Iran will not cooperate with efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) because it fears the U.S. is “planning a war … to dominate the region,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted Monday.
Khamenei said the U.S. had “corrupted its hands in this issue,” and Iranian diplomats had rejected an offer from Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Defense: Obama defends Manning commutation after backlash | Mattis clears Senate panel Kerry: Trump can’t instantly undo Obama actions ‘All or nothing’ leaves us nothing MORE. He added that the regional offensive against ISIS was a bid by the U.S. to turn Iraq and Syria into a country like Pakistan, “where it can commit crimes whenever it wants.”
A spokesman for Kerry acknowledged the U.S. has held discussions with the Iranian government about efforts to counter ISIS amid negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Psaki said that negotiations did not and would not include military coordination. But she suggested that American and Iranian diplomats could continue to discuss efforts against ISIS during bilateral talks on the nuclear issue later this week in New York.
“There may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq with Iran,” Psaki said.
On Friday, Kerry said “it would not be appropriate” to include Iran as part of the international military coalition fighting ISIS. He cited Tehran’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as part of the reason for their exclusion. The United States is, instead, seeking to bolster the moderate Syrian opposition, which is fighting both the Assad regime and ISIS.
The U.S. is also wary of including Iran in the international coalition because it would alienate regional powers like Saudi Arabia. Doing so would also undoubtedly create headaches for President Obama at home, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already criticized him for his willingness to engage Tehran in protracted nuclear negotiations.
Over the weekend, several Sunni-led Arab states reported airstrikes against ISIS targets, State Department staffers told reporters traveling with Kerry in Paris.
“A lot of this is still in the discussion phase, but I want to be clear that there have been offers, both to CENTCOM and to the Iraqis, of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” the official said, according to The Washington Post.
The official said any such maneuver would still need to be approved by and coordinated with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
“The Iraqis would have to be a major participant in that decision,” the official said. “And secondly, the air campaign would have to be very well organized.”