POLITICS

One-Third Of Iraqis Believe America Supports Terrorism

A U.S. State Department report found that the United States' popularity in Iraq has plummeted over the course of a year.

Nearly 1 in 3 Iraqis believe that America supports terrorism overseas.

It's just one of a handful of damning poll numbers showing waning United States-Iraqi relations as part of a U.S. State Department Inspector General's Office evaluation of the American embassy in Baghdad.

The report, released online last week, used data compiled between October and November of last year. It found that 40 percent of Iraqis believe that the U.S. is "working to destabilize Iraq and control its natural resources." Nearly one-third "believe that America supports terrorism in general or the Islamic State in Iraq."

The numbers mean the American embassy in Baghdad has a lot of work to do in terms of improving diplomatic relations. America's popularity has plummeted since it reentered the country in 2014 to help Iraq battle the self-described Islamic State. The report states that the "Iraqi public [is] already keenly aware of ISIL’s (also called ISIS) true nature" and, at the same time, Iraqis' image of the U.S. has "fallen from 38 percent favorable in December 2014 to 18 percent in August 2015."

The State Department blames "active disinformation campaigns," supported by Iraqi media, on what experts are calling "conspiracy theories."

The disillusionment is coming from those who believe the U.S. created ISIS to get at Iraqi oil and others who believe America shows too much support for Sunni Muslims through its support for the inclusive Iraqi government, John Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told ABC News.

"So if you put those two groups together … that gets you to 33 percent real quick,” Alterman said. “What they see is the U.S. government saying ‘Stay open to the Sunnis’ and the U.S. government keeps talking about having more troops in Iraq. There are people who argue ... that means the U.S. is creating this environment to serve its own interests."

The U.S. military now has about 5,000 soldiers in Iraq, a number that is expected to grow, according to the Washington Post. White House officials reportedly see a need to support Iraqi forces more and more, but the new report finds that the military’s presence is being met by little fanfare.

It's not yet clear how -- or if -- the current Iraqi mindset can be changed, at least by the embassy. The report out of the State Department found that the embassy "operates without formal strategic planning and goals," and recommends that it incorporate more public diplomacy into its strategy.

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