. While it is understandable why the president might feel it necessary to closely screen immigrants from the Middle East, Iraq doesn’t necessarily fit in with the other countries on the list.
As a country that is openly hostile to the United States, people coming from Iran should obviously bear close scrutiny. Iran has already been accused of cheating on the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama Administration. It has a long history of supporting terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and since 1984 has been named by the State Department as a state sponsor of terror.
The two other countries currently designated as state sponsors of terror are also on Trump’s list. Syria received the designation in 1979 and Sudan in 1993. Sudan was once home to Osama bin Laden. Both countries have been torn by civil wars in recent years. The war in Sudan began in 2003 and was known for atrocities in the Darfur region. The Syrian civil war began in 2011 and has stoked a refugee crisis that led to terrorist attacks in Europe.
Yemen, like Syria and Sudan, is in the throes of a civil war. Iran-backed Houthi tribesmen are fighting both al-Qaeda and government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Drone strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen are frequent. It was in Yemen that President Trump launched the first drone attacks of his administration.
Somalia is probably best remembered by most Americans as the scene of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu depicted in “Black Hawk Down.” Somalia is also home to pirates who terrorized Indian Ocean shipping in the early days of the Obama Administration. There are reportedly links between the pirates and al-Qaeda.
The sixth country, Libya, has also been a hotbed of terrorism since the fall of Muammar Gadhafi. Libya was the scene of the 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.
Of the seven nations singled out by President Trump, one could be considered hostile to the United States and three are known sponsors of terrorism. Five could be considered failed states without strong central governments that could reliably help to vet refugees and other immigrants.
Iraq is different from the rest.
Admittedly, Iraq is in the midst of a war, but the nation does have a functioning democratic government. The country is friendly to the US and many Iraqis have fought and died alongside American soldiers as they battled al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed extremists. Since 2014, the Iraqi army has been waging a campaign against ISIS, again with US help.
Iraq is an American ally and to include it on a list of enemies and failed states is a slap in the face by the Trump Administration.
One of the Iraqi immigrants detained at John F. Kennedy airport in New York as the ban was implemented was Hameed Khalid Darweesh. Darweesh served as an interpreter with the US Army during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He later worked with American soldiers as a contract engineer in Iraq. Granted permission to resettle in the United States, Darweesh was just coming into the country when President Trump implemented his new policy.
It should be pointed out that there have not been any terrorist attacks -fatal or otherwise – in the United States or Europe by Iraqi. In fact, according to Politifact, there have been no fatal terror attacks in the US by anyone from the countries that make up Trump’s list. There has been one terror attack by Iranian-born US citizen and one attack by a Somali refugee. An additional attack was attempted by a man of Somali heritage who was born in Kenya. None of these attacks resulted in the deaths of victims.
There have been many terror attacks by immigrants from other Middle Eastern countries. The September 11 hijackers were predominantly from Saudi Arabia. So was Osama bin Laden. The Boston Marathon bombers were from Chechnya. The Times Square car bomber was from Pakistan. The terrorists who carried out the Orlando nightclub shooting and the San Bernardino shootings were born in the United States to parents from Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively. None of these nations are part of the immigration ban.
President Trump’s immigration ban seems poorly thought out and poorly executed. Keeping terrorists out the country is a worthy goal and a legitimate function of the federal government, but Trump’s approach seems amateurish and may cause more problems than it solves. Aside from the public relations nightmare, the policy’s worst problem is that it lumps an ally in with an enemy and a series of failed states while ignoring the source of most domestic terror attacks.
“This spits in the face of almost 16 years of cooperation with Muslim allies across the world,” Kyle Dykstra, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division who served in Afghanistan told the Chicago Tribune. “They can die for our security, but we can’t extend that same security to them now.”