No U.S.-Iran military coordination against ISIS: Rice

A report suggested Obama sent a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader regarding ISIS

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U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice denied on Friday the United States was engaged in military coordination with Iran to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

At a White House briefing, Rice responded to a report that President Barack Obama had written a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about ISIS by saying, “We are in no way engaged in any coordination - military coordination - with Iran on countering ISIL.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Obama sent the letter last month to Khamenei and described what he called a “shared fight” against the Sunni militant ISIS group.

Iran, a Shiite Muslim state, and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since the 1979 storming of the American embassy in Tehran and the 444-day hostage crisis.

But there has been a growing recognition that Iran -- still dubbed by Washington a state sponsor of terrorism -- could play a role in helping to restore stability in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

Refusing to deny or confirm the report, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “I’m not in a position to discuss private correspondence between the president and any world leader.”

Iran and the United States are currently negotiating a complex deal to rein in Iranian nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of crippling international sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Earnest repeated that on the sidelines of those talks, being led by a group of powers known as the P5+1, Iran and the U.S. had discussed the threat of the militants.

But he reiterated the U.S. stand that “the United States will not cooperate militarily with Iran in that effort, we won’t share intelligence with them.”

In his letter, Obama reportedly stressed to Khamenei that any cooperation in fighting ISIS militants would depend on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal, as a November 24 deadline looms.

The Journal said it was believed to be the fourth letter from Obama to Khamenei since the American leader took office in 2009. U.S. officials told the paper that the Iranian leader has never responded personally to the overtures.

Many of Washington’s regional allies, including Israel as well as Saudi Arabia, have been wary of the U.S. administration bid to engage Iran diplomatically, and the Journal’s sources said the White House did not tell those countries in advance of Obama’s letter.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will Sunday meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as well as EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton in Oman, for a fresh round of nuclear talks.

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