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Middle East

Iran hits back at Trump's 'insult to Islamic world'

media Iranian president Hassan Rohani AFP

Several world leaders have hit out at the immigration restrictions on nationals of some Muslim-majority countries imposed by US President Donald Trump. The UK, the EU and Canada said they will continue to take in refugees who are fleeing war, especially from the countries hit by the visa restrictions, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Trump's move was a "clear insult to the Islamic world" and that it "will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters".

“It is extraordinary that a US president would make such a declaration, where, ironically, the terrorists that have actually caused destruction in the US came from Saudi Arabia, more than any other country,” says Muhammad Marandi, an America-watcher with University of Tehran.

“Yet the US punishes countries that have actually been victim of extremism, like Syria, Iraq and Libya, which have suffered from Wahabi extremism that has been exported from countries like Saudi Arabia.

But he also said that it was not Trump who initiated the policy in the first place. “[Former US president Barack] Obama initiated this process of visa restrictions for these countries. But Trump made the situation even worse,” he says.

Israeli opinion divided

Israel, the staunchest supporter of the US and Iran’s nemesis in the region, is not affected by this policy, but reactions to Trumps visa-restricting policy there were mixed.

“Israelis, like most of the world are in a state of shock by the number of executive orders that are coming out and this is probably the most visible one of them,” says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist with Bar Ilan University.

Steinberg says that Trump's executive orders “mainly focus on American domestic issues” and that the new president's focus is “not much on the rest of the world”.

In Israel, he says, the visa ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries is seen as "that the US is going through this trauma and the question of where it will end up, there is concern about what is happening to the US, which has been Israel’s' strongest ally for many years,.

The ban will hit opponents of the governments in their own countries, he points out.

Ayrault visits Tehran

Meanwhile, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, was in Iran on Monday for an official visit, presiding over the first session of a Franco-Iranian economic commission.

That commission, in which some 50 French multinationals are represented, was created last year when international sanctions against Iran were scrapped.

It is extraordinary that a US president would make such a declaration, where ironically the terrorists that have actually caused destruction in the US
Iran hits back at US visa restrictions 30/01/2017 - by Jan van der Made Listen

Ties between France and Iran may be getting better, as a result of the nuclear deal that ended sanctions and, possibly, as a result of Trump’s policies perceived by many in the Middle East as erratic.

For now, Tehran has a wait-and-see attitude.

“Since France has elections, we will have to wait and see what will happen after the new president is elected,” says Marandi.

“The current French president has not behaved in a way in which Iranians would feel satisfied. And his support for Saudi Arabia, for example providing the Saudi regime with weapons to attack both Yemen and also to suppress the people of Bahrain and French silence with regard to extremist forces that are being trained and funded in Syria, these are issues that for Iran are very sensitive.

"This has prevented relations between the two countries from improving,” Marandi says.

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