Why Middle Eastern Governments Support Trump's Immigration Halt

Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest on the third anniversary of Egypt's uprising, Jan 25, 2014. (Rex Features via AP Images)

Over at Asia Times, I explain why the administration’s temporary travel ban has made Trump a hero in many Muslim nations. Some extracts below:

Critics of President Trump’s temporary travel ban on seven Muslim nations should remember the Chinese proverb, “Kill the chicken and let the monkey watch.”

The much-criticized measure was a warning to the governments of the Gulf States, Turkey and Pakistan, who walk a fine line between support for Western counter-terrorism efforts and concessions to jihadists. It has had precisely the result that the White House intended, as a Dubai security official indicated on January 29. As Reuters’ Zawya.com reported:

Dubai’s deputy chief of police and public security, Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, has praised US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to temporarily ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority states, saying in a series of tweets it was a ‘preventive measure’ to safeguard the country.

“Trump banned the citizens of countries in the embrace of Iran and prevented the Iranians from entering … sound decision,” he added in another tweet … “It is not necessary for America to host backward people, it has received enough before,” he said in one tweet. “What would a Yemini, Iraqi, Iranian, Somali or a Syrian do in America? They have destroyed their countries, they should not destroy America.”

More importantly, Trump has suddenly won admiration in Erdoganist circles in Turkey, who held the Obama administration in contempt. Writing in Al-Monitor, Hurriyet Daily News columnist Mustafa Aykol reports that Trump is the hero of the pro-government press, despite (or perhaps because of) the immigration halt.

Obama helped overthrow Libya’s leader Muamar Qadaffi and Egypt’s President Mubarak, and backed Syrian jihadists against the Assad government with just enough firepower to keep the civil war going without a hope of finishing it. The US allowed the Sunni extremists who formed ISIS to operate undisturbed in the hope of directing them against Assad — a point made forcefully by Gen. Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama and now Trump’s National Security adviser.

The Obama administration’s dalliance with jihadists of various stripes helped throw the region into chaos, and contributed to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria which has killed half a million civilians and displaced perhaps ten million.

Through a combination of incompetence and weakness, the Obama administration contributed materially to violence in the Middle East, threatening the stability of traditional American allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In addition, it encouraged the Iranians to assert their military power in the region, which the Sunni states view with alarm. If the Obama administration did not create ISIS, it stood godfather to the birth of the movement, as Gen. Flynn observed and reported during his tenure at Defense Intelligence.

Western pundits who protest the supposed inhumanity of Trump’s temporary immigration halt said not a word while the Obama administration steered the region towards disaster and half a million Syrians died in their country’s civil war. Their objections should be read as politically-motivated hypocrisy.

The governments who have to deal with the consequences of American fecklessness, by contrast, want the United States to be strong and assertive. They are engaged in an existential war against jihadist elements who threaten to reduce them to chaos, and look to the United States to show determination. That is why Trump is suddenly so popular in the Middle East.

Read the whole essay here.