US officials have claimed that Islamic extremists are exploiting their presence in the world’s most populous Muslim country, and that the world needs to take “immediate action” to protect the country.
But as President Donald Trump prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, the administration has issued a series of sweeping statements that appear to back the narrative of a domestic Islamist movement that has threatened the security of the US homeland.
These include claims that the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is exploiting the vacuum in which it has taken refuge in Iraq, using it as a platform to launch attacks in the West.
In the same speech, Trump said that the United States “must take all necessary measures to defend itself and its allies from the threats of foreign terrorist organisations and foreign fighters”.
But it is unclear whether the president actually intends to take steps to counter these threats, or whether he is merely playing a role in the propaganda campaign.
The White House statement, which is available online, was first reported by CNN, and was first published on the White House website.
In it, the president says that the threat of foreign terrorists infiltrating the US and spreading their influence in the region “is real, and it is imminent” and that “this threat must be dealt with with the full force of the law”.
The White Houses national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, says in the statement that the president is “not just talking about foreign terrorists but all those who seek to harm us and to undermine the American way of life”.
“We are a nation that stands united with our allies, and we are not going to tolerate the threat posed by foreign terrorists who seek, and will continue to seek, to harm our nation and its citizens,” he said.
It was not immediately clear if the administration’s response to this threat is more about domestic terrorism or a broader attempt to portray IS as a domestic phenomenon.
But it was unclear if the president had even read the statement.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, a spokesman for Rhodes said the administration was “working to understand the facts” about the threat and “will provide further details as they become available”.
The statement also said the US would take “all necessary measures” to defend against “foreign terrorist organisations” and “foreign fighters”.
The president’s remarks come after the Obama administration was forced to withdraw its forces from Iraq following the IS advance on Mosul, and months after US troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
The new president, however, has been more forthcoming about his intentions in addressing the Congress.
The president has also been speaking to leaders of the world community in recent weeks, but has also made it clear that he does not intend to use the threat from IS to justify the US withdrawal from Iraq.
The Trump administration has also repeatedly dismissed the idea that the IS threat is a “false flag” attack designed to destabilise the region.
In October, Trump appeared to contradict his predecessor when he said that there was “no evidence” to suggest that IS is planning to target the United Nations or other targets in the US.
But he also said that his administration was working to “take all necessary steps to defend ourselves and our allies” from the threat.
On Wednesday, Trump claimed that the “real threat” was the “lone wolf” attacks that were occurring in the United Kingdom, but also said it was “highly unlikely” that IS would target a US diplomatic facility.
“This is a real threat, and there is a very good chance that our diplomats are in the right place at the right time, and they will not be in danger,” he told a news conference.
The statement by Rhodes said that “the President’s comments were intended to highlight the threat we face in the Middle East and that we are working to address it”.
In response to a question from a journalist, Rhodes said: “The president is not talking about a foreign terrorist organisation.
This is a threat to the United State, the United Nation and our partners.”
Trump has previously claimed that IS has used its presence in Iraq to recruit foreign fighters and that it has killed US and British soldiers.
In January, the US Army revealed that more than 3,000 foreign fighters were in Iraq at the time, mainly from Syria.
It also said there were reports of IS fighters being deployed by Iraqi government forces in Mosul, which the US-led coalition has been pushing to recapture from IS for more than a year.
In an interview with ABC News in February, Trump also claimed that there were “many thousands” of IS sympathisers in the country, despite the Pentagon’s claims that there are no foreign fighters in Iraq.