LAST_UPDATEWed, 18 Jul 2018 11pm

America Created ISIS, Top Iranian Official Claims

Filepic: ReutersFilepic: Reuters

A senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has claimed that the U.S. was behind the creation of ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Ali Akbar Velayati also warned that America’s involvement in the country could prove bloody, the official state Fars news agency said.

“The Americans themselves have created the ISIL [ISIS] and the al-Nusra in Syria and now they have come onto the scene and occupied Eastern Euphrates,” Velayati said.

This is not the first time an Iranian official has levelled the allegation at the U.S. In March, Khamenei himself claimed America had spawned the terror group to distract the world from the actions of Israel.

The conspiracy theory is popular in the Middle East. A 2016 poll showed that one third of Iraqis surveyed believed the U.S. supports terrorism in general or ISIS specifically.

The group originated from a merger of Sunni Muslim militant groups that had been formed to oppose the American occupation of Iraq. The merger included al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later broke away from the central leadership and morphed into ISIS.

As the war in Syria progressed, the U.S. poured money and weapons into Syria to supply more “moderate” rebel groups. As these forces were absorbed or defeated by more extremist groups like ISIS and al-Nusra—a Syrian al-Qaeda offshoot—jihadis found themselves armed with even more American hardware.

President Donald Trump has done little to dispel the myth of direct American support for ISIS since he took office. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump claimed—without providing any evidence—that President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-founded the group and that ISIS “honors” the former president.

Velayati also warned that if U.S. troops remain in Syria, the country will become “another Vietnam.” There are approximately 2,000 American soldiers currently in the country working as advisors to local Kurdish and Syrian militias. It is unclear how long they will remain stationed there for.

Iran is currently facing pressure to remove its own forces from Syria. Tehran has become one of President Bashar al-Assad’s most important allies and has built a significant military presence. Iranian troops and positions have been targeted several times by Israeli airstrikes as the country attempts to roll back Tehran’s growing influence.

There were reports on Thursday that Hezbollah—the Lebanese militia backed by Tehran—and Iran had begun drawing their forces back from the Israeli and Jordanian borders at the request of Russia, the most significant international backer of the Assad regime.

- Newsweek