Disputes with Iran and Mexico in the early days of the Trump administration may have been predictable—but not many people predicted a clash with Australia. The disagreement became public Wednesday when the Washington Post reported that President Trump's phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday was an angry one, with Trump slamming a deal to resettle refugees in the US as "the worst deal ever," telling the Australian leader that he'd spoken to other leaders that day and this was the worst "by far." According to the Post, Trump abruptly ended the call more than 30 minutes early. Turnbull confirmed there had been a "frank" conversation, but denied that Trump hung up on him.
Trump—who allegedly accused Australia of trying to send the "next Boston bombers" to the US—tweeted about the issue Wednesday evening, saying: "Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!" In other coverage:
- The deal Trump is angry about was agreed upon between then-President Obama and Turnbull in August and involves the resettlement of 1,250 refugees currently in offshore detention centers. The majority of them are Iranian, and there are also refugees from other countries named in Trump's travel ban, the Guardian reports. After the Trump order last week, an Iranian teenager at the Nauru center was hospitalized after trying to hang himself.
- The AP reports that the disagreement shows how Trump has changed the playing field even for America's closest allies and that Australia has been "stunned" by the biggest public disagreement between US and Aussie leaders since the Vietnam War.
- Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr tells the Sydney Morning Herald that the clash is actually good news for Australia, since it forces Aussies to drop "romantic notions" of the alliance. "It liberates leaders to say no to Washington if it seeks to recruit us for any reckless adventure," he says. "America has taken a nationalist direction and won't be returning to global leadership as we've understood it."
- Dougal Robinson, a research fellow at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, tells news.com.au that the conversation shows there will be "real change" in the US-Australia relationship, with an end to "mate's rates." "It is clear Trump takes a transactional approach to his allies, including with Australia," Robinson says, noting that it's now far from clear whether the refugee deal will go ahead.
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