Many Iraqis believe the United States is secretly supporting terror group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, according to a new report.
Videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants have been circulating across the country, and many citizens say themselves or people they know have seen it happen in person.
“It is not in doubt,” said Mustafa Saadi, who told the Washington Post that his friend saw U.S. helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions.
Saadi, a commander of a Shiite militia who has been battling the terror group, said that ISIS is “almost finished.”
“They are weak,” he said. “If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days.”
The claims have been circulating for a number of months on social media, and elected officials have promoted them. For example, a video that allegedly showed U.S. military meals in packages at a recently captured ISIS base in Baiji was published on the Facebook page of an official affiliated with the country’s biggest militia group.
But U.S. officials say the claims are bogus.
“It’s beyond ridiculous,” Col. Steve Warren, the military’s Baghdad-based spokesman, told the Post.
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“There’s clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes.”
Other Iraqi officials say they don’t believe the claims, but admit the perception is hurting the war effort.
“We don’t believe the Americans support Daesh,” said Naseer Nouri, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “But it is true that most people are saying they do, and they are right to believe that the Americans should be doing much more than they are. It’s because America is so slow that most people believe they are supporting Daesh.”
Some Iraqis think that America isn’t doing enough to fight ISIS, adding to the perception that they actually support the terror group. Even if some Iraqis don’t go that far, they think the U.S. has not done enough.
“It is a deeply widespread belief among Iraqis of all persuasions that the Americans did not do enough,” Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics, told NBC News.
“It is a belief held across the board of the Iraqi political class. ISIS has been able to manipulate and exploit the contradictions and tensions that exist between the coalition partners.”
They’re using that tension to bolster confidence in their group.
“ISIS has already won strategically because they have won the narrative. What’s the narrative? We are winning,” he said. “This provides nourishment and sustenance to recruits worldwide.”