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U.S.-Arab Relations Untouched By President Trump’s Travel Ban

Supreme Court rules U.S. president can bar entry to citizens of five Muslim-majority nations

The United States Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that President Donald Trump reserves the right to ban entry into America of citizens from seven countries, among them five Muslim-majority states: namely, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The travel ban also blocks visitors from North Korea and Venezuela.

Five Supreme Court justices who upheld the ban—against four who dissented—found that it is “squarely within the scope of presidential authority” when it comes to U.S. immigration law.

The ostensible reason for the policy is that people from these war-torn and unstable countries might present security threats.

Neil A. Weinrib, an immigration legal practitioner with over 30 years’ experience, contends that the damage done by the ruling “is largely in that it’s an endorsement of President Trump’s exercise of executive authority. The actual travel ban is more limited then appears at first glance based on the countries involved and categories of immigrants and non-immigrants whose entry is currently suspended.

“According to the decision,” he expounded to the Media Line, “the majority says that President Trump does in fact have the power and authority under the U.S. Code to suspend entry when such would be ‘detrimental’ to the interests of the U.S. However, in my opinion, the Supreme Court has essentially sanitized the anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by the President and his administration for quite some time and enables him to continue to do so without any real limits.”

Many individuals who spoke to The Media Line nevertheless do not believe the ban will significantly harm relations between Washington and Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

“It’s a pure American political decision and no one can intervene,” Sulaiman al-Oquily, a Saudi political analyst, told The Media Line. “The U.S. is a great country and knows how to protect its interests. The decision isn’t against Islam or Muslims.

“The U.S. has its own evaluations regarding potential danger,” he stressed, adding that no foreign nation can dictate how the U.S. pursues its national security goals.

“Our government, Saudi Arabia, banned Qataris from entering the kingdom,” al-Oquily noted, “and that decision did not affect Saudi Arabia’s standing with any other country.”

The Saudi analyst nevertheless qualified that President Trump’s actions could have some negative consequences. “The U.S. was built by migrants from all over the world so such a decision might harm America’s credibility.” He concluded that the U.S.’ standing as a beacon of democracy and tolerance could likewise take a hit.

“[Trump’s] decisions are always random and unstudied. He backpedals on them most of the time,” Mahmoud al-Sharabene, an Egyptian political analyst, asserted to The Media Line. Furthermore, he elaborated, “Trump doesn’t understand that his interests run contrary to those of Middle Eastern countries.”

As regards Washington’s relations with Muslim states, al-Sharabene highlighted the fact that most of the investments made in Arab countries come from America. As such, there would be a great cost to Muslim nations if they were to downgrade or sever ties with the White House.

Trump had initially signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries—Chad, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Iraq and Chad were subsequently removed from the original list after the U.S. administration deemed the security situation in both countries had improved.