WASHINGTON, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The United States would be open to cooperating with Iran militarily in Iraq to beat back al Qaida-inspired fighters, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.
"This is a challenge to the stability of the region. It is obviously an existential challenge to Iraq itself. This is a terrorist group," Kerry told Yahoo News.
Asked whether Washington would consider cooperating militarily with Iran, Kerry said: "Let's see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements.
"I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together, the integrity of the country and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart."
Kerry's comments came as extremists known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) captured the city of Tal Afar in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh overnight. The militants had previously seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.
On Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest had said the United States was not talking to Iran about the situation in Iraq, and U.S. and Iranian officials who met in Europe last week focused their talks on Tehran's nuclear programs.
On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran may consider working with the United States in dealing with terrorism in Iraq.
"Whenever the United States wants to do something against terrorists in Iraq, Iran can consider cooperating with this country (the United States)," Rouhani said.
The Obama administration said it was mulling a range of options in support of Baghdad, including airstrikes as requested by the Iraqi government, but would not send in U.S. troops on the ground.
U.S. President Barack Obama was giving "a very thorough vetting of every option that is available," including drone strikes, said Kerry on Monday, underlining that "we are deeply committed to the integrity of Iraq as a country."
Asked whether the next 9-11 attacks could come from Iraq and Syria, Kerry replied that fighters like those in ISIS "clearly are focused not just there, but they're focused on trying to do harm to Europe, to America and other people and that's why we believe it is so important for us to be engaged."
The United States said Sunday that it was boosting security for its embassy in Baghdad in light of the worsening situation in Iraq.
Asked whether ISIS could take the capital, Kerry said, "I don't believe that they will in the near term."
The top U.S. diplomat added he was "absolutely convinced" that the United States had "the security it needs" for its embassy in Baghdad.