Trump sees no ex­panded role in Libya be­yond ISIS fight

Ital­ian leader asks U.S. to help sta­bi­lize N. African na­tion po­lit­i­cally

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY ABBY PHILLIP

Pres­i­dent Trump on Thurs­day reaf­firmed his crit­i­cism of the Iran nu­clear deal and pledged not to ex­pand the United States’ role in Libya be­yond fight­ing the Is­lamic State.

At a time when sev­eral of the pres­i­dent’s stances on for­eign af­fairs ap­pear to be shift­ing, the dual com­ments rep­re­sent a fidelity with some of the na­tional se­cu­rity po­si­tions Trump staked out dur­ing the cam­paign, many of which were aimed at pro­ject­ing mil­i­tary strength through a buildup of the armed forces while promis­ing a more lim­ited U.S. role in for­eign con­flicts.

Speak­ing at a joint news con­fer­ence with Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni, Trump bluntly de­clared that he saw “no role” for the United States in sta­bi­liz­ing Libya, ex­cept in fight­ing the Is­lamic State.

“I do not see a role in Libya,” Trump said, just sec­onds af­ter Gen­tiloni said his coun­try hoped to see more U.S. en­gage­ment there. “I think the United States has right now enough roles. We’re in a role ev­ery­where. So I do not see that.”

“I do see a role in get­ting rid of ISIS. We’re be­ing very ef­fec­tive in that re­gard,” he added.

For Italy, po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and vi­o­lence in Libya have led to a cri­sis of mi­grants seek­ing refuge on its shores, many of them dy­ing on the per­ilous jour­ney across the Mediter­ranean. Gen­tiloni on Thurs­day urged the United States to fur­ther help find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Libya.

“A di­vided coun­try and in con­flict would make ci­vil­ity worse,” he said of Libya. “The U.S. role in this is very crit­i­cal.”

Trump also sharply de­nounced the 2015 Iran nu­clear deal and promised to ad­dress it fur­ther in the “not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.”

“It was a ter­ri­ble agree­ment. It shouldn’t have been signed,” Trump said. “They are not liv­ing up to the spirit of the agree­ment. I can tell you that.”

The com­ments un­der­scored one part of Trump’s po­si­tion on the deal dur­ing the cam­paign, but he no­tably did not re­it­er­ate his prom­ise to rip it up im­me­di­ately, a tacit ac­knowl­edg­ment that the ad­min­is­tra­tion does not yet have an al­ter­na­tive to the deal in place.

The meet­ing be­tween Trump and Gen­tiloni comes weeks be­fore Trump is set to travel to Europe on his first for­eign trip as pres­i­dent. He will make a stop at the sum­mit of lead­ers of the Group of Seven, which will be held in Sicily.

Gen­tiloni is one of sev­eral world lead­ers and close U.S. al­lies seek­ing to quickly es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship with Trump and per­haps in­flu­ence his young pres­i­dency.

Like Trump, Gen­tiloni is new to his job, hav­ing taken power in De­cem­ber af­ter former prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi re­signed af­ter con­sti­tu­tional changes he backed failed in a ref­er­en­dum. While Renzi had a close re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama — and openly backed Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy — Gen­tiloni and Trump come to their re­la­tion­ship with­out much bag­gage, po­ten­tially open­ing the door for warm re­la­tions.

In re­cent weeks, Trump has shifted on his stri­dent crit­i­cism of NATO and said last week in a meet­ing with NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg that the al­liance was “no longer ob­so­lete.”

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s views of the Euro­pean Union and the Euro­pean project are a work in progress,” said Charles Kupchan, a se­nior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions and a former di­rec­tor for Euro­pean af­fairs at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil un­der Obama.

Trump con­tin­ues to pres­sure NATO mem­bers to con­trib­ute at least the agreed-upon 2 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct to their own de­fense, but on Thurs­day he de­liv­ered a more muted warn­ing to Italy.

“As we reaf­firm our sup­port for his­toric in­sti­tu­tions, we must also reaf­firm the re­quire­ment that every­one must pay their full and fair share for the cost of de­fense,” Trump said.

Italy, which has long been al­lied with the United States in mil­i­tary ac­tion in the Mid­dle East and else­where, main­tains that its con­tri­bu­tion to NATO goes be­yond its fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tion and en­com­passes Ital­ian mil­i­tary ef­forts in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the fight against the Is­lamic State. Italy does not yet de­vote 2 per­cent of its GDP to de­fense spend­ing, but Gen­tiloni em­pha­sized that Italy’s con­tri­bu­tion is in­creas­ing.

“We know that this will be a grad­ual process. . . . It has al­ready be­gun,” Gen­tiloni said.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump also voiced sup­port for the Brexit cam­paign that re­sulted in Bri­tain leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. And in Jan­uary, he de­clared that Brexit “is go­ing to end up be­ing a great thing.”

Af­ter meet­ing with Gen­tiloni on Thurs­day, Trump ap­peared to af­firm the United States’ com­mit­ment to Europe.

“A strong Europe is very, very im­por­tant to me as pres­i­dent of the United States,” Trump said. “And it’s also, in my opin­ion — in my very strong opin­ion, im­por­tant for the United States.

“We want to see it. We will help it be strong, and it’s very much to ev­ery­body’s ad­van­tage,” he added.


Pres­i­dent Trump greets Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni as he arrives for their meet­ing on Thurs­day at the White House.

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