The Pentagon said on Monday U.S. officials may hold discussions with Iran about Iraq's security crisis sidelines of nuclear talks this week, but it will not coordinate any possible military action with its traditional foe.
“It's possible that on the sidelines of those discussions there could be discussions surrounding the situation in Iraq,”
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said, referring to talks in Vienna this week between world powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.
“But there is absolutely no intention and no plan to coordinate military activity between the United States and Iran
... there are no plans to have consultations with Iran about military activities in Iraq,” he told reporters.
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Yahoo News that the United States is open to cooperating with Iran on the crisis in Iraq, where tribal forces and Islamist militants have taken large areas and are threatening to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
“I wouldn’t rule out anything that would be constructive,” Kerry said asked if the United States would cooperate militarily with Iran, one of Maliki's key allies.
Kerry also called on the government of Maliki to be more inclusive to various sectarian groups but stopped short of calling for his resignation, saying that was up to the people of Iraq.
“I don't think the United States should be issuing instructions or orders. I don't think any country should,” he said.
“We are adamant that Prime Minister Maliki and his government must do a better job of reaching out to all the representative entities in Iraq and bring them to the table. That has not happened sufficiently,” Kerry said.
Kerry also said that U.S. President Barack Obama is carrying out “a very thorough vetting of every option that is available,” including drone strikes.
He said the United States is considering U.S. air strikes to help the Iraqi government fend off the Islamist-led insurgency.
Asked about the possibility of such strikes, Kerry said: “They're not the whole answer, but they may well be one of the options that are important.”
“When you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that. And you do what you need to do if you need to try to stop it from the air or otherwise,” he added.
A U.S. warship entered the Gulf on Monday carrying hundreds of marines and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in case they are needed to protect Americans in Iraq, the Pentagon said.
“It's presence in the Gulf adds to that of other US naval ships already there -- including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush -- and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious dock ship, is carrying 550 Marines, as well as MV-22 Osprey aircraft capable of quickly moving up to 22 marines at a time over long distances.
The deployment comes in the wake of a stunning offensive by Islamist militants across Sunni areas of northern Iraq that has left Iraqi army forces in disarray.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian official told Reuters later on Monday that the United States and Iran discussed the disastrous situation in Iraq, but “no specific outcome was achieved.”
Military cooperation between the United States and Iran was not discussed and “is not an option,” the official added.
[With AFP and Reuters]SHOW MORE