Volunteers to fight with Iraqi forces against militants have a marching exercise at a volunteer centre in Najaf city, southern Iraq on Thursday. More than two million Iraqis have volunteered to fight against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Image Credit: EPA

Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US is contemplating communicating with Iran to share information about the insurgency spreading across Iraq, but is not seeking to work together with Iran to address the crisis.

“We are interested in communicating with Iran. That the Iranians know what we’re thinking, that we know what they’re thinking and there is a sharing of information so people aren’t making mistakes,” Kerry said in an interview on NBC News that aired on Thursday. Asked if the US was considering working hand-in-hand with Iran, Kerry said: “No. We’re not sitting around contemplating how we’re going to do that or if we’re going to do that. That’s not on the table,” Kerry added.

Asked about the possibility of US air strikes, Kerry also said that “nothing is off the table” and that “all options” are still available to President Barack Obama, who is weighing how to respond to the Sunni-led rebellion. Kerry also brushed aside criticism of Obama administration Middle East policy Thursday, taking exception to assertions Washington has been too passive in the face of surging terrorism in the region.

Kerry noted the failure of the US to secure a continuing military arrangement with Iraq’s government after US combat forces left. “We didn’t have operational theater capacity at the time” of the surge in violence spawned by Al Qaida-inspired Islamic State militants, he said in an interview on NBC.

On the broader issue of Mideast policy, Kerry said the administration has been “deeply engaged” in the region and is the largest source of humanitarian assistance. He said violence is on the rise in Iraq because Syria’s Bashar Al Assad, who has been under siege for at least three years, “is a magnet for terrorists of all walks.”

Asked about former vice-president Dick Cheney’s assertion that President Barack Obama has been wrong all along about the Middle East, Kerry replied, “This is a man who took us directly into Iraq. Please.”

He reiterated that air strikes have not been ruled out, saying that “nothing is off the table” in administration discussions.

Kerry didn’t signal any details of involvement beyond what is already known, but did say that whatever assistance is forthcoming won’t necessarily be aimed at bailing out embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. The efforts will be “focused on the people of Iraq,” he said.

Kerry said the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is “more extreme than even Al Qaida and they are a threat to the US and western interests.”