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Top UK diplomat has harsh words for Trump gov’t

Published:Monday | July 8, 2019 | 12:00 AM
President Donald Trump points to the cheering crowd as he leaves an Independence Day celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Washington.


Leaked diplomatic cables published Sunday in a British newspaper reveal that Britain’s ambassador to the United States described President Donald Trump’s administration as deeply divided, incompetent and unlikely to show meaningful improvement while grappling with international problems.

The memos containing highly negative comments from Ambassador Kim Darroch provided a rare candid look at how a senior British diplomat views the government of Britain’s closest and most important ally.

“We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction, riven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” Darroch wrote in one of the documents published in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The United States and the United Kingdom enjoy what each describe as a “special relationship” that has held strong since World War II. But the ambassador’s assessment indicated deep unease with Trump’s foreign policies, which have broken with Britain’s on-key issues such as climate change and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Britain’s Foreign Office did not challenge the authenticity of the leaked documents, which covered the period of 2017 to the present. It called the leak “mischievous behaviour” and said that the public expects diplomats to provide honest assessments of the politics in the countries where they are posted.

‘Disgraceful’ leak

Justice Secretary David Gauke called the leak “disgraceful”, but said that Britain “should expect our ambassadors to tell the truth, as they see it”.

The memos also characterised Trump’s policy on Iran as “incoherent, chaotic”. Trump has frustrated European allies by withdrawing the United States from a complex deal designed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons and has seemed, in recent weeks, to be on the verge of armed conflict with Iran.

The ambassador said that he did not believe Trump’s public explanation for calling off a planned military strike against Iran last month.

Darroch said that there are doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent” and that the only way to communicate with the president is by being simple and blunt.

He said that while Trump had been “dazzled” by British pageantry on a state visit hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in June, the successful visit would not lead to a fundamental shift in Trump’s priorities.

“This is still the land of America First,” he wrote.

Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said that the contents of the leaked cables were not surprising or troublesome, but that he was concerned that such a large cache of embassy documents had been made available to the newspaper.

“I’m not remotely concerned by what the ambassador said,” Rifkind said. “He was doing his job properly and, for the most part, I agreed with his comments.”

Since the memos and telegrams dated back only to 2017, “not that many people will have had access to all the documents, and that might help them trace who was responsible,” he said.

Darroch’s views may lead to some awkwardness, especially since Trump said shortly after his election in 2016 that Brexiteer Nigel Farage would make an excellent British ambassador to the United States.

Trump has not hesitated to inject himself into Britain’s political fray, repeatedly criticising Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy and praising both Farage and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a strong contender to become the next prime minister.