President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed expanding NATO’s membership to include Middle Eastern nations in light of recent U.S. tensions in the region with Iran.
The president’s suggestion came one day after he issued a vague call for more NATO involvement in the Middle East.
In an unrelated event at the White House on Thursday, Trump discussed his phone call the day before with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, whom Trump described as “excited” about the prospect of a Middle East expansion.
“I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely,” the president told reporters, contending that North Atlantic military alliance should take over for the U.S. in the region “because this is an international problem.”
“And we can come home, or largely come home and use NATO,” he continued, portraying such a move as a trade-off for Washington’s leading role in eliminating the Islamic State’s physical caliphate. “It’s an international problem. We caught ISIS. We did Europe a big favor.”
“So, I have actually said that I think the scope of NATO should be increased. And they should be looking for ISIS,“ Trump added later, after repeating his long-held complaints about other alliance members‘ defense contributions. “We will help. But right now the burden is on us, and that has not been fair.”
Over the weekend, NATO announced a temporary suspension of its anti-ISIS training mission in Iraq, in the aftermath of a U.S. drone attack that took out Iran’s top military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
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