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Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the United States would give "a very thorough vetting of every option that is available," to quell a worsening conflict in Iraq, including drone strikes and cooperating with Iran.
Kerry told Katie Couric in a Yahoo! News interview that he doesn't think the Sunni insurgents creating havoc in Iraq will take Baghdad in "the near term," but "when you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that — from the air or otherwise."
Pentagon spokesman RADM John Kirby clarified later Monday that that the United States is open to political discussions with Iran, but not military cooperation.
The United States has "no intentions, no plans to coordinate military activities with Iran," Kirby said.
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) forces have taken over several cities in the country, and on Sunday released photos that appeared to show the militants mass murdering members of the Iraqi army. The photos have not been independently verified by NBC News.
President Barack Obama said Friday that troops would not be sent back to Iraq, but he asked his national security team to "prepare a range of other options."
Asked Monday whether or not one those options might be military cooperation with Iran, a staunch ally of Iraq President Nouri al-Maliki, Kerry replied, "I wouldn't rule out anything that would be constructive."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that Iran would be willing to overlook a contentious relationship with the U.S., if Washington vows to fight "terrorist groups in Iraq and elsewhere."
In a statement, Arizona Sen. John McCain, a top GOP critic of the administration's foreign policy, said it would be "the height of folly" to partner with the Iranian regime to manage the situation in Iraq.
"The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse," he said.
Obama and Kerry have both said in recent days that the Iraqi army needs to make a serious effort to defend themselves. And a call from a prominent Iraqi cleric sparked Shiite fighters to pick up their arms and push back against the militants seemed to slow their progression toward Baghdad.
The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and two other U.S. Navy ships arrived in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, ordered to protect American lives and interests in the region. A fourth ship was sent Monday.
Department of Defense personnel were also sent to augment security assets at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Baghdad. Some staff members were transferred out of the city following an explosion that left 15 dead.
“We have a security situation that will protect U.S. interest,” Kerry assured Monday.