Amid a tour of Middle Eastern countries to gain regional support for President Obama's broad outline for confronting ISIL militants, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was "not appropriate" for Iran to join the discussions, despite shared concerns over the rapidly growing militant group.
"No one has called me and asked me with respect to the presence of Iran, but I think under the circumstances, at this moment in time, it would not be right for any number of reasons," Kerry told a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday. "It would not be appropriate, given the many other issues that are on the table with respect to their engagement in Syria and elsewhere."
France, which is hosting a conference on Monday to discuss a coordinated international approach to confronting ISIL, has advocated for Iran to take part in the talks, as well as any action taken from the discussions. On Friday, France indicated it may invite Iran to the conference, despite U.S. objections.
Keeping Iran from the coalition would make it the second major country in the region absent from the coalition. Kerry arrived in Cairo Saturday after a lukewarm reception in Turkey, where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview that U.S. action in Iraq, although perhaps necessary to defeat ISIL, is "not enough to establish order," signaling that they would not be on the frontline in taking on ISIL.
On Thursday, the CIA said ISIL has as many as 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, controlling large parts of both countries.
Kerry attempted to downplay the cool reception in Ankara, saying "I'm comfortable that this will be a broad-based coalition with Arab nations, European nations, the United States, others."
When pressed about the role of each country in confronting ISIL militants, Kerry appeared agitated, saying, "It is entirely premature and frankly inappropriate at this point in time to start laying out one country by one country what individual nations are going to do."