Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Wednesday that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq created the extremist group the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Further foreign military presence, he said, will only create new terrorists.

“If you look at the essence of ISIS, it’s the product of foreign invasion,” Zarif said during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Foreign presence in any territory creates a dynamic for demagogues like ISIS to use the resentment in the population of being occupied.”

He noted that the Islamic State began with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an Islamist leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

“As a principle, we do not believe that injection of foreign forces, either air or ground, solves our problem,” he said, adding that the Islamic State “will not be eradicated through aerial bombardment.” Instead, he said, foreign governments should enable Iraqis to fight against ISIS themselves and should cut off all outside support of ISIS.

“We continue to have serious doubts about the willingness and ability of the U.S. to seriously engage this menace across the board –- and not just pick and choose where to engage,” he said, adding that U.S. actions seem to be based on American constituencies rather than what’s best for the people of Iraq and the surrounding region.

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