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Iraqis think the U.S.

is in cahoots with the

Islamic State, and it is hurting the war

Object 1

While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Dec. 1, U.S. Defense
Secretary Ash Carter said that the United States is deploying a specialized
expeditionary targeting force to help Iraq put additional pressure on Islamic State.

By Liz Sly-December 1
BAIJI, Iraq On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the
United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly
showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they
have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.
Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same
conclusion one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among
Iraqis that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of
pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider
Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.
It is not in doubt, said Mustafa Saadi, who says his friend saw U.S. helicopters
delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions. He is a commander in one of the
Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji
in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army.
The Islamic State is almost finished, he said. They are weak. If only America would
stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days.

[Inside the surreal world of the Islamic States propaganda machine]

U.S. military officials say the charges are too far-fetched to merit a response. Its
beyond ridiculous, said Col. Steve Warren, the militarys Baghdad-based spokesman.
Theres clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something
that a segment of the Iraqi population believes.
The perception among Iraqis that the United States is somehow in cahoots with the
militants it claims to be fighting appears, however, to be widespread across the
countrys Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, and it speaks to more than just the troubling
legacy of mistrust that has clouded the United States relationship with Iraq since the
2003 invasion and the subsequent withdrawal eight years later.
At a time when attacks by the Islamic State in Paris and elsewhere haveintensified
calls for tougher action on the ground, such is the level of suspicion with which the
United States is viewed in Iraq that it is unclear whether the Obama administration
would be able to significantly escalate its involvement even if it wanted to.
What influence can we have if they think we are supporting the terrorists? asked Kirk
Sowell, an analyst based in neighboring Jordan who publishes the newsletter Inside
Iraqi Politics.
In one example of how little leverage the United States now has, Iraqi Prime Minister
Haidar al-Abadi pushed back swiftly against an announcement Tuesday by Defense
Secretary Ashton B. Carter that an expeditionary force of U.S. troops will be
dispatched to Iraq to conduct raids, free hostages and capture Islamic State leaders.

[Is it too late to solve the mess in the Middle East?]

Iraqs semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, where support for the United States
remains strong, has said it would welcome more troops. But Abadi indicated they
would not be needed.

Object 2

The Islamic State is one of the most well-funded terrorist organizations in the world. So
where does it get its money? (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

There is no need for foreign ground combat troops, he said in a statement. Any
such support and special operations anywhere in Iraq can only be deployed subject to
the approval of the Iraqi Government and in coordination with the Iraqi forces and with
full respect to Iraqi sovereignty.
The allegations of U.S. collusion with the Islamic State are aired regularly in
parliament by Shiite politicians and promoted in postings on social media. They are
persistent enough to suggest a deliberate campaign on the part of Irans allies in Iraq
to erode American influence, U.S. officials say.
In one typical recent video that appeared on the Facebook page of a Shiite militia, a
lawmaker with the countrys biggest militia group, the Badr Organization, waves
apparently new U.S military MREs (meals ready to eat) one of them chicken and
dumplings allegedly found at a recently captured Islamic State base in Baiji, offering
proof, he said, of U.S. support.
The Iranians and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are really pushing this line of
propaganda, that the United States is supporting ISIL, Warren said. Its part of the
Iranian propaganda machine.
The perception plays into a widening rift within Iraqs ruling Shiite elite over whether to
pivot more toward Iran or the United States. Those pushing the allegations want to
create a narrative that Iran is our ally and the United States is our enemy, and this
undermines Abadi, who is Americas ally, Sowell said.
[Police call him an ISIS recruiter. He says hes just an outspoken preacher.]

Iraqi government officials say they dont believe the charges and point out that Abadi
regularly pushes back against them. But Abadis own position hasweakened in recent
months. He is battling for his political survival against a variety of Shiite militia leaders
whose power has been bolstered by the increasingly dominant role played on the
battlefield by the militias, collectively known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or popular
mobilization units.
Iraqi officials complain that their task is hampered by what is universally perceived as
the lackluster U.S. response to the threat posed by the Islamic State.
We dont 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. Its because America is so slow that most
people believe they are supporting Daesh.
U.S. warplanes routinely fail to respond to requests for air support because of U.S.
rules of engagement that preclude strikes if there is a risk civilians may be hit, he said.
According to Warren, that standard frequently is not met. The United States has
conducted more than 3,768 strikes in Iraq as of Nov. 19,according to the U.S.
military, and the tempo of strikes has increased lately, U.S. officials say.
But it also appears that the fighters are unaware when they do receive U.S. air
support. The U.S. military reported near-daily strikes in support of the offensive to
recapture Baiji last month and continues to respond regularly to requests for strikes in
the vicinity, Warren said.
[In the fight against the Islamic State, Iraqs leader begins to look shaky]
The fighters there insist there have been no strikes by the Americans at all. Wed be
better off without them, said 1st Lt. Murtada Fadl, who is serving with the Iraqi elite
forces in Baiji. He said that the only air support had come from the Iraqi air force and
that he wishes the government would ask the Russians to replace the Americans.

In a part of the world where outcomes are often confused with intentions and regional
complexities enable conspiracy theories to thrive, the notion that the United States is
colluding with the Islamic State holds a certain logic, according to Mustafa Alani,
director of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. Most Arabs are too in awe of
American might to believe that the United States is deliberately adopting a minimalist
approach, he said.
The reason is that the Americans arent doing the job people expect them to do, he
said. Mosul was lost and the Americans did nothing. Syria was lost and the Americans

did nothing. Paris is attacked and the Americans arent doing much. So people believe
this is a deliberate policy. They cant believe the American leadership fails to
understand the developments in the region, and so the only other explanation is that
this is part of a conspiracy.
On the streets of Baghdad, most Iraqis see no other explanation.
The image of the U.S. was damaged in the region, so they created Daesh in order to
fight them and restore their image, said Mohammed Abdul Khaleq, a journalist for a
local TV station who was drinking coffee in a cafe favored by writers, most of whom
said they agreed.
A rare dissenting voice was offered by Hassan Abdul-Wahab, 23, selling luggage in a
nearby shop. It is true that most people believe that, he said. But its not based on
reason. Its based on racism because Iraqis dont like Americans in the first place.
Mustafa Salim contributed to this report.
Read more:
Life in the Islamic State
Did these tweets encourage a Chicago teen to try joining the Islamic State?
Why the Islamic State leaves tech companies torn between free speech and security
With fight against the Islamic State in Iraq stalled, U.S. looks to Syria for gains
Liz Sly is the Posts Beirut bureau chief. She has spent more than 15 years covering
the Middle East, including the Iraq war. Other postings include Africa, China and
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