TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made remarks Sunday that lessened any remaining possibility of military cooperation between the Islamic republic and the United States in securing Iraq against an onslaught from al-Qaeda-inspired militants.
“We don’t support any foreign interference in Iraq and we’re strongly opposed to U.S. interference there,” Khamenei said at an event with members of Iran’s judiciary, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
While officials in Washington and Tehran had earlier signaled a willingness to work together to rid the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the comments from Khamenei show a growing divide between the interests of the long-opposed governments.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last Saturday that once he knows what the U.S.’s plans are for intervening, his government would “think about cooperation with them in Iraq.”
Last week in Vienna, U.S. and Iranian negotiators discussed Iraq briefly on the sidelines of the most recent round of talks between world powers and Iran over the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions, but up until that point both sides said there were no plans to coordinate directly on Iraq.
While some Iranian officials quietly welcomed the possibility of U.S. airstrikes, as Washington’s patience for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki diminishes, so do the prospects of coordinated efforts as Tehran sees Maliki as a reliable partner in Baghdad.
“The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without U.S. interference,” Khamenei said.
Khamenei also rejected the idea that violence engulfing Iraq is part of a sectarian war and blamed the United States and other foreign powers for what he called their roles in allowing extremist groups to flourish in the Middle East.
“What is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shiites and Sunnis. Arrogant powers want to use the remnants of Saddam’s regime and takfiri (ISIS) extremists to deprive Iraq of stability and tranquility,” he said. “The real fight is between those who want to bring back a U.S. presence and those who want Iraqi independence.”