Thursday, July 2, 2020

Trump's ambitions for NATO in the Middle East leave the organization puzzled

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Donald Trump once spoke of a possible withdrawal of his country from NATO, but now judges that the mission of the organization must be extended to the Middle East. On Wednesday January 8, in an interview with Atlantic Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after the Iranian strikes against Iraqi bases of the US Army, Mr. Trump demanded that the latter be involved " much more ", in order to contribute to the stability of the region. He proposed, in the process, to transform "NATO" (NATO in French) into "NATOME" (North Atlantic Treaty Organization Middle East).

Mr. Stoltenberg cleverly agreed that the subject would be discussed, with "Different options". Referring to the possibility of contributing more to the training of local armies, he added that "The best way to fight international terrorism is not always to deploy NATO troops for large-scale combat operations."

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"This is exactly what we are doing in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and of course we can look into whether we can do more," explained the Norwegian official. He also underlined that in any event a decision on the extension of NATO missions presupposes an agreement of the countries concerned but also of the member countries of the Alliance, "Which works by consensus".

In the immediate term, it is rather a reduction in its activities which the organization is debating, following the suspension of the training mission of the Iraqi army that it started in October 2018. This mission currently has 430 members, who are not involved in combat operations.

"Inconceivable"

Beyond that, Mr. Trump’s message sparked only a few comments marked by the utmost caution on the European side. "We will study our presence and our way of acting, in a constructive way", declared, on Saturday January 11, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Philippe Goffin, interviewed in the TV program "Internationales" of TV5Monde, in partnership with The world.

A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, is more categorical: "What does Trump's statement mean?" That in favor of the American disengagement in the Middle East, he intends to transfer the burden to his allies, deprived of the American protection forces and reduced air support? It’s inconceivable. " Many argue that the President is simply seeking more support in his showdown with Iran.

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