WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials may hold discussions with Iran about Iraq's security crisis on the sidelines of nuclear talks this week, but Washington will not coordinate potential military action in Iraq with its longtime adversary Tehran, the Pentagon said on Monday.
"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.
President Barack Obama has said the United States would consider military options for helping the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, push back the stunning advance that Sunni Islamist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have made there over the last week.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the advance an "existential threat" for Iraq. Asked if the United States could cooperate with Tehran against the insurgents, Kerry told Yahoo! News on Monday: "I wouldn't rule out anything that would be constructive."
But any U.S.-Iranian coordination could be difficult. The two countries remain at odds over the conflict in Syria, and tensions remain in the wake of Washington's long, bloody war in Iraq, when U.S. officials routinely accused Tehran of stoking violence there.
"It is not without precedent that we talk with Iran about security issues in the region. There were discussions about Afghanistan with Iran in the not too distant past,” Kirby said, adding, however, that there were no plans for military-to-military discussions with Iran.