By Martin Matishak - 06/16/14 11:22 AM EDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday blasted the idea that the U.S. could work with Iran to stop the Islamist insurgency roiling Iraq.
“It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” McCain said in a statement.
McCain’s comments come after Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Washington could cooperate with Tehran to counter an al-Qaeda-inspired extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Sunni group has captured major cities and is nearing the capital city of Baghdad, sparking alarm.
McCain charged that Tehran has encouraged the majority-Shiite Iraqi government to pursue a sectarian agenda, backed terrorist actions throughout the Middle East and used Iraq’s territory and airspace to transport weapons to anti-Western militant groups in Syria.
He warned that involving Iran would deepen Baghdad’s dependence on Tehran and alienate U.S. allies in the region.
“The United States should be seeking to minimize greater Iranian involvement in Iraq right now, not encouraging it,” McCain said.
“That means rapid, decisive U.S. action to degrade ISIS and halt their offensive in Iraq,” he continued. “And it means dramatically increasing U.S. military assistance and support to moderate opposition forces in Syria that are fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime."
McCain did not detail what military help the U.S. should provide, but last week, ruled out placing boots on the ground.
“The longer we wait to act, the more our Iraqi partners grow dependent on the Iranian regime,” said McCain, calling for quick action.
The Arizona senator last week called on President Obama to dismiss his entire national security team for being caught off-guard by the crisis.
McCain’s stance puts him at odds with his longtime ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who on Sunday said cooperation between the U.S. and Iran might need to happen.
A U.S. official said talks between the U.S. and Iran could begin as early as this week when the two nations meet in Vienna to continue negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.