President Barack Obama wrote a secret letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month about their shared interest in combatting the Islamic State, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday:
In this handout photo provided by the White House, President Barack Obama speaks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013. (Getty Images)
The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the Islamic State campaign and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.
Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, [people briefed on the letter] say.
The October letter marked at least the fourth time Mr. Obama has written Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since taking office in 2009 and pledging to engage with Tehran’s Islamist government.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest refused to confirm the letter to reporters on Thursday, but according to the Journal, Obama officials "didn't deny the letter’s existence when questioned by foreign diplomats in recent days."
Khamenei has not directly responded to Obama's outreach efforts.
The Journal reported that the White House kept the correspondence secret from U.S. Middle East allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel has repeatedly sounded the alarm about the U.S. engaging with Iran in any form, including for the purposes of fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Asked about the Wall Street Journal report Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed deep reservations about bringing in Iran.
"I don't trust the Iranians. I don't think we need to bring them into this, and I would hope that the negotiations that are underway are serious negotiations, but I have my doubts."