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Friday, November 27, 2020

Not exactly over the moon with Trump

Scott Morrison flies into Sydney on Friday morning after what could only be described as a rollercoaster ride in the United States with Donald Trump. If we take this president at his word, the world – not just the Australian prime minister – is on a white knuckle ride to who knows where.

The spectre of a nuclear strike on Iran basically overshadows practically everything else that happened. And that includes a new joint space venture. The Australian Space Agency will partner with America heading to the moon on route to Mars. Morrison says down the track it could mean 20,000 jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry. Terrific. Here’s hoping we don’t suffer a nuclear winter before we hit the target start date of 2024.

How should we take this statement from Trump talking about what he has on the table for Iran? “We’ve totally renovated and bought new nuclear, and the rest of our military is all brand new. The nuclear is at a level that it’s never been before, and I can only tell you because I know the problems of nuclear. I know the damages that … I know what happens. And I want to tell you, we all hope and Scott hopes, we all pray that we never have to use nuclear.”

This is after saying he has something “big” in store for Iran; all this playing out in the Oval office, the engine room of the US presidency.

What the hell is going on here?

President Obama’s solution to calm fears over Iran building a nuclear capacity was diplomacy. Tehran would desist thanks to a deal that the rest of the “free world” except for Israel thought was a positive advance. Trump abandoned it, much to the horror of his European allies.

The grimace on the prime minister’s face spoke volumes. When asked if Australia would join a military escalation against Iran – we have already promised a ship and a surveillance plane to help police the Strait of Hormuz – Morrison said it hadn’t been discussed and talked up restraint. He said, probably more in hope, “I think the United States is taking a very measured, calibrated approach.” Trump then seemed to agree but added “the easiest thing for me to do is say – let’s go and do it. Easy to do.”

Trump watchers say we can take consolation from the fact that in his election campaign, the president promised to withdraw US troops from the Middle East and elsewhere. However, he has now assigned troops to Iran’s deadly competitor Saudi Arabia and at the United Nations General Assembly this week was trying to enlist other nations in a coalition against Iran. Morrison displayed deft footwork in the US – flattering Trump but holding his position on the importance of China and good relations with Beijing. But if precedence is anything to go by, any hard word on Canberra to do more in the Middle East will not be resisted.

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