STATE DEPARTMENT —
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration may be willing to work with Iran militarily against al-Qaida-affiliated Sunni militants who are moving rapidly through northern Iraq. Kerry calls the advance by Syrian-based fighters an "existential" danger to Iraq.
Kerry commented Monday during an interview with Katie Couric
, Yahoo News' global anchor.
He said the United States is "open to any constructive process" that could minimize the violence in Iraq and hold the country together, including cooperation with Iran.
"We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of the government to reform," said Kerry.
On whether the U.S. would cooperate militarily with Iran, Kerry said the need is to go "step by step... but I would not rule out anything that would be constructive to providing real stability, a respect for the constitution, a respect for the election process, and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all of the interests of Iraq, not one sectarian group over another. It has to be inclusive, and that has been one of the great problems of the last few years."
However at the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters Monday that there was "absolutely no intention and no plan to coordinate military activities" with Iran with respect to the situation in Iraq. Kirby did not rule out possible discussions with Iran on the sidelines of the P5+1 talks.
Images from Iraq
U.S. officials have criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for not doing more to include more Sunni and Kurdish leaders in the government in Baghdad.
A senior State Department official said Sunday that Secretary Kerry spoke with his counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates about combating fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Kerry told Couric those militants are a challenge to the region and "clearly are focused not just there, but they’re focused on trying to do harm to Europe, to America and other people."
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Bill Burns is in Geneva for international talks on limiting Iran's nuclear program. A senior State Department officials says Burns may have discussions with Iranian officials about Iraq but those would be "completely and separately" removed from nuclear negotiations.