A senior Israeli Arab leader accused Israel of secretly creating the Islamic State terror group along with the US in order to sow discord in the Arab world.
Muhammad Zidan, head of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel — an umbrella organization representing Arab civil society and municipal politicians — said Friday that “the Israeli Shin Bet and the US are the ones who invented IS in order to create new divisions in the Arab world and the region which will serve them.”
“The question asked here is: Who provides IS with weapons? Who stands behind them financially? The answer is clear: The US supports IS in order to ease its takeover of the region,” he said.
Zidan was speaking at a gathering in Nazareth of the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, attended by thousands of people. The leader of the branch, Sheikh Raed Salah, spoke against IS and its actions at the event, but said he opposed the US-lead coalition to defeat the group which “in my opinion represents a danger to the Arab world.”
While some attendees appeared to buy into the conspiracy theories, others welcomed American intervention. One, Iyad Mahmid, told Ynet he hoped the US would wage war on the group.
“We don’t want [empty] promises,” he said. “If IS is not destroyed, we will have a big problem.”
US warplanes have launched 158 strikes in Iraq over the past five weeks while emphasizing a relatively narrow set of targets. The focus has been Obama’s initial goal of defending US personnel, protecting critical infrastructure such as major dams and enabling humanitarian relief operations.
But the Pentagon said Friday that the air campaign in Iraq, which began August 8, will enter a new, more aggressive phase designed to exploit the Islamic State group’s vulnerabilities. Meanwhile US forces were also gearing up for airstrikes in Syria, with US planes and drones beginning to gather intelligence on targets and air defense threats in preparation for attacks there.
The US is assembling a broad international coalition to fight the terror group, and US Secretary of State John Kerry has said as many as 40 countries have offered various levels of support — from humanitarian aid to cracking down on illicit cross-border funding and fighters that are flowing to the insurgents — to providing intelligence and supplies to rebels in Syria and security forces in Iraq.
The potential military campaign that the new coalition is planning is likely to include training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels and Iraqi forces, providing intelligence to rebels in Syria and expanding airstrikes against extremists in the region.