Trump’s “Muslim ban” could incite dangerous tension between the US and Iran

BY KIAN RAHIMNEJAD Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, January 28, 2017, after two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven countries from entering the United States as a measure to “combat terrorism” has been rightfully dissected by politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle as foolish, naïve, and outright stupid. As hundreds of confused tourists, legal residents, and university students were detained at airports all over the nation for the crime of being born in one of the seven designated countries, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to airports where detainees were being held without being charged. They peacefully called for controversial President Trump to obey not only American law, but international law, and allow those detained the rights that all other world citizens possess.

A few crackpot media figures tried to come out in defense of the Executive Order, such as early Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani, famous for his long-winded, controversial rants and raves and his rejection from a position in Trump’s cabinet for dozing off during a meeting, who said that the countries on the list send terrorists to the United States, making this ban necessary. However, a fact that Giuliani might have slept on is that no citizen of those seven countries, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Sudan, has killed an American civilian on American soil between 1975 and 2015. Radical Sunni terrorism committed on US soil has largely been limited to Saudi, Emirati, and Pakistani migrants, none of whom were included in Trump’s ban. Some believe this may be a result of Trump’s business interests in those countries, and others say that the seven countries listed are failed states, but Pakistan is not necessarily a failed state.

However, one thing that is certain is that Iran is not a failed state, unlike five of the other countries on the list. Many actual state terrorist sponsors, however, are conveniently left out of Trump’s Executive Order. Iran has a majority Shi’ite Muslim population, that is not susceptible to radicalization by fundamentalist Sunni groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and Taliban. In fact, Iranian Shi’ites are considered to be infidels by those terrorist organizations. So one may wonder, why would Iran, with Iranians being one of the most successful and well adapted immigrant groups in the United States, as well as one of the most highly educated and westernized populations in West Asia, be included on this list? Iran has for many years been antagonized in American media as the world’s bogeyman, with various foreign interest groups fighting to keep the stigma alive and lobbying congress members to routinely pass anti-Iran measures. However, the Trump administration has taken this Iranophobia a step further by appointing Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor to the president.

Flynn’s anti-Islam rhetoric has been well documented and he has been quoted as calling Islam not a religion, but an ideology and a “cancer.” His views on Iran, however, are not only just as dangerous, but also border on obsessive. During his period in the Defense Department between 2012 and 2014, he frequently babbled calls for regime change efforts in the country and often advocated for military action against Iran, without provocation. In addition, another example of his voyeuristic attachment to Iran was when he tried to blame the country for the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi and ordered his staff to produce documents to tie the country to it. His seeming hatred of facts and love of conspiracy theories eventually went too far and got him fired as Defense Intelligence Agency Director.

Donald Trump’s appointment of such an unhinged figure to such an influential position is dangerous. Conspiratorial attitudes and playing with facts was exactly what led the United States to the costly, devastating and highly unpopular war in Iraq and Flynn has shown himself to possess those exact traits. Josh Manning, a non-commissioned officer in the U.S Army worked at the DIA under Mike Flynn and has stated, “I fear that he will put us on the road to war with Iran.” Though likely most American military officials in the security establishment do not possess such deranged attributes that may lead the United States to war as General Flynn does, the future is still uncertain. However, it is important to know that Iran is a much different adversary to tackle than Iraq. It has more than double the population of Iraq with more than twice the landmass, and much more powerful asymmetrical warfare capabilities that can be deployed in various continents. An American war with Iran will not simply destabilize the Middle East as the Iraq War did, but actually, set the world on fire.