U.S. Travel Ban Puts Saudi Arabia In An Awkward Position
In addition to creating mass chaos in America’s airports and general confusion around the world, Trump’s immigration ban is putting Saudi Arabia, a key ally in the middle-east, in a fairly awkward position. Per the Wall Street Journal, Trump’s immigration ban, which currently does not include Saudi Arabia, has put the country in the awkward position of having to manage a desire to pursue stronger ties with the U.S. at the risk of alienating key allies, like Yemen and Sudan, that will inevitably view such a move as abandoning Muslim neighbors.
The monarchy’s desire to cultivate a better relationship with the Trump administration than it had with the U.S. under Barack Obama is exposing Saudi Arabia to criticism that it is unwilling to stand up for its Muslim allies, particularly those caught in an executive order that restricts entry to the U.S. for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“The ban puts Saudi Arabia in an awkward position,” said Ibrahim Fraihat, a professor of conflict resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. “Saudi Arabia will be expected to take a position against it because some of the countries included in the ban like Sudan and Yemen are key allies and because it projects itself as leader of the Muslim world.”
The ban applies to citizens of Sudan, a member of the coalition of Muslim countries assembled by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism. Also included is Yemen, where Saudi Arabia intervened militarily in 2015 against Iran-backed Houthi rebels with the aim of restoring President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. The ban applies to Syrians fleeing their country’s war, too, and Riyadh is a key supporter of Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad as well as his Iranian and Russian backers.
For now, at least publicly, the Kingdom has decided to support the Trump administration’s travel restrictions with the official Saudi Press Agency saying that “the view of the two leaders were identical…the president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts.”
“The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House said.
A statement carried on the official Saudi Press Agency said “the view of the two leaders were identical” on issues that included confronting terrorism and extremism, along with countering “those who seek to undermine security and stability in the region and interfere in the internal affairs of other state,” a reference to Iran and to the activities of its regional proxies.
The White House also said they agreed on the “importance of rigorously enforcing” the nuclear deal Iran struck with other world powers including the U.S. in 2015. Mr. Trump and Saudi officials have repeatedly criticized the agreement, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Ironically, Saudi Arabia has produced more extremists that went on to carry out attacks on U.S. soil than any of the countries directly affected by the ban. Osama bin Laden, the late head of al Qaeda, was from one of the kingdom’s most prominent business families and 15 of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were Saudi. Only Tunisia has contributed more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, according to a 2015 study by the Soufan Group, a security consultancy.
Of course, this all comes as the ACLU is gearing up to fight the Trump administration in the Supreme Court on the basis that the new travel restrictions represent an unconstitutional ban of Muslims in direct violation of the First Amendment.
Something tells us that Saudi Arabia is wishing that the millions of dollars they funneled to the Hillary Clinton campaign would have been a little more impactful.