(CNN)Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday deemed Iran's presence in Iraq to be "helpful" to American attempts to beat back the threat of ISIS, given their common enemy.
John Kerry: Iran 'helpful' in fighting ISIS in Iraq
The measured praise for a country with which the U.S. has a fraught relationship came at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where the secretary of state was asked to assess whether Iran was "more helpful or more harmful" there.
"Look, we have challenges with Iran as everybody knows and we are working on those challenges," Kerry said. "But I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually."
Kerry was using a different name for ISIS.
The top U.S. diplomat explained that he and his Iranian counterparts could now more easily solve global crises and directly communicate.
Brent McGurk, the U.S. special envoy tasked with defeating ISIS, said earlier Tuesday that Iran-backed Shi'ite militias are mostly helpful in Iraq, though some go rogue.
"We think most of these popular mobilization forces do operate under the control of the Iraqi state, but about 15-20% of them actually do not," McGurk said. "And those groups are a fundamental problem."