Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei mocked President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) just days after being released from the hospital and claimed that Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as other top U.S. officials, pleaded with Iran to join the coalition against the terror group, according to regional reports.
Khamenei, who recently underwent prostate surgery, said that he laughed at the Obama administration’s comments on ISIL from his hospital bed and has told the United States that Iran will not aid the United States in its fight, according to remarks published Monday in the state-run Fars News Agency.
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Khamenei went on to claim that Kerry himself had asked the Iranians to team up with the United States against ISIL, a request that Tehran apparently rejected, according to the report. The rejection raises further questions about the level of coordination between the United States and Iran when it comes to ISIL, a terror group that both nations oppose.
"During the days I was at the hospital, I had fun listening to the remarks of the U.S. officials on fighting [ISIL]," Khamenei was shown as saying on Iranian television in public comments as he left the hospital following his surgery last week.
While the U.S. State Department has publicly maintained that Iran is not welcome in its international collation against ISIL, Khamenei claimed that Kerry and other U.S. officials had originally asked Iran to partner with it.
"The same U.S. secretary of state had personally demanded [that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif, and called for cooperation with us on [ISIL] but Dr. Zarif had rejected his demand," Khamenei claimed.
Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs and lead negotiator with Iran over its nuclear program, also reportedly asked Iranian officials if they would join the United States, as did U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones, Khamenei claimed.
"During the hard days of [ISIL’s] attacks on Iraq, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq demanded our envoy in the country [Iraq] that Iran and the U.S. meet for negotiations and coordination on [ISIL]," Khamenei reportedly said, adding that not all Iranian officials opposed the idea.
"Our ambassador reflected the issue to Iran and although some officials didn’t voice opposition, I opposed it and said we will not cooperate with the Americans in this regard since they have a corrupt intention and stained hands and how could we have cooperation with the Americans under such conditions," Khamenei said.
He went on to claim that "the U.S. deputy secretary of state [Wendy Sherman] repeated the same demand for cooperation with Iran against the ISIL during the talks with her Iranian counterpart [in the nuclear negotiations] Seyed Abbas Araqchi, and the Iranian deputy foreign minister refused it," Khamenei claimed.
The reports of Kerry’s overtures to Iran appear to be corroborated by a Monday New York Times report stating that the secretary of state is still willing to discuss ISIL with Iran.
Iran’s exclusion from international talks thus far does not "mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they will come on board or under what circumstances or whether there is the possibility of a change," Kerry was quoted as saying on Monday during a summit on ISIL in Paris.
"Having a channel of communication on one of the biggest issues in the world today is common sense," Kerry said.
Khamenei, for his part, reiterated Iran’s objections to joining the international coalition and accused the United States of "telling a lie" about its purported role in events.
"Now they are telling a lie that they won't accept Iran in the coalition because Iran had announced its opposition to its presence in such a coalition since the very beginning," Khamenei said, comparing America’s ISIL coalition to the one it formed in Syria.
U.S.-led action there was "a coalition of several countries against Syria, but they couldn't do a damn thing," Khamenei said.
Meanwhile, Iran announced that it is undertaking the construction of two new nuclear power plants this year in the city of Bushehr, where one contested plant is already up and running.