Trump’s revised Muslim ban is set to go into effect this Thursday, March 16th. Since it’s announcement last week, we at NIAC have received an avalanche of questions from across the United States. In an effort to keep you informed, we posed the five most common questions that we’ve received to NIAC’s Reza Marashi and Adam Weinstein. Their answers are as follows.
Question 1: Iran is on America’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Why shouldn’t it be on Trump’s Muslim ban list?
Reza Marashi: The Muslim ban list does nothing to punish the Iranian government for its inclusion on America’s state sponsors of terrorism list, and it is wrong to conflate the two separate lists. The punishment is almost exclusively felt by innocent Iranian nationals who seek entry into the United States for educational purposes, family visits, tourism, and medical care. It is these people seeking a positive connection with America — not Iranian government officials — that are wrongfully being targeted, and thus no tangible security or anti-terrorism benefits are derived from including Iran on the Muslim ban list. If the Trump administration truly believed the Iranian government’s inclusion on America’s state sponsors of terror list warranted Iran’s inclusion as part of a Muslim ban, it would have gone to much greater lengths to create carve-outs to ensure innocent Iranians were in no way, shape, or form affected. Its inability or unwillingness to do so further shows that this is a discriminatory Muslim ban rather than a necessary or well thought out national security measure.
Question 2: The new Executive Order respects the due process rights of visa holders. As a result, isn’t it now reasonable? Shouldn’t these countries – state sponsors of terrorism and hotbeds of terrorism – received extra scrutiny?
Reza Marashi: No, the new Executive Order is neither reasonable nor logical because it does not address the actual problem of terrorist threats facing the United States. Zero Iranian nationals have committed acts of terror in the United States that have killed American citizens. Meanwhile, Saudi, Egyptian and Emirati nationals account for 94% of terror deaths on U.S. soil committed by the foreign-born, and yet they are not included in Trump’s Muslim ban. Thus, the extra scrutiny being placed on Iranian nationals does nothing to address the Trump administration’s stated goal of preventing terrorists from entering the United States, and makes Americans less safe by focusing on what’s not an actual threat and taking our attention away from the extra scrutiny needed on what is actually a threat. Most importantly, no countries should be on a Muslim ban list because the very concept of blindly banning nationalities or religions is wrong and ineffective.
Question 3: Isn’t it reasonable for the U.S. to request additional information from Iran and the five other countries on Trump’s Muslim ban list? If these countries don’t comply, isn’t it their fault that visas cannot be issued?
Adam Weinstein: U.S. vetting procedures have always stood on their own and served as an example for the world to emulate. The suggestion that the U.S. should or would rely on dual vetting is simply inaccurate and an insult to the agencies that have successfully protected us.
More dubious is the notion that Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Libya were banned due to their status as failed states with armed conflict. If the U.S. were to ban visas for all countries with ungoverned regions controlled by armed groups the list would have to include: Afghanistan, Colombia, Honduras, India, Israel, Egypt, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine to name a few.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has on numerous occasions suggested that vetting cannot occur in countries without a U.S. consulate. This assertion is very misleading because nobody from the banned countries receives a visa without visiting an embassy or consulate. For example, Iranians must travel to Dubai, Ankara, Yerevan, or elsewhere to attend visa interviews.
Thus, Trump’s list of banned countries is not based on a rational counter-terrorism policy response to events on the ground or actual threats.
Question 4: Iraq was removed from Trump’s Muslim ban list by strengthening its intelligence sharing with the U.S. Why can’t the other countries do the same?
Reza Marashi: Iraq was not removed from Trump’s Muslim ban list because of strengthened intelligence sharing with the U.S. Rather, it was removed at the request of Secretary of Defense Mattis, who feared it would hamper coordination to defeat ISIS, according to Trump administration officials. It is therefore accurate to say that including Iran as part of Trump’s Muslim ban will hurt America’s fight against ISIS, as U.S. officials noted last year that Iran is already helpful in fighting ISIS and we have a shared interest towards that goal.
Question 5: Acts of terrorism in the U.S. have not been committed by nationals from these six countries, but since their governments sponsor terrorism, isn’t it reasonable to expect that nationals from these countries might take such actions in the future and America should therefore take precautions NOW against that potential threat?
Adam Weinstein: The overwhelming majority of “radical Islamic” terrorism attacks in the U.S. have been committed by lone wolf attackers with no sponsorship. Such lone wolves include the Boston bombers, San Bernardino shooters, Orlando nightclub shooter, OSU shooter, and Fort Hood shooter. The only recent example of terrorism on U.S. soil that may have included some state sponsorship was 9/11 and the alleged sponsors are certain Saudi officials. It is also notable that all of these particular terrorists adhered to an extreme Salafi ideology that also views most Iranians as apostates.
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