- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2016

Despite the U.S. spending billions of dollars and sending American troops to counter terrorist groups in the Middle East for more than a decade, one-third of Iraqis say the U.S. supports terrorism, according to a recent report from the State Department.

“Recent Department polling shows that about 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 ISIL specifically,” the report said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.

The report, released last week by the State Department’s inspector general, cited date from October to November of 2015, and aimed to determine how well the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is working to expose “true nature” of the Islamic State.

While the inspector general found that the embassy was working diligently to counter the extremist group’s messaging, the White House’s directive didn’t land the way it was intended with the Iraqis.

According to the report, most Iraqis are “keenly aware of ISIL’s true nature,” and polling showed that “nearly all Iraqis have unfavorable views of ISIL and oppose its goals and tactics with no significant variation across religious sects and ethnic group.”

But the report also found that Iraqis also held increasingly negative views of the U.S. as well.

“The U.S. image among Iraqis has fallen from 38 percent favorable in December 2014 to 18 percent in August 2015,” the report said.

The drop is greater among Sunni Arabs, from 54 percent down to 10 percent, according to the report.

Iraqi support for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State has also dropped rapidly. About half of Iraqi Sunnis and Shia now say that they completely oppose the coalition. Opposition among the Kurds has remained low and stable, at about 6 percent.

However, the surveys cited in the report came before a series of recent, significant victories for the coalition against the Islamic State, which could alter public opinion of the U.S. campaign.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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