Iran retaliates; Canada opens arms after Trump immigration ban
January 29, 2017 04:00 PM NPT
World leaders reacted harshly Saturday to President Trump’s executive order suspending immigration and visas for citizens from certain countries with majority Muslim populations. Iran, one of the targeted nations, suggested it would limit issuing visas to American tourists.
Trump on Friday suspended all refugee admissions to the US for four months and banned the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely pending a security review meant to ensure terrorists cannot slip through vetting. Trump also issued a 90-day ban on all entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries with terrorism concerns, including Syria.
The official IRNA news agency Saturday carried a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry that says Iran will resort to “counteraction” to Trump’s executive order.
President Trump on Friday closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.
In an executive order that he said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” Trump also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.
“We don’t want them here,” Trump said of Islamist terrorists during a signing ceremony at the Pentagon. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people.”
The executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days and directs officials to determine additional screening ”to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.”
The order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
Additionally, Trump signed a memorandum on Friday directing what he called “a great rebuilding of the armed services,” saying it would call for budget negotiations to acquire new planes, new ships and new resources for the nation’s military.
“Our military strength will be questioned by no one, but neither will our dedication to peace,” Trump said.
Announcing his “extreme vetting” plan, the president invoked the spectre of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most of the 19 hijackers on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa., were from Saudi Arabia. The rest were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. None of those countries are on Trump’s visa ban list.
Human rights activists roundly condemned Trump’s actions, describing them as officially sanctioned religious persecution dressed up to look like an effort to make the United States safer.
The International Rescue Committee called it “harmful and hasty.” The American Civil Liberties Union described it as a “euphemism for discriminating against Muslims.” Raymond Offensheiser, the president of Oxfam America, said the order would harm families around the world who are threatened by authoritarian governments.
“The refugees impacted by today’s decision are among the world’s most vulnerable people — women, children, and men — who are simply trying to find a safe place to live after fleeing unfathomable violence and loss,” Offensheiser said.
Tehran to ban Americans from entering Iran in tit-for-tat move
Meanwhile, Iran will ban Americans from entering the country in response to President Donald Trump’s “insulting” order restricting arrivals from Iran and six other Muslim states, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran… has decided to respond in kind after the insulting decision of the United States concerning Iranian nationals” until the measure is lifted, the ministry said in a statement carried by state television.
“Iran, to defend the dignity of the great Iranian nation, will implement the principle of reciprocity until the removal of the insulting restriction against Iranian nationals,” the statement reads. “It will apply corresponding legal, consular and political actions.”
The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since 1979 when militants stormed the US embassy.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets in response to President Trump’s order, saying the move would be “a great gift to extremists and their supporters.”
He explained that statement further, tweeting: “Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”
A follow-up tweet promised a reciprocal response: “While respecting Americans & differentiating between them & hostile US policies, Iran will take reciprocal measures to protect citizens.”
Other world leaders, including officials from Canada and Scotland, also tweeted responses to the new US policy.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced refugees, also temporarily prohibited from entering the US, making a pointed comment about not discriminating on religious grounds: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, retweeted Trudeau, seconding his invitation: “#WelcometoScotland too.”
People in the affected countries reacted with dismay to the US move, the Associated Press reported.
“I am shocked beyond words. This will mean that my new husband will never be able to join me in the US,” said Fatima Ashkir, a Somali-American woman from Florida who came to Mogadishu to marry her Somali boyfriend.
In Jordan, a Syrian refugee who submitted to an initial security screening in the hopes of moving to the US, sees his hopes dashed with President Trump’s order.
“When we heard of the order, it was like a bolt of lightning, and all our hopes and dreams vanished,” Ammar Sawan said Saturday.
Other Syrian refugees in Jordan warned that US policy could inflame anti-American sentiment in the region.
“This decision made the US lose its reputation in the world as the biggest economy, the biggest democracy,” said refugee Nasser Sheik, 44, who was paralysed by a stroke two years ago and lives with his family in Amman.
“We are not going out to harm people of other countries,” added his wife Madaya, 37.
Lawyers say dozens of travellers from countries named in President Trump’s recent executive order were held at John F. Kennedy International Airport and other airports Saturday amid confusion about whether they could legally enter the country.