No doubt Iran is the target
The new US president’s sudden decision to suspend entry to the country of all visa and green-card holders from seven Muslim countries has shed some light on what we can expect from the new American administration: a bullying behaviour without any concrete and elaborate strategy that will bring harm to both American citizens and the international community. In this case, a regional superpower as Iran, which was laboriously brought to the negotiation table in 2015, has been the target of a nonsensical act. The results will be, in the short and medium term, devastating for the image of the American administration, the future relations between Iran and EU and the isolation of the pro-Western minded Iranians.
The reason to restrict entry to citizens from seven Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia) is, according to the US president, that the authorities of these seven nations do not offer adequate information about their citizens applying for a US visa. The simple conclusion reached by the US president is that there is a high risk among these visa holders to be terrorists. As a first reaction, we can say that such an argument suggests the US visa issuing system depends on the information provided by other countries. It also suggests that Afghanistan and Mali or Nigeria – countries with a high number of terrorist acts – are more reliable in terms of sharing information than the seven countries whose citizens have been banned from entering the US.
What is more, one cannot ignore the fact that Iran has never produced terrorists who acted in the US or in the European Union. On the other hand, some other countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon) whose nationals have carried out terrorist attacks were, rather surprisingly, not included in the list issued by the American president. The real target of the controversial ban is Iran – a fact revealed when one studies the numbers related to the seven countries included in the list. In the run up to the November election, the US president had prepared his audience, as well as the entire world. He had declared that once elected he would fight to annul the agreements with Iran which he considers the world centre of terrorism. But even though his bullying behaviour may have prevented risks of any more serious confrontation with Iran, it is harming the interests of the American citizens. It is estimated that as many as a million Iranian-Americans (first, second and third generation) currently live in the United States. And most of them are successful entrepreneurs and fervent opponents of the Islamic regime of Teheran. It is also estimated that another million Iranians hold a green card or a regular visa doing business or working with universities in the US. And of course, there are also the relatives of the families still living in Iran and the American citizens in the seven banned countries who have been blocked from re-entering the US. What is more, data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security for 2015, also mentioned by The New York Times, show that Iranian citizens obtained 35,266 non-immigrant visas. And just 50,000 visas were issued to nationals from the other six countries.
The ban on visas will also affect European interests. Security and economy come first. European leaders tried hard to bring Iran to the table of negotiations. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known better as Vienna Agreement was signed on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States — plus Germany), and the European Union. The Vienna Agreement was hailed by the EU as a promising pass for the future of EU-Iran relations. As an immediate result, Iran slowed its nuclear programme, and the road for doing business opened for both EU and American companies. With the ban, however, EU companies with business interests in Iran risk being “black-listed” by the US administration and could face problems when doing business in the US.
Meanwhile, the EU is in constant confrontation with Russia especially after the annexation of Crimea. It is known that Iran is an ally of Russia, though not under Russia’s control and influence. This means that closing the West to Iran could throw us back to a ‘Cold War’ period – a fact that harms European interests. In addition, the senseless ban risks to once again push away Iran from Europe and the West with uncalculated consequences.
The Vienna Agreement brought Iran closer to the West after a period of 35 years of confrontation, which affected geopolitics, security, economy and energy matters. By keeping close relations with Iran, the West helps democratic and market-oriented forces inside the country although there is still a tremendous lack in the areas of civil and human rights. By isolating Teheran, the new US administration reinforces conservatives in Iran. Iran could be an important economic and energy ally to Europe. History has taught us that commercial relations create fertile ground for diplomatic agreements. By closing the door to Iranian entrepreneurs and scientists, and by looking to create a difficult environment for EU businessmen who want to work with Iran, the new American administration has put forth an idea that is guided by sentiments of hatred and undignified bullying.