The ISIS Files: 11 Daesh conspiracy theories, from probable to impossible

Published March 23rd, 2015 - 16:38 GMT

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As international headlines documenting the horrors of Daesh (ISIS) amass, so do alternative theories about the group’s shady origins.

Almost a year after Daesh’s initial onslaught in northern Iraq shocked the world, most analysts have boiled down the group’s terrifying evolution to al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Before being killed outside Baghdad by US drone strike in 2006, the Jordanian jihadist formed the branch al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later evolved into Daesh after being rejected from the parent group over ideological differences. Continue reading below »

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THE US: Some claim the US created Daesh to destabilize the Middle East and dethrone the Syrian regime. Softer theories suggest the US didn’t stop Daesh when it could have because American stakeholders needed another war to thrive economically. Regardless, theories surrounding this global power are by far the most popular. (Source: Cagle.com)
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Image 1 of 11:  1 / 11THE US: Some claim the US created Daesh to destabilize the Middle East and dethrone the Syrian regime. Softer theories suggest the US didn’t stop Daesh when it could have because American stakeholders needed another war to thrive economically. Regardless, theories surrounding this global power are by far the most popular. (Source: Cagle.com)

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ISRAEL'S INVOLVEMENT: A widely held theory is that respective intelligence agencies of Israel, Britain and the US formed Daesh together. People say the idea is supported by NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden that suggest Daesh leader al-Baghdadi was a CIA asset. Iranian officials have also claimed the group is a Zionist plot. (Source: ABNA.ir)
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Image 2 of 11:  2 / 11ISRAEL'S INVOLVEMENT: A widely held theory is that respective intelligence agencies of Israel, Britain and the US formed Daesh together. People say the idea is supported by NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden that suggest Daesh leader al-Baghdadi was a CIA asset. Iranian officials have also claimed the group is a Zionist plot. (Source: ABNA.ir)

Enlarge
SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Some say Assad created Daesh to make the regime gain appeal. Theorists say Daesh has never actually clashed with the Syrian army, and Assad allegedly released high-profile Islamist prisoners at the start of the uprising to destabilize the effort. (Source: Latuff Cartoons)
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Image 3 of 11:  3 / 11SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Some say Assad created Daesh to make the regime gain appeal. Theorists say Daesh has never actually clashed with the Syrian army, and Assad allegedly released high-profile Islamist prisoners at the start of the uprising to destabilize the effort. (Source: Latuff Cartoons)

Enlarge
ARABS: Others believe Daesh was formed and equipped by Arab countries to eliminate the Syrian regime, but the nations failed to control the group. The extremists were supported with weapons and money but later made a deal with the regime, giving Assad control over oil sources in northern Syria. (Source: Arend van Dam)
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Image 4 of 11:  4 / 11ARABS: Others believe Daesh was formed and equipped by Arab countries to eliminate the Syrian regime, but the nations failed to control the group. The extremists were supported with weapons and money but later made a deal with the regime, giving Assad control over oil sources in northern Syria. (Source: Arend van Dam)

Enlarge
THE DAESH LEADER: Street whispers and Twitter buzz sometimes suggest Daesh caliph leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi never even existed, pouring through conceived errors in video-recorded speeches of his and questioning how the elusive leader is almost never seen.
Reduce

Image 5 of 11:  5 / 11THE DAESH LEADER: Street whispers and Twitter buzz sometimes suggest Daesh caliph leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi never even existed, pouring through conceived errors in video-recorded speeches of his and questioning how the elusive leader is almost never seen.

Enlarge
FAKE VIDEOS: Some believe the cinematic, surreal environment in the propaganda footage shows Daesh staged the brutal executions using actors (even claiming the mourning parents were a performance). Most observers just think the videos look surreal because of the way Daesh edited them.
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Image 6 of 11:  6 / 11FAKE VIDEOS: Some believe the cinematic, surreal environment in the propaganda footage shows Daesh staged the brutal executions using actors (even claiming the mourning parents were a performance). Most observers just think the videos look surreal because of the way Daesh edited them.

Enlarge
KASASBEH'S PLANE: Rumors circulated after Muath al-Kasasbeh’s grisly execution video that Jordan shot down his aircraft so the country could gain support for the anti-Daesh coalition. Other versions of the story say the UAE female pilot shot down his plane on accident. (Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group)
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Image 7 of 11:  7 / 11KASASBEH'S PLANE: Rumors circulated after Muath al-Kasasbeh’s grisly execution video that Jordan shot down his aircraft so the country could gain support for the anti-Daesh coalition. Other versions of the story say the UAE female pilot shot down his plane on accident. (Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group)

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US DAESH ARRESTS: The US right wing has its own set of theories. Specifically, radio host Rush Limbaugh says the arrests on three Daesh suspects in New York were just a distraction for US President Barack Obama to push his political agenda forward. Limbaugh suggests Daesh’s presence to be perfectly timed to added gun restrictions. (AFP/File)
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Image 8 of 11:  8 / 11US DAESH ARRESTS: The US right wing has its own set of theories. Specifically, radio host Rush Limbaugh says the arrests on three Daesh suspects in New York were just a distraction for US President Barack Obama to push his political agenda forward. Limbaugh suggests Daesh’s presence to be perfectly timed to added gun restrictions. (AFP/File)

Enlarge
THE ILLUMINATI: Isis, an Egyptian goddess of nature and magic, became a figure for the Enlightenment-era secret society. Some think this is no coincidence. The Freemasons believe in one supreme God and, while they don’t advocate a specific faith, hold a high dependence to religion.
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Image 9 of 11:  9 / 11THE ILLUMINATI: Isis, an Egyptian goddess of nature and magic, became a figure for the Enlightenment-era secret society. Some think this is no coincidence. The Freemasons believe in one supreme God and, while they don’t advocate a specific faith, hold a high dependence to religion.

Enlarge
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Despite their open condemnation of Daesh antics, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood members have been accused of creating fertile ground for their beliefs. The group was initially influenced by al-Qaeda leaders, who are said to have aligned with Brotherhood ideals before a split. (Source: Cagle.com)
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Image 10 of 11:  10 / 11THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Despite their open condemnation of Daesh antics, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood members have been accused of creating fertile ground for their beliefs. The group was initially influenced by al-Qaeda leaders, who are said to have aligned with Brotherhood ideals before a split. (Source: Cagle.com)

Enlarge
SNOWDEN'S HELP: A US Conservative activist says Daesh rose to power only after Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents, providing the group with classified information and helping the militants take control. The Republican thinks Russia plays into Daesh’s advance as well, by feeding them information. (Screenshot: Twitter)
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Image 11 of 11:  11 / 11SNOWDEN'S HELP: A US Conservative activist says Daesh rose to power only after Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents, providing the group with classified information and helping the militants take control. The Republican thinks Russia plays into Daesh’s advance as well, by feeding them information. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Enlarge

1

THE US: Some claim the US created Daesh to destabilize the Middle East and dethrone the Syrian regime. Softer theories suggest the US didn’t stop Daesh when it could have because American stakeholders needed another war to thrive economically. Regardless, theories surrounding this global power are by far the most popular. (Source: Cagle.com)

Image 1 of 11THE US: Some claim the US created Daesh to destabilize the Middle East and dethrone the Syrian regime. Softer theories suggest the US didn’t stop Daesh when it could have because American stakeholders needed another war to thrive economically. Regardless, theories surrounding this global power are by far the most popular. (Source: Cagle.com)

2

ISRAEL'S INVOLVEMENT: A widely held theory is that respective intelligence agencies of Israel, Britain and the US formed Daesh together. People say the idea is supported by NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden that suggest Daesh leader al-Baghdadi was a CIA asset. Iranian officials have also claimed the group is a Zionist plot. (Source: ABNA.ir)

Image 2 of 11ISRAEL'S INVOLVEMENT: A widely held theory is that respective intelligence agencies of Israel, Britain and the US formed Daesh together. People say the idea is supported by NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden that suggest Daesh leader al-Baghdadi was a CIA asset. Iranian officials have also claimed the group is a Zionist plot. (Source: ABNA.ir)

3

SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Some say Assad created Daesh to make the regime gain appeal. Theorists say Daesh has never actually clashed with the Syrian army, and Assad allegedly released high-profile Islamist prisoners at the start of the uprising to destabilize the effort. (Source: Latuff Cartoons)

Image 3 of 11SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Some say Assad created Daesh to make the regime gain appeal. Theorists say Daesh has never actually clashed with the Syrian army, and Assad allegedly released high-profile Islamist prisoners at the start of the uprising to destabilize the effort. (Source: Latuff Cartoons)

4

ARABS: Others believe Daesh was formed and equipped by Arab countries to eliminate the Syrian regime, but the nations failed to control the group. The extremists were supported with weapons and money but later made a deal with the regime, giving Assad control over oil sources in northern Syria. (Source: Arend van Dam)

Image 4 of 11ARABS: Others believe Daesh was formed and equipped by Arab countries to eliminate the Syrian regime, but the nations failed to control the group. The extremists were supported with weapons and money but later made a deal with the regime, giving Assad control over oil sources in northern Syria. (Source: Arend van Dam)

5

THE DAESH LEADER: Street whispers and Twitter buzz sometimes suggest Daesh caliph leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi never even existed, pouring through conceived errors in video-recorded speeches of his and questioning how the elusive leader is almost never seen.

Image 5 of 11THE DAESH LEADER: Street whispers and Twitter buzz sometimes suggest Daesh caliph leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi never even existed, pouring through conceived errors in video-recorded speeches of his and questioning how the elusive leader is almost never seen.

6

FAKE VIDEOS: Some believe the cinematic, surreal environment in the propaganda footage shows Daesh staged the brutal executions using actors (even claiming the mourning parents were a performance). Most observers just think the videos look surreal because of the way Daesh edited them.

Image 6 of 11FAKE VIDEOS: Some believe the cinematic, surreal environment in the propaganda footage shows Daesh staged the brutal executions using actors (even claiming the mourning parents were a performance). Most observers just think the videos look surreal because of the way Daesh edited them.

7

KASASBEH'S PLANE: Rumors circulated after Muath al-Kasasbeh’s grisly execution video that Jordan shot down his aircraft so the country could gain support for the anti-Daesh coalition. Other versions of the story say the UAE female pilot shot down his plane on accident. (Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group)

Image 7 of 11KASASBEH'S PLANE: Rumors circulated after Muath al-Kasasbeh’s grisly execution video that Jordan shot down his aircraft so the country could gain support for the anti-Daesh coalition. Other versions of the story say the UAE female pilot shot down his plane on accident. (Source: Northeast Ohio Media Group)

8

US DAESH ARRESTS: The US right wing has its own set of theories. Specifically, radio host Rush Limbaugh says the arrests on three Daesh suspects in New York were just a distraction for US President Barack Obama to push his political agenda forward. Limbaugh suggests Daesh’s presence to be perfectly timed to added gun restrictions. (AFP/File)

Image 8 of 11US DAESH ARRESTS: The US right wing has its own set of theories. Specifically, radio host Rush Limbaugh says the arrests on three Daesh suspects in New York were just a distraction for US President Barack Obama to push his political agenda forward. Limbaugh suggests Daesh’s presence to be perfectly timed to added gun restrictions. (AFP/File)

9

THE ILLUMINATI: Isis, an Egyptian goddess of nature and magic, became a figure for the Enlightenment-era secret society. Some think this is no coincidence. The Freemasons believe in one supreme God and, while they don’t advocate a specific faith, hold a high dependence to religion.

Image 9 of 11THE ILLUMINATI: Isis, an Egyptian goddess of nature and magic, became a figure for the Enlightenment-era secret society. Some think this is no coincidence. The Freemasons believe in one supreme God and, while they don’t advocate a specific faith, hold a high dependence to religion.

10

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Despite their open condemnation of Daesh antics, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood members have been accused of creating fertile ground for their beliefs. The group was initially influenced by al-Qaeda leaders, who are said to have aligned with Brotherhood ideals before a split. (Source: Cagle.com)

Image 10 of 11THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Despite their open condemnation of Daesh antics, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood members have been accused of creating fertile ground for their beliefs. The group was initially influenced by al-Qaeda leaders, who are said to have aligned with Brotherhood ideals before a split. (Source: Cagle.com)

11

SNOWDEN'S HELP: A US Conservative activist says Daesh rose to power only after Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents, providing the group with classified information and helping the militants take control. The Republican thinks Russia plays into Daesh’s advance as well, by feeding them information. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Image 11 of 11SNOWDEN'S HELP: A US Conservative activist says Daesh rose to power only after Edward Snowden leaked NSA documents, providing the group with classified information and helping the militants take control. The Republican thinks Russia plays into Daesh’s advance as well, by feeding them information. (Screenshot: Twitter)

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This is the timeline major news organizations rely on, but like any terrifying thing that’s shrouded in unanswered questions, plenty of conspiracies have emerged.

From their sleek execution videos, to their relationship to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, skeptics span the Internet questioning every aspect of the extremist group’s dealings.

Our roundup ranges from full-blown conspiracies on social media, to carefully considered origin theories outlined in op-eds and reportings. Take a look at some of the alternative buzz around Daesh today.

Views expressed by theorists and the illustrators are their own and do not reflect Al Bawaba's policy.

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