As the Iranian regime gets increasingly desperate, the focus of our national security debate has been solely on what we should or shouldn’t do in the Middle East. However, what recent events have demonstrated is that the focus must be on our homeland, primarily our border security and visa policy. Iran, or any other nation or terrorist group, can hardly threaten our homeland militarily. Nations or terror groups can threaten us from within through our porous border and ill-conceived immigration policies. That was the lesson of 9/11 that, 18 years later, Trump has an opportunity to finally apply.
Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that the administration is considering expanding the so-called travel ban to other countries, an idea I proposed following the attack on the naval base in Pensacola by a Saudi national brought in on a military training visa. The AP’s sources suggest that seven countries could be added to the list, which currently includes Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea. However, as the AP reported two weeks ago, even the existing list is full of loopholes, with the administration continuing to grant waivers. Trump would be wise to shut off as many visas from the Middle East as possible while also locking down our border against illegal infiltrations.
Last year, Qassem Soleimani, the very man over whom this entire conflict began, publicly threatened, “We are closer to you than you think.” He clearly wasn’t referring to Iran’s ability to strike our soldiers, who are sitting ducks in Iraq while engaging in nation-building, ironically, for Soleimani’s Shiite allies. He was likely referring both to his vast network through Hezbollah in Latin America to bring people to our border, as well as the operatives who have gotten into the country over the years through our mass migration from countries like Iran and Lebanon.
When Breitbart.com posted an intelligence bulletin from the Yuma Sector Border Patrol warning last week of a possible Iranian suicide bomber coming north from Mexico, it was a vivid reminder of Soleimani’s haunting words. The report by no means confirms the truth of such a claim, but it does mean that Border Patrol felt the sources were credible enough to issue a warning. And it’s not like Iranians and other Middle Easterners don’t come to our border on a regular basis. They have been coming in increasing numbers throughout the Central American border crisis.
Last week, Honduran media reported that the country’s president announced the arrest of four Iranian nationals at the Nicaraguan border who were believed to have been traveling north to the U.S. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has increased his cooperation with the U.S. in recent months and promised to designate Hezbollah, which is a menacing threat in Latin America, as a terrorist group. We don’t know the intentions of these four individuals, but if we actually secured our own border, we wouldn’t have to roll the dice on thousands of unknown special interest aliens who cross our border every year.
The threat of Iranians at the border was confirmed by the police chief in Mexicali, the Mexican border town just south of Calexico, California. She was told by Customs and Border Protection to be on alert for the potential crossing of three Iranian men and one woman.
While border security will likely take more resources and some military presence, our visa system can be secured simply by not committing national suicide by admitting mass numbers from the Middle East. Just like there is no way for us to vet hundreds of thousands of Chinese visa and green card applicants every year for espionage and counter-intelligence concerns, there is no way to vet hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners for radical jihadist sympathies. This was evident from the news over the weekend that, following the review of Saudi military trainees after the Pensacola attack, the State Department is expelling “over a dozen” Saudi military trainees for connections to extremist movements or for accusations of possessing child pornography.
If we lacked the gumption or ability to vet even military trainees before bringing them to our military bases, what does that say about the hundreds of thousands from Islamic countries who come to civilian universities or as chain migrants based on family ties? How many more of the hundreds of thousands we admit every year from parts of the world saturated with radical Islamic views harbor such radical sentiments and have expressed them on social media? Remember, there is freedom of speech for those in the country, but there is no right to immigrate here.
On Friday, Masoud Yareioeill Zoleh, an Iranian national, was arrested in Palm Beach County, just four miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. He was armed with several knives, a machete, and a pickax and had no known residence, according to the Palm Beach Post. It’s unclear whether he was suspected in a terror plot or if he had the president’s residence in his crosshairs, nor is it clear under what pretenses he had entered the country. This comes days after an Iranian official placed an $80 million bounty on Trump’s head during Soleimani’s funeral.
How many loose cannons are in the country who harbor sympathies for the Iranian regime? Who knows? But last year, I reported that there are over 50,000 individuals from countries with a presence of Islamic terrorism who have final deportation orders, yet remain in the country. Those are just the ones targeted for removal who have been monitored by law enforcement and are wanted for a particular crime. How many sleeper cells are there?
Now, with members of both parties in Congress clamoring about not starting a war with Iran, Trump should call their bluff and say he is deploying troops to our border. That is the best way to counter any threat from Iran. And are other threats as well. As Breitbart.com reported, Border Patrol apprehended Bangladeshis, Chinese, and MS-13 members at the Texas border last week. From crime and gangs to espionage and terror, the only way foreign threats can endanger us is if they get into the country through the border or at a legal point of entry. That is where our national defense should be focused.
The bottom line is that our porous border being run by dangerous cartels links every national security threat right to our homeland. “Let’s just put it this way, the cartels are an international organization. It’s a real threat, it’s a prevalent threat, and they do have their associations with groups like Hezbollah, with Afghans, and with radical terrorist organizations,” warned Kyle Williamson, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s El Paso office, in an interview with CR last year at the peak of the border crisis. “What that does is effectively move those borders right up to the United States,” said the veteran DEA agent, who also served in the DEA’s offices in the Middle East overseeing narco-terrorism enforcement. “Those cartels link the borders. Just like they use their resources, their technology, their criminal enterprise to conduct criminal activities, they can use those resources to assist terrorists as well.”
As for electively bringing in more people on visas from the Middle East in large numbers, Trump should remind himself of the speech he gave during the presidential campaign. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” promised Trump in December 2015. “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” To that end, he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Middle Eastern migration “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Four years later, we are no closer to knowing what is going on.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.