Trump rat­tles al­lies’ feath­ers

His cabi­net tries to smooth things over

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s spats with U.S. al­lies as close as Mex­ico and as un­likely as Aus­tralia are leav­ing his new sec­re­tary of state and oth­ers in his Cabi­net to clean up a lot of po­ten­tial dam­age. It’s a good­cop, bad-cop dy­namic that could de­fine Amer­ica’s for­eign pol­icy for the next four years.

Trump’s first two weeks on the job have rat­tled for­eign friends and foes alike — and even mem­bers of his own party — start­ing with his or­der to tem­po­rar­ily halt all refugee ad­mis­sions as well as im­mi­gra­tion from seven mainly-Mus­lim coun­tries. Con­cern only es­ca­lated the past few days with his per­sonal dust-ups with for­eign lead­ers and dec­la­ra­tion that Iran is now “on no­tice” for pos­si­ble Amer­i­can ac­tion.

“It’s time we’re go­ing to be a lit­tle tough, folks,” Trump said at a Na­tional Prayer Break­fast on Thurs­day, as un­seemly de­tails cir­cu­lated about his pri­vate phone calls with the Mex­i­can and Aus­tralian lead­ers. “We’re taken ad­van­tage of by ev­ery na­tion in the world vir­tu­ally. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen any­more.”

Trump’s blunt com­ments came a day af­ter word emerged of a tense dis­cus­sion with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­com Turn­bull, in which the new U.S. pres­i­dent lam­basted an Oba­maera deal to re­set­tle some 1,600 asy­lum-seek­ers.

Diplo­matic dys­func­tion was clear. Min­utes af­ter the U.S. Em­bassy in Can­berra said the deal was still on, Trump seemed to con­tra­dict that mes­sage, tweet­ing: “I will study this dumb deal!”

On the other side of the globe, new de­tails emerged about strained ties be­tween the U.S. and its south­ern neigh­bour. There was al­ready ir­ri­ta­tion on both sides fol­low­ing Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto’s can­cel­la­tion of a trip to Wash­ing­ton af­ter Trump made the visit con­tin­gent on Mex­ico agree­ing to pay for a U.S. bor­der wall.

In a fol­low-up phone call, Trump warned Pena Ni­eto that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hom­bres down there” if Mex­ico’s mil­i­tary can’t con­trol them, The As­so­ci­ated Press learned. The White House said the com­ments were made in a “light­hearted” man­ner. But ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials de­scribed the calls with both lead­ers as con­tentious.

Some top aides un­der­scor­ing Trump’s em­pha­sis on tough­ness and brawnier U.S. ne­go­ti­a­tions, dom­i­nant themes of his “Amer­ica First” for­eign pol­icy.

At the United Na­tions, Trump’s UN am­bas­sador, Nikki Ha­ley, said the U.S. would be “tak­ing names” of coun­tries that “don’t have our back.” His na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, made a sur­pris­ing ap­pear­ance at the White House daily brief­ing to “of­fi­cially” put Iran “on no­tice” af­ter its bal­lis­tic mis­sile test.

Trump topped Flynn Thurs­day by say­ing “noth­ing is off the ta­ble” when it comes to a po­ten­tial Amer­i­can re­sponse.

But Trump’s top diplo­mats are strik­ing no­tice­ably softer tones.

Rex Tiller­son, in his first day as sec­re­tary of state, im­plic­itly ac­knowl­edged in an ad­dress to staff that many U.S. diplo­mats op­pose some of Trump’s po­si­tions. With­out crit­i­ciz­ing that, he called for unity.

“Hon­esty will un­der­gird our for­eign pol­icy, and we’ll start by mak­ing it the ba­sis of how we in­ter­act with each other,” Tiller­son said. “We are hu­man be­ings first.”

AP PHOTO

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks on the phone with Prime Min­is­ter of Aus­tralia Mal­colm Turn­bull in the Oval Of­fice of the White House in Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day.

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