President Trump, King Abdullah, and the Syrian Refugees

Jordan’s King Abdullah has been at the White House meeting with President Trump. Today Trump and Abdullah did a joint press conference in the Rose Garden. News coverage has focused mainly on Trump’s outraged response to Assad’s chemical gas attack in Syria, and whether it will lead to military action by the U.S. That could develop into a major story, particularly after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley confronted Russian officials at today’s Security Council meeting.

For the moment, though, I want to highlight another topic that came up at the Rose Garden press briefing. The AP’s Julie Pace asked King Abdullah about Syrian refugees and the president’s travel orders. I doubt that she got the answer she expected:

Q And, Your Majesty, if I could ask about refugees. Your country has really borne the brunt of the refugee crisis in Syria. The President has signed travel bans that would block Syrians from coming to the U.S. If that goes into effect, what would the impact on your country and across the region be?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, I think as the President pointed out, most, if not all, Syrian refugees actually want to go back to Syria. And what we’re working with the United States and the international community is to be able to stabilize the refugees in our country, give them the tools so that, as we’re working with the solutions in Syria, we have the ability to be able to send them back as a positive influence into their economies.

And again, the President and the Europeans are being very forward-leaning in being able look after our host community — tremendous burden on our country, but again, tremendous appreciation to the United States and the Western countries for being able to help us deliver that.

The king makes a point that we have also made here, repeatedly. From a humanitarian standpoint, the worst alternative is to bring a tiny handful of Syrian refugees to settle permanently in the United States, at great expense. To the Syrians, we are an an alien culture. It is much better to protect and support refugees in a neighboring country like Jordan, with a view toward returning them to Syria when the current conflict is over. This policy is not only far more cost-effective than importing thousands of refugees, it is better for the refugees in the long run.

King Abdullah’s answer reinforces the conclusion that the Trump administration is following the right policy toward Syria’s refugees.

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