From Catholic priests to businessmen to PKK cadre members, the belief that America created ISIS appears prevalent in Kurdistan. Why do so many Kurds from so many different walks of life think that ISIS is an American construction, when the U.S. military has spent so much time, energy, and lives fighting Islamic extremism in Iraq, to include ISIS? Given that American advisors are on the ground helping the Kurds, and coalition aircraft drop bombs on ISIS targets on a daily basis, this belief is about as irrational as it is common.

This article is based on anecdotal accounts rather than census data, but because the topic comes up so frequently in conversations with so many people in Kurdistan, the subject is worth analyzing.

Conspiracy theory runs thick in much of the Middle East, including Iraq and Kurdistan. Local and international politics are often seen through the prism of byzantine power plays made by secret puppet masters behind the scenes. In a region where sheiks and kings have been poisoning each other’s couscous for thousands of years, it isn’t hard to see why.

One example is the fall of Sinjar last year. Peshmerga were sent to defend the city where the Yezidi minority group lives against ISIS forces. But as the jihadis advanced on Sinjar, the Pesh abandoned their posts and fled. ISIS laid waste to Sinjar, murdering and raping their way through the city, selling women and girls into sexual slavery, and forcing Yezidi men to convert to Islam and fight with them or face execution. The truth of what really happened in Sinjar is difficult to discern. Depending on who you talk to, there is a conspiracy theory to explain what really happened.