NEW YORK—Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes in Syria are illegal because they were not approved or co-ordinated with Syria’s government.
Meeting Tuesday with several news editors on the first day of the United Nations General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Rouhani stressed that Iran condemns the Islamic State group for trampling on human rights and torturing and killing civilians. He said Iran stands ready to help fight terrorism.
Rouhani said the U.S. policy is confused because it simultaneously opposes the militants while also trying to undermine the government of Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
“This is clearly nebulous and ambiguous at best,” he said. “This is a very confusing behaviour and policy.”
Nighttime raids began Monday on Islamic State militants in Syria, as U.S.-Arab airstrikes hit the group’s military strongholds in both Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials said Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates participated.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that strikes would be launched in Syria.
The U.S. and Iran have been unable to work together to combat the Islamic State group, complicating efforts against militants that both Washington and Tehran see as a threat.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, decisively ruled out an alliance. He said Iran had rejected an invitation by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss co-operation.
The United States, meanwhile, feared that bringing Iran into the fight could bolster its influence in Iraq. The U.S. also does not want to alienate key Sunni countries in its coalition.
Washington and Tehran were nonetheless in back-room contacts about co-operation for weeks. Some moderate voices in Iran’s diplomatic circles supported an alliance with the U.S. against the militants.