Kerry: Drone Strikes, Working With Iran Both On The Table When It Comes To ISIS And Iraq

The delicate situation in Iraq could see two countries that have been at odds for decades drawing a bit closer, as US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Obama administration might be willing to work with Iran –perhaps even militarily – in order to quell the violence that has reached a boiling point in Iran’s neighbor, Iraq.

Speaking with Yahoo News‘ Katie Couric, Kerry said on Monday that the United States is open to working with Iran in order to resolve the situation in Iraq.

“This is a challenge to the stability of the region,” Kerry told Couric. “It is obviously an existential challenge to Iraq itself. This is a terrorist group.”

When Couric pressed Kerry on the degree to which the Obama administration might be willing to work with Iran – which has butted heads with the US over both Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s influence in Iraq – Kerry remained non-committal, but signaled an openness to the possibility.

“I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together, the integrity of the country, and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart,” Kerry told Couric.

The Yahoo anchor pressed the Secretary of State on just how far the US would be willing to go in cooperating with Iran.

“Can you see cooperating with Iran militarily?” Couric asked.

“At this moment, I think we need to go step by step and see what in fact might be a reality,” Kerry replied, “but I wouldn’t 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 respects all of Iraq; not one sectarian group over another. It has to be inclusive.”

The “caliphate” envisioned by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Image via The New York Times.

Kerry held back, though, from directly reaching out to Iran over Iraq, even as Couric pressed the issue.

“Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do,” Kerry said, “before we start making any pronouncements.”

Aside from cooperation with Iran, Kerry also confirmed that President Obama is giving “a very thorough vetting of every option that is available.” Mr. Obama has repeatedly stated that US action in the area will not involve “boots on the ground,” or an increased US troop presence.

That, though, does not rule out the possibility of drone strikes, a fact that Kerry affirmed in his interview, saying that the US is “deeply committed to the integrity of Iraq as a country.”

An onslaught by extremist group ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – has rocked Iraq in the past several weeks, with the Syrian-originated militants moving out of the north of the country. ISIS has reportedly taken control of multiple cities in the nation, including Tikrit, the home of Saddam Hussein.

ISIS’ stated goal is the formation of a caliphate – a unified Islamic government ruled by a caliph – stretching from Syria into Iraq. The crisis in Iraq has only recently come to a head with ISIS marching on major cities and reportedly committing a number of atrocities along the way, but the group has been active in Iraq since 2004. An analysis by The New York Times traced the history and motivations of the group, finding that, as far back as 2004, when it was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS was responsible for more than 50 attacks in Iraq.

Lead image via The New York Times, Al-Monitor, and Yahoo News.

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