Pool/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.President Donald Trump has made a dazzlingly stormy start. He began his term in office by rushing to realise the promises he had made during the campaign season: building The Wall across the US border with Mexico, and imposing a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
He had made pledges indirectly and implicitly through inflammatory statements, promising to bring apartheid back to political decision-making. But now his immigration reforms, instructed through a 27 January 2017 executive order, fulfil Trump’s campaign season aspiration to impose the ban. He has singled out seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
Syria is known to be a failed state after several years of internal conflict, exacerbated by the violent activities of ISIS. Libya has experienced a very chaotic period of transition, from being ruled by an unpopular leader to a period of being left in political vacuum. Do these difficulties demand that the nationals of these countries be subject to a blanket ban on their traveling rights? Trump has condemned the futures of those who want peaceful lives; those running from war and chaos at home, those looking for a better future for their children, and those looking for a comfortable life away from political conflicts day and night.
It’s believed that about 90,000 holders of the US visas issued in 2015 are affected. Even though the United States runs embassies in all of these countries excluding Iran, a comparatively high number of US entry permissions were issued to the nationals of Iran (42,542), followed by 15,509 valid US travel documents issued to Iraqi passport holders. To apply for a US visa or green card, Iranians normally travel to Turkey, UAE or Armenia. Now, if they’ve got any plans to travel to the United States, they should put it on hold.
Of course, reasonable people hope the Muslim Ban is just the fever and bluster of Trump’s first few weeks in office. But the dark night that US-Iran relations is entering extends way beyond the ban.
Trump has unequivocally signaled that US-Iran relations will become uglier. One of his most popular tweets on 3 February was a stern warning he sent to Iranians, reminding them of how kind president Obama was to them, and his different approach:
Iran is playing with fire - they don't appreciate how "kind" President Obama was to them. Not me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2017
He had indicated on several occasions, while campaigning for the White House, that he would either tear up the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) or renegotiate it, if elected. Mr Trump described this agreement, multiple times, as a disastrous deal, whose credit should go to Barack Obama (pejoratively calling it Obama’s deal).
You might recall that the JCPOA is an internationally recognised agreement that is upheld by the United Nations, European Union and seven governments independently and individually. It has put an end to decades of dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme and terminated international sanctions affecting the civilian population of this country.
In July 2015, it was announced publicly that the nuclear deal was struck after months of intensive talks, and that the UN Security Council resolutions against Iran were nullified. Moreover, it was made clear that the unilateral sanctions would begin to be removed after the Implementation Day of 16 January 2015.
The process of sanctions removal started smoothly, up until recently, when Iran was able to take delivery of its first batch of US/EU-manufactured commercial passenger aircraft after nearly four decades. Iran has been denied these planes almost since 1980, when its diplomatic relations with the United States were cut off. And this absence of Iran-US trade on such an essential, imperative business as aviation, has had a huge humanitarian impact on the lives of Iranian people.
Over the past four decades, catastrophic aviation accidents, involving the death of hundreds of ordinary citizens, underlined the need for Iranian airliners to refurbish their fleet. They were not able to do so due to these sanctions, and more lives were claimed. Even the proponents of ‘smart sanctions’ were embarrassed: their restrictions dumbly targeted the lives of ordinary Iranian citizens aspiring to travel on safe planes, get food, medicine and life commodities. Sanctions, as inhumane and brutal they are, never helped with anything. In the case of Iran, they exacerbated the difficulties.
Flying Iran Air, to nearby or far destinations, has always been a psychological challenge: would I be alive by the end of the journey? But now it’s imaginable that Trump is after the renegotiation of the nuclear deal, and eroding any civilised interaction with Tehran.
If wise diplomats appointed by president Rouhani don’t give up in the face of international and domestic hypocrisy, and if the democratic institutions of the United States remember the importance of the American Dream, perhaps the future carries hope. It’s good to be hopeful – especially when Trump’s administration brings ever stormier weather.