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Trump releases plan for vetting visa applicants (Iran likely to fall by wayside).

Six months after taking office, the Trump Administration has finally acted on a long-term plan for more closely vetting applicants seeking US visas. It is unlikely that the Islamic Republic will pass muster.

The Administration last week sent cables to all its diplomatic offices laying out the demands they are to levy on foreign governments.

The main point of the Trump plan is the same thing that Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all pushed for. For two decades, the United States has urged all countries to adopt tamper-proof passports with built-in chips that carry personal information--such as facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris recognition--so that immigration officers around the world can be certain that the passport-bearer is the passport-owner.

Just over half of the countries in the world issue such passports. Iran started issuing them in 2011. The countries that haven't adopted them tend to be poorer and smaller, like the multitude of small islands in the Caribbean.

But the fact that someone has the iris that matches the one in the passport won't help the US keep out terrorists.

To tackle that concern, the Trump Administration is insisting that foreign countries give the US "any other identity information" about visa applicants that Washington demands. That arrogance is likely to offend many other countries.

The cable also requires foreign governments to give Washington information about people they know or believe to be terrorists, as well as criminal record information. Many countries already share those data with lots of other countries on terrorism suspects. Iran does not.

The cable asks countries not to put people on travel watchlists based solely on their political or religious beliefs--the main rea son the Islamic Republic blocks Iranians from leaving the countr/.

Former immigration officials told Reuters they were not impressed, saying the plan was mostly a rehash.

One former official said the unpopularity of Trump might just prompt some governments to refuse to cooperate.

The cable lays out risk factors the US government will consider when evaluating a country. Some of these are controversial and could be difficult for countries to prove to US satisfaction, including ensuring "that they are not and do not have the potential to become a terrorist safe haven." The United States has long said Iran is a terrorist safe haven.

Countries are also expected to take back citizens deported by the United States. Iran is one of several countries that will not accept deportees.

If a country does not provide the information requested, or comes up with an adequate plan to do so, those countries could end up on a list to be submitted to Trump for possible sanctions, including barring "categories" of their citizens from entering the United States. The government has given no hint what "categories" it is thinking of.

For Iranians, the problem is that the Islamic Republic is unlikely to do anything that Washington is seeking--which would open it up to the possibility of a total ban on visas. That, however, may be too nasty even for the Trump Administration, given all the problems it has faced in the courts with its 90-day ban.

Another problem is the speed the Trump Administration is demanding. It sent out the cable July 12 and said diplomatic posts must get a response and send it to Washington by July 21--a mere nine days!

The responses are to be sent to four named State Department staffers--one of whom may be Iranian-American, Abbas Ravjani.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jul 28, 2017
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