Middle East

Islamic State crisis: Kerry says Iran can help defeat IS

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Media captionUS Secretary of State John Kerry: "It's about... decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement"

US Secretary of State John Kerry says Iran has a role to play in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Despite not being invited to join the US-led military coalition, Iran - Mr Kerry said - could help "take out" IS.

Last week, the US said it would be inappropriate for Iran to join the coalition because of its "engagement in Syria and elsewhere".

The US and France have both carried out air strikes against IS, who control larges swathes of Iraq and Syria.

President Francois Hollande said French jets carried out their first strikes on Friday, hitting an IS depot in north-eastern Iraq.

The US has carried out more than 170 air strikes against the jihadist group in Iraq since mid-August.

'Militant cult'

Chairing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Mr Kerry said the coalition to eliminate IS was not only military in nature.

"It's about taking out an entire network, decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement," Mr Kerry said.

He added: "There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran."

Earlier this week, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had personally rejected overtures from the US for cooperation in fighting IS.

"I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky," Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying by state news agency Irna.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif also warned that the "dangerous phenomenon" of IS would not be "eradicated through aerial bombardments".

Image copyright AP
Image caption French jets have been flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq from a base in the United Arab Emirates

Mr Kerry's comments came after the US state department revealed that US and Iranian representatives had discussed the threat posed by IS on the sidelines of talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

The 15-member UN Security Council adopted a statement expressing support for Iraq's new government amid a "large-scale offensive" by IS militants that posed "a major threat to the region".

US President Barack Obama says that 40 nations, including 10 Arab states, have joined the coalition to take on IS militants.

On Thursday, the US Senate approved Mr Obama's plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight IS.

US air strikes are now expected in Syria, but Mr Obama said he will not authorise a ground operation in Iraq or Syria.

President Hollande said there would be more French air raids on Iraq in the coming days but he also insisted no ground troops would be sent to the region.

France had already been carrying out reconnaissance flights over Iraq and providing weapons to Kurdish fighters in the north.

How coalition is assembling against IS:
Country Air strikes/surveillance Equipment/personnel Logistical
United States Air strikes on IS positions in Iraq, also authorised in Syria 1,000 advisory staff, aircraft carrier hosting 65 aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters and drones Train and equip moderate Syrian rebels
UK Iraq - surveillance only Tornado fighter jets, Hercules transport planes, Chinook helicopters, 1 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft. Arms for Kurds
France Iraq - air strikes and surveillance Rafale fighter jets + arms for Kurds
Germany 40 advisory staff + arms for Kurds
Australia 600 advisory staff + up to 10 aircraft - F/A-18 fighters, tankers and support aircraft
Gulf countries Allow use of air bases and air space
Saudi Arabia Allow bases to be used for training of moderate Syrian rebels
Turkey Aid and logistical operations from Nato air base

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