Obama writes to Iran’s leader
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a rare outreach to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Barack Obama has written a letter about Islamic State militants, a common enemy in Syria and Iraq, according to diplomatic sources.
US officials have previously discussed the military campaign against the Islamic State group with Iranian officials but have consistently ruled out any direct cooperation against IS.
Obama’s letter to Iran’s powerful religious leader comes as a Nov. 24 deadline nears in nuclear negotiations between the US and Iran, as well as five other world powers. While Obama has previously sent letters to Khamenei, any communication between the two men has been extremely rare.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported that Obama had sent the letter, said it described a shared interest between the US and Iran in fighting Islamic State militants and stressed that any cooperation on that would be largely contingent on Iran agreeing to the nuclear deal. While neither confirming nor denying the existence of the letter, administration officials said there were no plans to cooperate or coordinate with Iran against the militants.
“The United States will not cooperate militarily with Iran in that effort,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “We won’t share intelligence with them.”
Diplomatic officials separately confirmed the existence of the letter to The Associated Press. They did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s outreach publicly.
Obama authorized a US-led air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Iraq in August and expanded the mission the following month to neighbouring Syria. The US is taking action alongside several other nations, including a handful of regional partners.
Iran is not part of the US coalition, but it too has been fighting the Islamic State group on the ground.
US officials have not ruled out the possibility that a nuclear accord with Iran could open the door to discussions on other issues. But the prospects for a final agreement remain uncertain, with Obama saying on Wednesday that the ability to secure a deal is an “open question.”
The technical details of the talks have been closely guarded by the negotiating partners — the US, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and Iran. The broad parameters of a potential agreement include Iran cutting back on its number of centrifuges enriching uranium and redesigning a planned heavy water reactor so it doesn’t produce plutonium. Both materials can be used in nuclear warheads.
In exchange, the US in particular would have to roll back some of the financial, trade and oil sanctions that significantly cut off Iran from global markets.