Iran can play a role in confronting and destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.
Addressing a session of the UN Security Council on Iraq on Friday, Kerry said there was a role for nearly every country in the world to defeat what he described as a “militant cult masquerading as a religious movement”.
“The coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only, or even primarily, military in nature,” Kerry said. “It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort.”
“There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran.”
Kerry’s comments came as Tehran and six top world powers launched a fresh effort on Friday at narrowing differences on what nuclear concessions Iran must agree to in exchange for full sanctions relief.
US officials told the Reuters news agency the basic dilemma was how to keep Iran from hardening its stance in the nuclear talks out of a belief, which officials say would be misguided, that Washington might make nuclear concessions in exchange for help against ISIL.
‘Intersection of interests’
While they are long-time antagonists, US and Iranian interests now appear to intersect in Iraq, where neither wishes to see the Shia-led government lose more territory to ISIL.
US officials fear the largely ungoverned territory ISIL has seized in Iraq and Syria could become a breeding ground for fighters who then attack Western Europe and the United States.
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For Iran, the extension of ISIL control in Iraq would undercut Iranian influence in its Shia majority neighbour.
“Iran is normally opposed to anything the US does in terms of foreign policy in the Middle East. But in the Iranian foreign minister’s speech at the Security Council, he said Tehran would do anything in its power to fight the ISIL,” said Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, James Bays, reporting from New York.
The US and France are so far the only countries to have announced taking a military approach in the fight against the ISIL.
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari has criticised the West for not addressing the issue of ISIL in Syria. He said the Syrian government should be not be ignored when dealing with the ISIL threat.
“Kerry did not address the situation in Syria. He exclusively spoke about Iraq,” Jaafari said.
In the Security Council session, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, accused the Syrian government of supporting ISIL.
Jafaari said Fabius’ comments were “really ridiculous”.
“This comes from someone who is not supposed to be minister. Even if you lived in Jupiter or on the moon, you wouldn’t say what he said in the meeting,” he said