New State Department semantic fun: Are we "coordinating" with Iran against ISIS or not?

Via the Free Beacon, we spent a good 48 hours last week trying to figure out if State considers this new mission a “war” or merely “counterterrorism.” A new question for a new week: Have we “coordinated” with Iran on stopping ISIS or are we hoping to?

If you believe Iran’s Supreme Leader, yep. Supposedly we put out feelers via the Iranian embassy in Baghdad but Khamenei refused to hear us out because a pure, God-fearing man like himself only does business with people with clean hands. You believe an arch-terrorist when he tells you something with obvious propaganda value to his country, don’t you? The man’s an obvious liar — except, that, er, as Noah noted earlier, Jen “Promise of Hashtag” Psaki has already admitted that State has been chatting with Iran about ISIS. At least, not publicly.

A spokesman for Kerry acknowledged the U.S. has held discussions with the Iranian government about efforts to counter ISIS amid negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“It’s no secret that we have had discussions w[ith] Iran about the counter-ISIL efforts in Iraq on margins of our P5+1 talks on nuclear issue,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted Monday.

That’s not exactly the same as what Khamenei said but if we’re willing to chat informally with them about ISIS during nuke negotiations, why wouldn’t we ask for a secret meeting via the embassy? John Kerry, meanwhile, responded to the he-said-she-said with this: “I have no idea of what interpretation they drew from any discussion that may or may not have taken place. We are not coordinating with Iran. Period.” We’re not coordinating — but a discussion may have taken place? What? And what about the phrasing here?

John Kerry has said it was “not appropriate” for Iran to join talks on confronting the Islamic State group in Syria due to its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad…

“Under the circumstances, at this moment in time, it would not be right for any number of reasons. It would not be appropriate given the many other issues that are on the table in Syria and elsewhere,” he said in Ankara.

We won’t talk to them about ISIS, except that we’ve already talked to them about it informally and clearly we’d be open to talking to them about it formally if they cooperate with us more broadly (e.g., on their nuclear program). That’s all of a piece with Obama’s broader strategy of tentative rapprochement with Iran and its new, supposedly “moderate” president. But now I’m confused. If, by Psaki’s admission, we’ve huddled with Iran about ISIS already, doesn’t that in itself qualify as “coordination”? We may not be coordinating tactically yet, e.g., “we’re going to bomb this fortification, then you move in,” but we’re broadly allied against the Wahhabis and we share some goals, enough so that we’re willing to chitchat about it. Pretty soon, we’re also going to be acting as a de facto Iranian air force over Syrian territory held by ISIS. Meeting to discuss broad strategic aims while we press a common enemy from different sides seems pretty coordination-y to me, but given the horrible domestic politics of buddying up to Iran, State will forever deny it, I guess. If we won’t formally coordinate with the chemically-armed Shiite menace in Damascus, we’re not going to coordinate with the soon-to-be-nuclear armed Shiite menace in Tehran.

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