WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is interested in communicating with Iran to share information about the Sunni insurgency spreading across Iraq, but Washington is not seeking to work together with Tehran to address the crisis.
“We are interested in communicating with Iran. That the Iranians know what we’re thinking, that we know what they’re thinking and there is a sharing of information so people aren’t making mistakes,” Kerry said in an interview on NBC News that aired on Thursday.
Asked if the United States was considering working hand-in-hand with Shi‘ite-led Iran, Kerry said: “No. We’re not sitting around contemplating how we’re going to do that or if we’re going to do that. That’s not on the table,” Kerry added.
Kerry, responding to another question about the possibility of U.S. air strikes in Iraq, said that “nothing is off the table” and that “all options” are still available to President Barack Obama, who is weighing how to respond to the rebellion.
Iraqi officials have publicly called for U.S. air support to help quell the insurgency from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its allies. Washington so far has given no indication it will agree to air strikes.
Obama is also facing growing calls from U.S. lawmakers to persuade Iraq’s Shi‘ite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to step down over what they see as failed leadership and refusal to be inclusive of Sunnis, helping to fuel the insurgency now threatening his country.
“What the United States is doing is about Iraq, it’s not about Maliki. Nothing the president decides to do is going to be focused specifically on Prime Minister Maliki. It is focused on the people of Iraq,” Kerry also said in the interview, which was taped late Wednesday.
Reporting by Susan Heavey and Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Beech