U.S., Iran fail to join forces over Islamic State’s thrust

Lori Hinnant
Associated Press

Paris – — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he won’t shut the door on the possibility of working with Iran against a common enemy in the Islamic State militant group, but the two nations won’t coordinate on military action.

But Iran’s supreme leader contends it has rejected direct overtures from top U.S. diplomats, including Kerry.

In his most extensive comments to date on the crisis, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad had requested a meeting with his Iranian counterpart to discuss “coordination” between the two nations to confront the threat of the al-Qaida breakaway faction.

“I opposed (the U.S. request) and told them we will not cooperate with the Americans on the issue because their intent and hands are not clean,” Khamenei said after being discharged from a weeklong hospital stay during which he underwent prostate surgery, reported Press TV, Iran's official English-language news outlet. “How is it possible for us to cooperate with the Americans under such circumstances?”

“Iran has voiced its opposition to being a party to that coalition from the very beginning,” Khamenei said. “The Americans' coalition is nonsense.”

Kerry has also ruled out coordinating with the Syrian government, although he vaguely described ways to communicate to avoid mistakes should the U.S. and its allies begin bombing the Sunni extremist group’s safe haven there.

Kerry spoke to a small group of reporters Monday after international diplomats met in Paris, pledging to fight the Islamic State group “by any means necessary.”

Neither Iran nor Syria, which together share most of Iraq’s borders, were invited to the international conference, which opened as a pair of French reconnaissance jets took off over Iraqi skies.

During the meeting, Iraq asked allies to thwart the extremists wherever they find sanctuary.

“We are asking for airborne operations to be continued regularly against terrorist sites. We must not allow them to set up sanctuaries. We must pursue them wherever they are. We must cut off their financing. We must bring them to justice and we must stop the fighters in neighboring countries from joining them,” Iraqi President Fouad Massoum said.

With memories of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq still raw, the U.S. has so far been alone in carrying out airstrikes and no country has offered ground troops, but Iraq on Monday won a declaration by the conference’s 24 participant nations to help fight the militants “by any means necessary, including military assistance.”

Los Angeles Times contributed.