Trump Is Alienating Muslim Allies At Home And Abroad That Are Key To US Security
Donald Trump manages to alienate both friends and foe alike with equal ease. And now it is beginning to negatively effect our foreign policy in tangible ways. The New York Times is reporting that Yemen has barred the United States from conducting further ground operations in that country in the wake of the botched raid that apparently killed multiple civilians, including children. It probably does not help matters that Yemen is also on the list of seven countries singled out by the Trump administration for what is essentially a Muslim immigration ban. According to the Times report, it appears the Trump administration did not properly coordinate and consult with the Yemini government before the attack. That fact, plus the civilian casualties, has angered the Yemeni government. In addition, another victim in the attack, although aligned with al-Qaeda, was actually a government ally in the civil war against Houthi rebels.
A subsequent report in the Huffington Post has the Yemeni government specifically saying that they have NOT barred the US from further ground operations but have made their displeasure with the way the raid was conducted known to the Trump administration. Reuters quotes a senior Yemeni official as saying, “We have not withdrawn our permission for the United States to carry out special operations ground missions. However, we made clear our reservations about the last operation. We said that in the future there needs to be more coordination with Yemeni authorities before any operation and that there needs to be consideration for our sovereignty.” Reading between the lines, it appears that the Yemen government may now require its own approval before it allows any future US ground operation. This flies in the face of Trump’s and National Security Adviser Flynn’s desire for more streamlined authority to conduct operations like this.
Yemen is currently the battlefield in a proxy way between Iran and Saudi Arabia and in many ways is a failed state. The internationally recognized government of President Hadi is supported by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni governments. The Shia Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, now control much of the country including its nominal capital, Sanaa, while al-Qaeda holds pockets of control of their own.
Losing the cooperation of the Hadi government could be a real blow to US intelligence capabilities in Yemen. The Muslim ban also makes it more difficult for other majority Muslim countries to offer outright assistance to the US, although they may continue to pass information along clandestinely.
The Times is also reporting that the Trump administration is considering labeling the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with millions of followers, as a terrorist organization. In many countries in the Middle East, the Brotherhood is purely a political and social organization. In other countries, certain spin-offs from the organization have been and continue to be engaged in terrorism. By painting the entire organization with the broad brush of terrorism, Trump will be further alienating millions of Muslims, many in countries that are important allies and critical to US national security. Egypt is probably the best example. While it may be true that the governments of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are advocating that the Brotherhood be designated a terrorist organization, it is clear that their position is driven by a desire to crack down on the internal dissent that the group poses, rather than any direct links to terrorism. In his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Tillerson equated al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, calling both “agents of radical Islam”.
As an indication of just how far removed from reality the Trump administration appears to be, the Times reports, “Some advisers to Mr. Trump have viewed the Brotherhood for years as a radical faction secretly infiltrating the United States to promote Shariah law. They see the order as an opportunity to finally take action against it.” Despite Republican rhetoric and self-generated fear, there is no indication that Shariah law is infiltrating the United States. According to an assistant secretary of state under Mr. Obama, designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization “would signal they are more interested in provoking conflict with an imaginary fifth column of Muslims in the U.S. than in preserving our relationships with counterterrorism partners like Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, or with fighting actual terrorism.” A spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American relations was even more direct, saying, “We believe it is just a smoke screen for a witch hunt targeting the civil rights of American Muslims” and would “inevitably be used in a political campaign to attack those same groups and individuals, to marginalize the American Muslim community and to demonize Islam.”
Trump’s Muslim ban has already frightened many Muslim asylum seekers. In a shocking turn of events, Canada is seeing a small wave of illegal immigration from the United States as those who feel threatened desperately try to get to Canada as refugees. In the last week alone, up to 30 refugees had walked across the border into Canada in order to avoid having to declare refugee status in the United States. According to a 2004 agreement between Canada and the US, refugees must claim asylum in the country in which they land. But that agreement apparently only covers coastal areas, not inland Canada. Rather than reporting to US officials, those seeking refugee status are traveling into the interior US and crossing into the plains provinces of Canada. According to the Guardian article, “More than 7,000 refugee applicants entered Canada by land in 2016, up 63% from the previous year, according to the Canada Border Services Agency”. Canadian citizens are demanding the repeal of the 2004 agreement and increase the number of refugees the country accepts. The head Amnesty International of Canada said, “It is a fictitious reality to continue to pretend that the US is safe for refugees”.
The botched raid in Yemen and the Muslim ban have already made our country much less safe. If the Trump administration follows this up with designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, our relations with allies that are key to our national security will further deteriorate. In addition, it will create a backlash among Muslim Americans who are our best eyes and ears in detecting home-grown Islamic radicalism and terrorism.
[I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com]