Iran’s cooperation against ISIS was sought by the US?

Different news outfits provided wildly different assessments of the situation, based on whether they focused on comments coming from the US State Department or from the mouth of the Iranian supreme leader. Business Recorder began its article on the topic with a headline that said “Iran rejected US request for cooperation against IS,” according to Ali Khamenei.

In Khamenei’s typical style, these remarks were accompanied by rhetorical statements against the United States, which he described as having dirty hands and accused of angling to assert the authority to “bomb anywhere without authorization.” This comment reflects Iran’s previously-expressed anger over President Obama’s decision to authorize bombing against ISIS targets in Syria without first seeking approval from the embattled dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, whom Iran has helped to keep in power through more than three years of civil war.

This latter context is clear, but as Reuters points out, the context of Khamenei’s claimed rejection of a US request is less clear. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki acknowledged that the US and Iran discussed the ISIS situation as a sideline to nuclear talks, but there is no record of the US requesting help or cooperation from Iran. Indeed, as Reuters also points out, the US has made it clear that it has no intention of coordinating militarily with the Islamic Republic.

However, the Albany Tribune points out that some level of coordination has been and will remain inevitable, in the sense that US and Iranian forces need to communicate in order to remain out of each other’s lines of fire. However, this same article points out that one of the key points of contention between the two countries is how this conflict affects Syria. Whereas the Obama administration believes that the Free Syrian Army can help in the fight against ISIS, Iran insists that the way to defeat the Sunni terrorist group is by supporting the Assad regime.

Evidence against Iranian claims of a US request includes the fact that the US excluded Iran from multilateral security talks about the ISIS situation, which took place in Paris on Monday. This exclusion came in spite of push-back from the new ostensible unity government of Iraq, and from French policymakers.