Speed Reads

The Iran crisis

Trump wants NATO to be 'more involved' in the Middle East. Nobody is quite sure what that means.

President Trump has never been a big fan of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but he apparently wants the alliance's members to break away from the remnants of the 2015 Iran nuclear pact and become "much more involved" in the "Middle East process."

Trump made the comments during his press conference on the situation brewing in Iran, and it left some observers confused. On a fundamental level, the phrasing was a little vague, raising the questions of what exactly "more involved" means, as well as what the "Middle East process" actually is. But some people were scratching their heads because of Trump's past denigrations of NATO, including when he called it "obsolete." So, why, exactly, is he rallying its members now? (For what it's worth, several NATO have long had troops in the region, though some, like Canada, are moving them out of Iraq for the time being while Washington and Tehran figure out what's next.)

One theory is that Trump's warming up to NATO to spite French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently critiqued the alliance, claiming it was experiencing its "brain death." But latest development may have been a challenge rather than a step toward an embrace. Perhaps, Trump — who has often complained more about member states' failure to contribute 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending than the existence of the treaty — wants to test countries' willingness to come to the U.S.'s aid. Or perhaps it's another attempt to get other members to hold up what he considers their end of the bargain. Tim O'Donnell