U.S. President Donald Trump urged NATO “to become more involved in the Middle East” during a phone call Wednesday with the military alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The President asked the Secretary General for NATO to become more involved in the Middle East,” according to a NATO summary of the conversation. “They agreed that NATO could contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism. They also agreed to stay in close contact on the issue.”
A White House spokesman said Trump had emphasized to Stoltenberg “the value of NATO increasing its role in preventing conflict and preserving peace in the Middle East.”
The conversation between Trump and Stoltenberg came just hours after Tehran launched a missile strike against bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, which was precipitated by the killing of Tehran’s top military commander in a U.S. drone strike last week.
NATO allies have expressed solidarity with the U.S. in its confrontation with Iran but the hostilities in Iraq have also stalled operations by the U.S.-led international coalition (including NATO) fighting against the Islamic State.
Some NATO allies have also announced partial troop withdrawals from Iraq given the risk of further conflict.
Trump also spoke by phone Wednesday with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the situation in the Middle East and, according to a White House official, agreed to continue “close coordination in support of shared national security interests.”
In an address in Washington seeking to cool the escalating crisis with Iran, Trump boasted that no U.S. troops had been killed in Iran’s missile strike, but also griped that the missiles fired by Tehran had been purchased with money made available to Iran under the nuclear deal agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump also slammed the European countries that continue to support the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, claiming that the deal “expires shortly.”
“The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” Trump said. “Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality.”
British, French and German officials, as well as EU leaders, have only reiterated their support for the nuclear deal in recent days and said they will do everything possible to preserve it.
In a press statement on Wednesday morning, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the nuclear deal was now “more important than ever.”