WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has secretly written to Iran’s supreme leader to discuss possible cooperation in the fight against Islamic militants providing there is a nuclear deal, a US daily reported on Thursday.
Obama sent the letter last month to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and described what he called a ‘shared fight’ against the Islamic State group militants, the Wall Street Journal said, citing “people briefed on the correspondence”. Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since the 1979 storming of the American embassy in Tehran and the 444-day hostage crisis.
But there has been a growing recognition that Iran — still dubbed by Washington a state sponsor of terrorism — could play a role in helping to restore stability in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Refusing to deny or confirm the report, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “I’m not in a position to discuss private correspondence between the president and any world leader.”
Iran and the United States are currently negotiating a complex deal to rein in Iranian nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of crippling international sanctions against the Islamic republic. Earnest repeated that on the sidelines of those talks, being led by a group of powers known as the P5+1, Iran and the US had discussed the threat of the militants.
But he reiterated the US stand that “the United States will not cooperate militarily with Iran in that effort, we won’t share intelligence with them”. In his letter, Obama reportedly stressed to Khamenei that any cooperation in fighting IS militants would depend on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal, as a Nov 24 deadline looms.