OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: US looks to Iran as Iraq unravels

The United States could work with its longtime rival Iran in a bid to end the escalating violence in Iraq, Obama administration officials said Monday.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryShould President Trump, like President Obama, forsake human rights in pursuit of the deal with a tyrant? GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system Democrats conflicted over how hard to hit Trump on Iran MORE said the U.S. was willing to explore any option that could halt the recent military gains made by a Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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“Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements,” he told Yahoo News.

However, officials from the White House and the Defense and State Departments ruled out the idea that Washington would cooperate with Tehran on military action.

“We’re not interested in any effort to coordinate military activities with Iran,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One.

Talks about the deteriorating security situation could take place this week in Vienna on the sidelines of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

The suggestion of any possible cooperation between the decades-old foes, though, brought strong reactions from lawmakers.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' Senate passes 6B defense bill MORE (R-Ariz.) said it would be the “height of folly” for the U.S. to work with Iran.

“The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked the president to provide detailed plans to Congress on how the U.S. will deal with the ongoing crisis, which has already seen major cities fall and the insurgents near Baghdad.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the U.S. “lost an opportunity” to deal with the al-Qaeda inspired group before it began marching across Iraq.

“About four months ago, this began to unfold,” he said. “Right then, we had a target, we had the encampment, we should have hit it.”

The Defense Department continued to make plans that could be enacted if President Obama decides to carry out airstrikes in Iraq or to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE ordered the USS Mesa Verde to the Persian Gulf. The vessel holds roughly 500 Marines and as many as twelve MV-22 Osprey helicopters, which can deploy rapidly in the case of an evacuation.

The Verde will meet up with the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier and two other ships Hagel ordered to the region over the weekend.

Placing the ships in the Gulf gives Obama “additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

President Obama is set to meet with his national security team at the White House on Monday night to weigh military options.

 

ON TUESDAY:

Amid the uproar over developments in Iraq, the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee will receive a classified briefing Tuesday afternoon on the “major threats” facing the U.S. Navy.

Discussions likely will range from concerns over the service’s budget outlook to the administration’s “pivot to Asia” and tensions in the South China Sea.

 

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