President Trump may have sparked off another diplomatic crisis with Australia after calling the refugee settlement agreement it made with Obama a “dumb deal.”
During a phone conversation on Saturday, the U.S. president reportedly berated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The president purportedly told his Australian counterpart that he had spoken to four other world leaders, but that their conversation which hinged on the refugee deal “was the worst call by far.” President Trump had made earlier calls to Vladimir Putin of Russia, Angela Merkel of Germany, Shinzo Abe of Japan, and François Hollande of France.
— CNN (@CNN) February 2, 2017
According to a source that spoke in anonymity with Reuters, the phone call which were meant to last about an hour, lasted 25 minutes. President Trump allegedly ended the conversation even when Turnbull wanted to discuss other topical issues like Syria.
The source described the conversation between the two leaders as “robust” and “shorter than expected.” The source went on to say Mr. Trump accused Australia of wanting to send the “next Boston bombers,” to America. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev two Kyrgyzstan-born U.S. citizens were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 which killed three and injured more than 260 people.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 2, 2017
The reason for the call was because the Prime Minister had been trying to confirm if Trump would honor the deal that the Obama administration made to take in 1,250 refugees from offshore detention camps. According to the Telegraph, most of the refugees are Muslims from Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iraq. The refugees have spent years languishing under “unbearable conditions” that the United Nations has criticized as vindictive and against the law.
Many of the refugees are stateless and have nowhere to go, but the Australian government has remained adamant and reiterated that they are not welcome into the country because they came by boat. For three years, the former British colony has insisted that will not grant asylum to people who come undocumented via the sea.
'This was the worst call by far', Donald Trump 'tells Australia's PM' before attacking 'dumb' refugee dealhttps://t.co/tHlnREtPqN
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) February 2, 2017
In November, the U.S. agreed to take in an undisclosed number of refugees from the Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea. In return, Australia agreed to resettle refugees from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The deal was struck after Australian troops fought side by side with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Turnbull revealed to reporters that the phone call with Mr. Trump was a candid conversation. He refused to provide any further details about his discussion with the American president.
“These conversations are conducted candidly, frankly, privately. If you see reports of them, I’m not going to add to them.”
Already, his political opponents are milking the conversation the 29th Prime Minister of Australia had with Mr. Trump calling it an embarrassment if it was actually true. Labor opposition leader, Bill Shorten speaking to reporters asked the Prime Minister “to confirm or deny the accuracy” of the report. He added that the country did not need to be finding out about Australian policies by reading the newspapers of other countries.
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
Mr. Trump tweeted his tirade Wednesday which suggests that he might not honor the agreement made by his predecessor. Trump’s executive order last week of suspending the U.S. refugee program and prohibiting the entry of travelers from Muslim dominated countries, further fuels the fire that the deal may not go ahead. A government official said President Trump’s dealings with other world leaders showed his naivety with foreign policies.
“He keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up. When he encounters a policy challenge like with Turnbull, he responds with a tantrum.”
Australia's 'Eunuch in chief' Malcolm Turnbull alone among western leaders in his silence on Trump's Muslim ban.https://t.co/ZAU5bMXJKx
— William Byng (@WByng) January 30, 2017
Mr. Turnbull refused to join other Western leaders in condemning the U.S. president’s temporary ban of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The Prime Minister speaking to reporters had said if he wanted to give honest advice to the American president, he would do it privately. Observers say that the Australian leader held back because he did not want to jeopardize the refugee resettlement deal.
Australia remains one of America’s strongest allies, fighting in every conflict with the U.S. since World War I. Presently, the Australian Air Force is flying combat missions in Syria. In 2011, former president Obama inked a deal for 2,500 Marines to be based in northern Australia.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]