The White House is walking a fine line on the potential for cooperation with Iran on fighting Iraq's insurgents — yes to talks, no to military coordination.
"We are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat post by ISIL in Iraq," a senior State Department official said Monday of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces. "The issue did come up briefly with Iran on the margins of the P5+1 in Vienna today, separate from our trilateral meeting. These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people. We will discuss how ISIL threatens many countries in the region, including Iran, and the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration would like to see Iran and other countries encourage Iraq's leaders to pursue an "inclusive" agenda and not be governed in a "sectarian" way.
"It is not in anybody’s interest for the nation of Iraq to be torn apart along sectarian lines in a way that’s driven by extremists," he said.
He also reiterated that the talks with Iran on Iraq would be separate from ongoing talks with Iran on its nuclear program.