Jacob Siegel writes: Last October, less than a month after the U.S.-led coalition began bombing ISIS positions in Iraq, Iran’s supreme leader spoke about the forces behind the terror group. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the rise of the self-declared Islamic State on “America, Zionism, and especially the veteran expert of spreading divisions — the wicked government of Britain.”
At that point in the speech Khamenei seemed to be advancing a severe version of a fairly common theory — imperial blowback, linking the rise of terrorist organizations to Western meddling in the Middle East. The same idea was expressed by Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani, a month before Khamenei’s speech, when he addressed the UN General Assembly.
This is a critical moment in U.S.-Iranian relations. High-wire negotiations between the Obama administration and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program continue while the two countries increasingly find common cause in the war against ISIS. But given the rhetoric coming out of Tehran, it’s worth asking if Iran’s leaders actually believe, as they have repeatedly claimed, that America created ISIS.
It’s unclear what Khamenei’s secretive inner circle believes, but let’s be clear: The Supreme Leader isn’t just talking about mistakes — even catastrophic ones — in U.S. foreign policy or the decision to invade Iraq; he’s describing a deliberate strategy. “They created al Qaida and Da’esh” — the Arabic word for ISIS — “in order to create divisions and to fight against the Islamic Republic [of Iran].”
In December of last year, Khamenei’s senior adviser returned to the theme, saying, “[ISIS] has actually been created by the Western colonial powers and the Zionists because whatever this terrorist group does runs counter to Islam and the rules of all Islamic sects.” [Continue reading…]