SHAFAQNA – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday he had vetoed a U.S. invitation to cooperate in fighting Islamic State, but Washington insisted it would not coordinate militarily with Iran against the militants.
“The American ambassador in Iraq asked our ambassador (in Iraq) for a session to discuss coordinating a fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” said Khamenei, in quotes carried on state news agency IRNA.
“Our ambassador in Iraq reflected this to us, which was welcomed by some (Iranian) officials, but I was opposed. I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky.”
He said it was Iran’s choice not to work with the country the Islamic Republic has traditionally called the Great Satan, having also refused similar overtures to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araqchi.
Khamenei rejected recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington was opposed to any Iranian role in a international coalition against Islamic State.
“Now they (the U.S) are lying, in saying that it is them who excluded us from their coalition, while it was Iran that refused to participate in this collation to begin with,” said Khamenei, 75, who left hospital on Monday following prostate surgery.
In Paris, a conference opened on Monday to discuss how to curb the jihadist movement that has seized a third of Iraq and Syria. Iran was not represented.
Khamenei questioned U.S. resolve in fighting Islamic State, which has captured tracts of land in Syria and Iraq and has become the most potent opposition to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran’s.
“American officials’ comments on forming an anti-Islamic State (alliance) are blank, hollow and self-serving, and contradictions in their behaviours and statements attest to this fact,” said Khamenei.
Khamenei said Washington wanted in Iraq what it had in Pakistan — “a playground where they can enter freely and bomb at will”.
“The Americans should keep in mind that if they go ahead with such a thing, then the same problems that they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years will come back,” he said, referring to years of conflict between U.S. forces and an array of armed Iraqi groups.
(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; writing by Matt Smith; editing by William Maclean and Andrew Roche)