That Iranian commander, Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force, has fully bought into the narrative, the official said. Soleimani, a powerful figure, was deployed by Tehran to help Iraqis coordinate the fight against the Islamic State group.
"I can tell you the Quds force commander believes we are re-supplying Daesh — truly believes it," Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer, deputy commander for Special Operations Command Central, told reporters. Daesh is another name for the Islamic State group.
Beyond one persistent rumor, the issue reflects the US' difficulty producing messaging that counters the narrative and ideology of the Islamic State group, which has proven adept proliferating its message via social media and attracting foreign fighters.
"We have a continuous problem in effectively countering the narrative and consistently struggle in the [information operations] realm," Crytzer said, speaking at the Special Operations Industry Conference on Tuesday. "We need to find solutions that allow us to more effectively contest for the [information operations] battlespace
Crytzer lamented that the Islamic State and its sympathizers have used smartphones and Twitter to respond quickly to events and advance its agenda. For instance, the Islamic State could turn the death of a bomb maker in an accidental explosion into a US attack — "an automatic [propaganda] opportunity for them, and we have nothing to counter it," he said.
To add insult to injury, a group calling itself the Cyber Caliphate embarrassed US Central Command (CENTCOM) when it briefly hacked its Twitter account in January.
In his remarks Tuesday, Crytzer explained that Special Operations Command Central learned through intelligence reports that the motivation for the shots were fired at a US helicopter was the rumor the US was supplying ISIS.
Crytzer called the narrative, "easily believed by many, it's not just the poor and uneducated." "When narratives like that go unchecked, it sets the conditions for bad things to happen like that," he said.
The Iranian news agency Fars carried a report in February that Iraqi popular forces in Al-Anbar shot down a US helicopter carrying weapons for the Islamic State group. The report, mostly sourced to members of the Iranian parliament, cited various examples of Western aid to the Islamic State and claimed Iraqi forces shot down two British planes carrying weapons to the Islamic State group.
"This is a very powerful ideology, this is not going to be easy, and there are true believers, and we've got to get into the fight to counter the message for those who have not been influenced," he said. "It's not going to be easy."
On the panel, Crytzer and other regional officials from Special Operations Command appealed to the industry crowd to produce a technological solution that would help.
"We are just starting to fully realize how much can be scoped from that, and how we can get ahead of the narrative or at least see a trend line starting to develop," Deedrick said.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.