MS Risk Blog

The Middle East’s Reaction to President Donald Trump’s Travel Ban

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On 27 January, the US president Donald Trump signs an executive order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, which places 90-day bans on arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and suspended the admission of all refugees for 120 days. Trump has said his travel ban is designed to reduce the risk of terror attacks in the US.

Iran has issued a strong statement condemning Trump’s executive order and has warned that it will take legal, political and reciprocal measures. The country’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, warned the ban will only “serve as a great gift to extremists and their supporters.” Iran’s ministry said that the decision by the US government to impose restrictions on the travel of Muslims to the US “though temporarily for three months – is a clear insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.” Iran have said they will take “reciprocal measures in order to safeguard the rights of its citizens until the time of the removal of the insulting restrictions of the United States against Iranian nationals.”

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “regret and astonishment” over the ban, saying it was unfortunate the decision had been made, despite the two nations achieving victories in their joint fight against IS. “The decision by the US is arbitrary”, Intisar al-Jabbouri, a member of parliament from northern Iraq said. “The Iraqi government has the right to reciprocate.” A reciprocal ban could impact American aid workers as well as contractors and journalists currently working in the nation. Additionally, some 5000 US military personnel aiding in the fight against IS could be affected. A senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War said, “if Iraq were to ban US citizens from travelling to Iraq, it would have devastating consequences for our fight against IS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.”

Syria has yet to release an official response, however state-run SANA media has highlighted international criticism of the ban.

Saudi Arabia has not publicly taken a position on the ban, however, its national airline, Saudi Arilines, released a statement saying citizens from the seven affected countries “will not be permitted to travel with Saudi Airlines.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Simsek, said refugees are welcome in Turkey. He tweeted “we’d happily welcome global talent not allowed back into USA.”

Yemen’s Saudi-allied government released a statement saying that Trump’s ban supports radicals. The foreign ministry said, “We resent the US ban… such decisions support the stance of extremists and sow divisions.” Authorities controlled by the Iran-allied Houthi group said attempts to “classify Yemen or its citizens as a possible source of terrorism are illegal and illegitimate.” A statement from the Yemeni Embassy in Cairo said the US is now unfairly barring citizens fleeing a country where US forces are engaged in a fierce fight against terror.