1/3 of Iraqis think US supports ISIS, 40% think US trying to destabilize country

Iraqi soldiers enrolled in the Junior Leaders Course (JLC) practice disassembling their M16 rifles during a skills evaluation at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 26, 2016. Task Group Taji conducted the skills evaluation to gauge the JLC students’ proficiency in basic combat tasks. Training at the building partner capacity sites is an integral part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve’s multinational effort to train Iraqi Security Force personnel to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paul Sale/Released)

Despite spending billions of dollars and sacrificing the lives of Americans in the fight against ISIS, Iraqis do not believe the United States supports their interests.

40 percent of Iraqis believe that the United States is working to destabilize Iraq and control its natural resources and nearly a third believe that America supports terrorism in general or the Islamic State, according to recently released report by the State Department.

Almost half of the polled Iraqis, Sunni and Shia alike, “completely oppose” the coalition against ISIS.

In 2014, President Obama announced a counterterrorism strategy consisting of nine lines of effort “to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State with the sixth being, “exposing ISIL’s true nature.”

Last year the Iraq Embassy Baghdad’s Public Affairs section – mostly funded by the third largest public diplomacy budget in the world (Overseas Contingency Operations account) – had a budget of $10.67 million.

The Baghdad’s Public Affairs section only committed about five percent of its public diplomacy budget on activities that directly countered ISIS propaganda, according to the report.  Approximately 78 percent of the budget, $8.3 million, was spent on educational and cultural exchange programs with the largest portion going to the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange program.

The State Department noted that it “did not formally task Embassy Baghdad with specific actions” for how to implement the directive of “exposing ISIL’s true nature.”

An action plan was created by the Nation Security Council and was approved by the White House but failed to task any actions for Iraq’s Embassy Baghdad.

Last month, Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has oversight of the State Department and its operations said, “The consensus has been that this has been ineffective” when referring the State Department’s counter ISIS messaging activities.

On the other hand, U.S. officials have described the Islamic State’s propaganda as remarkably slick and sophisticated, according to the Washington Post.

The State Department, in an indirect acknowledgement of its failures, has even pursued outside help from Hollywood.

John Kerry meeting with Hollywood studio executives in Los Angeles, CA. Photo Credit: Twitter
John Kerry meeting with Hollywood studio executives in Los Angeles, CA. Photo Credit: Twitter

In February, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Hollywood studio chiefs in Los Angeles to discuss various topics including the Islamic State.

Although not publicly stated, an insider said they discussed a variety of issues, including perceptions of America’s image around the world.

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