North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump that the alliance “could contribute more to regional stability and fight against international terrorism” in the Middle East.
The two leaders spoke by phone on Jan. 8, according to a NATO release.
“The president asked the Secretary General for NATO to become more involved in the Middle East. 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,” the release states.
The release didn’t confirm whether NATO is set to take more action; it’s unclear what immediate steps NATO intends to take.
“I condemn the Iranian missile attacks on US and [coalition] forces in Iraq. [NATO] calls on Iran to refrain from further violence. Allies continue to consult & remain committed to our training mission in Iraq,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere confirmed the conversation took place. The phone call came after Trump said during an address to the nation earlier on Jan. 8 that he would ask NATO to become more involved in the Middle East.
“Today, [President Donald Trump] spoke with [NATO] Secretary General [Jens Stoltenberg]. The two leaders discussed the current situation in the Middle East. The President emphasized the value of NATO increasing its role in preventing conflict and preserving peace in the Middle East,” he wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8.
Just a day prior, Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases where U.S. troops were stationed, in apparent retaliation for the killing of Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 2.
During the speech at the White House, Trump referred to Soleimani as “the world’s top terrorist.” Soleimani led the Quds Force, a part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States designated as a terrorist group in early 2019.
Trump noted in his address that no Americans or Iraqis were injured in the latest attack from Iran, and the strikes caused minimal damage. The president also said that he would seek peace with Iran.
The United States has “big” and “powerful” missiles, but “does not want to use” its military and equipment, Trump said, adding that “American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”
The United States has achieved energy independence by increasing domestic production, Trump said, adding that “we do not need Middle East oil.”
In the fight against international terrorism, NATO currently conducts training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The intergovernmental military alliance recently announced that it has temporarily suspended its training operations in Iraq to ensure the safety of its personnel, amid tensions in the Middle East after Soleimani’s death.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.