The United States said it could launch air strikes, acting with arch-enemy Iran to support the Iraqi government following a rampage by Sunni Islamist insurgents across Iraq.
US secretary of state John Kerry said on Monday that drone strikes were an option to combat the offensive, after President Barack Obama said he was weighing “all options” on how to support the Nouri al-Maliki government.
Last week, the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and Tikrit, plunging Iraq into its worst crisis since the US withdrew troops in 2011.
Drones might not be the “whole answer,” Kerry said, “but they may well be an option important to stem the tide and stop the movement of people moving around in open convoys and trucks and terrorising people.”
Asked if the US was willing to cooperate with Iran militarily, Kerry said, “We are open to any constructive process”. The Pentagon, however, ruled out “joint military operations” with the Iranian armed forces.
The two countries have a bitter history, going back to the storming of the US embassy in Teheran in 1979 but have engaged recently over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani indicated last week he was willing to work with the US. “If we see America confronting terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere”, Iran will step in and work with Washington to help Iraqi Shiite troops, Rouhani said.
(With agency inputs)