Obama asked Iran for help against ISIS in secret letter

In a secret letter, President Obama told Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the U.S. and Iran had a shared interest in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Obama wrote that cooperation between the two countries on fighting ISIS was dependent on Iran agreeing to a comprehensive nuclear agreement by a Nov. 24 deadline, according to a Wall Street Journal report on the letter.

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White House press secretary Josh Earnest would not confirm — or deny — the letter had been sent.

"I'm not in a position to discuss private correspondence between the president and any world leader," Earnest said.
 
The letter appears to contradict White House assurances that the U.S. was not willing to trade concessions in the nuclear talks for Iran helping in the ISIS fight.

“These are two separate matters that will be resolved separately,” Earnest said in comments last month.

Earnest made the comments after an Iranian official told Reuters that the country would be willing to help the U.S. campaign against ISIS, but only if it was able to get additional flexibility for its nuclear program.

“You give something, you take something,” the Iranian official was quoted as saying.

But Earnest said U.S. diplomats had “made clear, both publicly and privately that the conversations in the context of the [nuclear] talks are entirely separate from conversations of the international community, including the United States may have with the Iranians about [ISIS].”

“I'm confident that our views on this topic have been conveyed to the Iranians,” he added.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Obama said Tehran was negotiating "seriously" on the nuclear deadline ahead of the talks' deadline later this month.

“Whether we can actually get a deal done, we’re going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks,” Obama said. “We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs. And if, in fact, what their leadership says, that they don’t want to develop a nuclear a weapon — if that is, in fact, true, then they’ve got an avenue here to provide that assurance to the world community.”

The letter is not the first time Obama has reached out to Khamenei. The president also sent a pair of letters in the first months after taking office, calling for an improvement of U.S.-Iranian relations.