The Obama administration wants Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on its side in the fight against the Islamic State group. President Barack Obama wrote Khamenei a letter in mid-October urging cooperation in the battle against ISIS, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Obama’s suggestion of Iranian-American teamwork comes with a catch: Iran must meet the Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement on its nuclear program.
If Iran agrees to significantly cut back its nuclear program and can reach a deal with international governments involved in the so-called nP5+1 talks by Nov. 24, the United States said it will ease crippling sanctions. Iran stressed that it is not building nuclear weapons, but Obama’s ultimatum came just a day before the National Resistance Council of Iran -- an umbrella organization of exiles who oppose the regime -- is set to disclose new information about Iran’s “illicit” nuclear operations.
The NRCI’s U.S. Representative Office will hold a press conference Friday “to provide hitherto undisclosed information about Iranian regime’s illicit activities regarding its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin Military Complex,” according to the group.
The NRCI also said it will announce the names of Iranian and foreign officials involved in operations at the complex, located just south of Tehran. Earlier this month, a widely circulated report found that the complex was the site of recent explosions suspected of being the result of nuclear testing.
Iran’s secretive nuclear program has long been a point of contention between the two countries and a source of American mistrust.
“I don’t trust the Iranians,” House Speaker John Boehner said when asked about the letter at a press conference on Thursday. “I don’t think we need to bring them into this, and I would hope the negotiations that are under way are serious negotiations, but I have my doubts.”
The letter -- which is at least the fourth one that President Obama has written to Khamenei, according to the Journal -- underscores Iran's regional importance. After news of Obama’s letter broke, the White House stressed that while the two countries may have shared interests in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they will not be forming a military alliance.
"The United States will not cooperate militarily with Iran in that effort," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "We won't share intelligence with them. But their interests in the outcome is something that's been widely commented on ... and something that on a couple of occasions has been discussed on the sidelines of other conversations."
In Khamenei’s first mention of ISIS in a July address, he said the Islamic State coalition was made up of “satanic regimes of the time [that] have formed one front.”
“Despite the glamour of this front and its superficial and material splendor, this divine and prophet-like movement is taking its path and moving forward. It is exerting influence and it is expanding and developing on a daily basis.”
But Shiite-majority Iran has remained mostly silent about the international effort to defeat the Sunni extremist group.