HUFFINGTON POST
09/19/2014 04:51 pm ET

NYT Reporter Thomas Erdbrink: Iranians Belive Americans Created ISIS To 'Divide' Muslims

Despite ongoing American airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, many Iranians believe the United States played a part in the inception of the organization.

The New York Times' Tehran bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink joined HuffPost Live to discuss his recent piece for the paper. In the story, Erdbrink explains that Iranian leaders have argued for a long time that the U.S. is responsible for the creation of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.

“Normally Iranians don’t really believe in these sort of conspiracies, but this one is very, very widely carried, and people widely, broadly agree that this is actually the truth,” Erdbrink told host Alyona Minkovski. “And it goes from rich people to poor people, they all say, ‘ISIS is U.S.’”

As a foreigner in Iran, Erdbrink said he is often stopped by passersby in public and questioned about the true origins of the organization.

“They all get back to the same thing. They say, ‘You should know ... especially [because] you’re a reporter, that ISIS is an American invention. It’s created by the Central Intelligence Agency in order to divide the region, in order to divide Muslims against each other and in order to make the region weak,’” he explained.

Iranians' fixation on the Islamic State militants largely stems from the group's persecution of Shiite Muslims.

“Iranian people are obsessed with ISIS, and they are even more worried about ISIS than maybe others in the West, because ISIS is so anti-Shiite,” Erdbrink said. “In Iran, the Muslims are Shia Muslims, and ISIS is an extremist Sunni group that, on several occasions, has said that it’s their goal to destroy the Iranian state. It is their goal to actually sort of commit a genocide on the Shiites.”

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