For nearly two years, U.S. airstrikes, military advisers and weapons shipments have helped Iraqi forces roll back the Islamic State group. The U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 5,000 airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq at a total cost of $7 billion since August 2014, including operations in Syria. On Tuesday a U.S. Navy SEAL was the third serviceman to die fighting IS in Iraq.
But many Iraqis still aren’t convinced the Americans are on their side.
Government-allied Shiite militiamen on the front-lines post videos of U.S. supplies purportedly seized from IS militants or found in areas liberated from the extremist group. Newspapers and TV networks repeat conspiracy theories that the U.S. created the jihadi group to sow chaos in the region in order to seize its oil.
Despite spending more than $10 million on public outreach in Iraq last year, the U.S. government appears to have made little headway in dispelling such rumors. An unscientific survey by the State Department of Iraqi residents last year found that 40 percent believe that U.S. policy is working to “destabilize Iraq and control its natural resources,” and a third believe America “supports terrorism in general and (IS) specifically.”
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