As the Iraq crisis worsens, officials say the U.S. is considering direct talks with Iran to prevent an Iraqi civil war and foreign policy disaster.
The U.S. and Iran have a common enemy in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist group that is taking over Iraq, Syria, and surrounding countries, and the unlikely allies have already taken independent action to help quell the violence spreading from Iraq.
Iran recently sent about 500 soldiers to aid Iraq law enforcement officers, but have said that the Iraqi government did not ask for their assistance.
"If the Iraqi government wants us to help, we will consider it," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a translated speech on Press TV. "So far they have not asked specifically for help."
The United States has already sent over 500 Marines to the Persian Gulf, and are beefing up security at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Marines may also help Americans escape the war-torn country. Senior officials told BBC that the US George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier and two warships will support security in the air, but no ground troops will be deployed.
A collaborative effort with the Iranians may help the Iraqi government reduce the number of deaths at the hands of ISIS, but the U.S. is hesitant to further empower Iranian forces in the area. A source told CNN that the White House fears that bolstering Iran could increase tensions with the Sunnis and the Sunni allies. However, President Obama has said that short-term, military action will be taken to stop ISIS.
The terrorist group, led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has increased in power substantially since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December 2011. ISIS controls the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Baiji, and Fallujah, as well as parts of Syria. The group has posted photos and videos showing Iraqi policeman and civilians being slaughtered, and claim to have killed 1,700 Shiites last week.