I hear many folks talking about the founders of ISIS and they say that USA created it to make chaos in the Arabic countries.

  1. Mark Danner in an episode of Talking Heads by Vice News

    "In effect the United States created ISIS, nothing like it existed before the American occupation. We created it, it's ours, and now we are trying to deal with the consequences."

  2. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech

    These criminal organizations – including al-Qaeda, DAESH and the like – were created with the purpose of pitting us against one another and making nations confront each other.

  3. Donald Trump claimed in a rally that Hillary Clinton and Obama created ISIS:

    “They’ve created Isis. Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama,” Trump said.

Is it true ?

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    @AndrewGrimm Noam chomsky, Donal Trump (current US presidential candidate) and many others working at various Govt positions
    – Alex Jones
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 10:44
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    1) From the extent of the context provided, Danner's comment doesn't seem to mean create in a literal way. It's kind of like saying the Great Depression created Hitler. 2) doesn't say who created IS.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 13:45
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    Danner's use of the word "create" really means "created a situation in which ISIS could arise", or to put it another way, "inadvertently helped to create". Khamenei doesn't say anything about the USA creating those groups, at least in your quote. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 13:51
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    This question's title is the definition of clickbait, no wonder it has 7k views in two days.
    – cat
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 4:43
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    This is actually 2 questions. "Did the US create ISIS" and "Was it deliberate". You may get some increased clarity by specifying which of these questions you want people to focus on.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 1:39

3 Answers 3


Some interpretations of this question are highly opinion-based and can't be answered on this website (try Quora), but others can be factually answered.

  1. Are the leaders of ISIS Americans?
    No, it's run principally by Iraqis and Syrians, and has Muslim supporters from around the world. Wikipedia on sources of support
  2. Did American politicians meet with ISIS?
    No, such images were mislabeled; see this question.
  3. Did Obama claim to be training ISIS?
    No, this was a misstatement.
  4. Are there leaked documents, namely from Edward Snowden, that say that U.S. and Israel conspired to create ISIS?
    No, this is an online hoax.
  5. Did a 2012 United States government document claim that a Salafist state in Syria would be "exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime" and that the creation of such a state is a "possibility"?
  6. Did the CIA route funds and weapons through the Salafist Saudi Arabian government in 2013 to unspecified "rebels" in Syria?
  7. Were the "rebels" that the CIA was funding through Saudi back channels Salafist themselves, or was Saudi Arabia helping to bring moderate democracy to the Middle East? Was the US creating/funding ISIS?
    We have no knowledge of who the US was supporting at the time. We do know that the US government has been continuously bombing ISIS since 2014. (source)
    [updated, October 2016] A leaked memo from Hillary Clinton's email has shown that Saudi Arabia was funding ISIS in 2014, and that the State Department wanted to pressure the Saudi government to stop this. (source)
  8. Has the US government intended to "make chaos in the Arabic countries"?
    It was their open position in 2011-2015 that Assad needed to step down, which included the covert and open training of anti-Assad rebels, (source) but whether this constitutes a desire for "chaos," or if there are more sinister secret motives, is a matter of individual opinion.
  9. An additional point, suggested in the comments: most people would hold the US responsible for the 2003 Iraq War and the mismanagement of the country that followed, in which Islamist groups came to power. Whether this constitutes "creating ISIS" is again a matter of personal opinion.
  10. Also suggested in the comments: ISIS has picked up a lot of weapons and technology left behind by American-backed groups such as the Iraqi army. Amnesty International claims that most of ISIS' weapons were acquired this way (source). Again, it's arguable whether this amounts to "creation", but it can add to a possible case.

In short, we have no damning evidence that the US created ISIS; we have solid information that the US was involved in Syria from an early period, but connecting this to ISIS requires conjecture and opinion-based statements.

This question was edited to include al-Qaeda. The US has been in a relationship with al-Qaeda since its very beginning during the Soviet–Afghan War, and the CIA is currently arming al-Qaeda's allies, but in the long run the relationship has been more antagonistic. We lack evidence that the US had influence over al-Qaeda at the time that ISIS formed and broke off from it.

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    +1 Regarding point 8, I believe there were plenty of statements and (I believe) leaked cables that made it pretty explicit that the chaos and power vacuum that would be left behind was the reason the US and others didn't intervene in Syria like they did in Libya (kinda ironic considering how both turned out...). I don't have sources to hand but I think there's enough for a strong "No" there. Finally, might be worth adding a point 9 addressing the often-made point that ISIS have quite a lot of US-made military equipment (which was of course taken from the retreating Iraqi army in 2014) Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 9:22
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    9. Did interventionist military policy in the area over decades foster anti-Western sentiment and shift the prevailing view of many citizens to form an unprecedented anti-colonial uprising, albeit led by madmen in the form of extremism and under the guise of religious duty? Also a matter of opinion. And almost certainly yes. Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 18:01
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    The examples in the question were added more than 12 hours after I answered it. I'm not a time traveler.
    – Avery
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 2:40
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    @PeterMasiar While Khrushchev governed Ukraine for decade and helped rebuild it after WWII, he and his parents were ethnically Russian. I also take issue with your words "randomly added". Whether or not you believe it was justified, it was transferred to the authority of the Ukrainian SSR with a purpose and for a reason, as outlined in the 1954 announcement "Taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea Province and the Ukrainian SSR, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees…"
    – ghoppe
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 18:53
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    @ghoppe Where do you draw the line? Should Latvia be annexed by Russia too? It was part of Russia from 1710–1917. Do we give parts of Poland back? What makes what happened in 1954 so special that the transfer of governance to Ukraine should be retroactively annulled? You need more than the justification of history, or the stability of a lot of European territory is in peril.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 20:36

It depends on what aspect of the question you are focusing on. Did the USA create ISIS? Largely, yes, they did. Did the USA create ISIS for the purpose of creating chaos? No, not at all. They created ISIS out of sheer incompetence and lack of foresight.

By removing Saddam, the USA created a power vacuum and eliminated a regional power that was working against Islamic Terrorism.[1] To make matters far, far, far worse, they disbanded the Iraqi army. This created a lot of trained fighters who had nowhere to use their skills to earn a living -- outside of joining ISIS. The disbanded army has provided ISIS with some of its best commanders and fighters. [2]

As others have pointed out, as ISIS started to rise, the USA and her allies provided the fledgling terrorist group varying levels of material support. [3]

They ignored warnings, including from top army general Eric Shinseki, that their strategy was inadequate for preventing post-war chaos [4] claiming that, contrary to such warnings based on experience in Bosnia, securing post-war Iraq would require fewer resources than toppling Saddam, which proved to be untrue [5]

tldr They went out of their way create a situation where they knew this could be the result, ignored warnings and experience that indicated it would be the result, helped the situation along, then realized that this 'solution' was worse than the problem.

I don't think anyone can reasonably say that the USA isn't largely responsible for the existence of ISIS. They made a bunch of bad choices, and things snowballed out of control. But to reiterate, the fact that they are bombing ISIS now, shows that this wasn't the planned end goal. It got out of hand.

I'd recommend people actually watch and/or read the argument being made by Mark Danner (and that the OP is asking about). He isn't talking about some 'grand conspiracy' that way people here seem to be assuming and writing answers about.

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    This is totally believable, but unfortunately human nature (and/or the media) is such that someone saying "Yes, we inadvertently caused a series of events that led to <blah>" will get summarized and repeated as "We caused <blah>", which will then, in turn, get interpreted as "We deliberately caused <blah>". So while Mark may not have intended it in the way that people are interpreting it, that doesn't make them start interpreting it differently.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 4:10
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    As another answer has pointed out - the rabbit hole goes even deeper than the Iraq war. Instability and intra-faith rivalry in the region was compounded by the CIA-backed revolution in Iran. The US-backed Mujahideen were a major feed into the Taliban and Al-Qaida and (from there) into IS. None of this was deliberate triangulation toward any kind of caliphate, of course, but it's sad that so few lessons are learned from history.
    – Bob Tway
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 10:08
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    @MattThrower Well, if we learned from history, we would have discredited the very idea of a nation state long ago. Obviously, that's not something the guys controlling those nation states want - and they control most of the education, and have a rather high influence in other things as well, the more socialist the bigger the influence :P Then again, the real lesson from history might as well be "no matter how badly we botched things up in the past, we're still here!" :D
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 23:15
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    "where they knew this would be the result" <- Please make it clear how you know this to be true.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 5:26
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    @Shane please moderate your tone, both in the answer and in the comments. When someone asks for citations they are not attacking you, just pointing out where your answer seems unsupported by evidence. Don't shout them down, add a simple citation that supports your point. I am leaving your tl:dr; for now, but I'd like you to tone it down and add citations so it doesn't look like your opinion. The tone should be neutral.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 23:21

It is true that the US invasion of Iraq favored the creation of ISIL (great explanation) but to trace it's real origin we have to look back further in time, we have to take a look at the Afghanistan war.

United States financed terrorist groups, the Mujahideen, back in Afghanistan 1979 [1] [2] [3] in their "crusade" against USSR communists. Near the end of the Afghanistan war al-Qaeda from which ISIS and Al-Nusra derive, was created. Bin Laden (an Afghan war veteran) together with these Mujahideen fundamentalists joined to create a new organization that vowed to impose their radical sunni (wahhabi) ideology through fear and terror. Not all Mujahideen (synonym for jihadist) combatants engaged in al-Qaeda of course although many did. They contributed to the development of the terrorist organization as they had extensive combat experience, access to high-quality weapons provided by the US and what is worse, they were bigoted sadists who wanted to kill at all costs.

This is a highly recommendable article by Robert F. Kennedy on how the US installed their personal dictators through the CIA in middle east countries like Syria or Jordan to serve their interests. Here is a video of a US general talking about the US plans to take down 7 countries in 5 years (the majority Middle East countries). Here are a couple of great books on the history of the CIA and specially this one on the CIA, Afghanistan war and its consequences. Here is the report [4] made by the UK Parliament on western intervention in Lybia, as you can guess, based on lies.

NOTE: yes, I'm aware some of this references don't exactly relate to the formation of ISIS, but I want you to see the whole picture, it is not possible to understand the formation of this terrorists groups without understanding what has happened in the Middle east during this last 40 years. One has to understand the whole context. I'm also aware that I could develop the post much more, but I really want to encourage you guys to investigate on your own. You don't even have to trust what you just read. That's the reason behind so many and so varied references anyway :)

"FUN FACT": Bin Laden was a US ally back then

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 10:49
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    Once again, the comments are not for discussion - if you wish to debate whether X were Y's or Y's were X's then do so in chat. If you're looking to improve this answer, by all means comment.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 16:43
  • Once again, this answer has been generating comments that have devolved. Please see the chat room. Note: some of the comments that have been moved across do address improvements to the question.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 7:32

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