Election 2016

Who founded ISIS? It's complicated, experts say, but it surely wasn't Obama

SAIS Dean Vali Nasr links rise of Islamic terror group to sectarian conflict in Iraq

Vali Nasr, an expert on Middle East affairs and dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is among the many experts rejecting Donald Trump's recent campaign trail rhetoric about President Barack Obama being the "founder of ISIS."

Donald Trump shrugs at podium at Phoenix rally

Image caption: GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said on several occasions this week that President Obama founded ISIS.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore

Trump, the Republican candidate for president, eagerly repeated the claim on several occasions this week in a renewed effort to connect the Middle East policies of Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—Trump's Democractic opponent—to the rise of terrorism there, and particularly to the emergence of the Islamic State. (Though, on Friday morning, Trump clarified in a tweet that his calling Obama "the founder" of ISIS was intended as SARCASM).

Nasr, who has been critical of Obama's Middle East policies in the past and has written and talked extensively about the circumstances that gave rise to ISIS, is one of several experts who spoke to the Huffington Post about the origins of the Islamic terror group. Their answers to the question of who founded ISIS varied, but none said it was Obama.

Nasr said the rise of the Islamic State could be traced to the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, sparked by the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Sunnis in Iraq were not reconciled to losing power—to the rise of a Shiite government in Iraq," Nasr told The Huffington Post. It was during the insurgency that followed that many Sunnis who went on to join ISIS "honed their ideology and political relevance in the region," he added.

Read more from The Huffington Post