Jeb Bush blames Obama for chaos in Middle East, vows tougher stance
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULAug 13, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Aug 13, 2015 12:00 am
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Tuesday that the U.S. may need to send more ground troops into Iraq to defeat ISIS militants, but he stopped short of saying how many, as he outlined his strategy for combating a threat that's "spreading like a pandemic." In the first major foreign policy speech of his White House bid, Bush sharply criticized Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and accused the Democratic front-runner and President Barack Obama of allowing the militant group to take hold in the Middle East.
Iraq is a tricky topic for Bush, given the dismay many Americans still feel over the rationale for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ordered by his brother, former President George W. Bush, in 2003. Mindful of those concerns, Jeb Bush used the bulk of a speech at the Ronald Reagan presidential library not to dwell on the past but to sketch out a future path for the United States in the region that is more muscular than what he called President Barack Obama's "minimalist approach of incremental escalation."
He said he would deploy some U.S. forces in Iraq as forward "spotters" to help identify enemy targets, a step President Barack Obama has resisted out of concern that it could deepen American involvement in Iraq and Syria. Bush said he would be willing to consider a small increase in U.S. troops beyond those already there and embed some U.S. forces with Iraqi units as Canadian forces are doing. "Right now, we have around 3,500 soldiers and marines in Iraq, and more may well be needed. We do not need, and our friends do not ask for, a major commitment of American combat forces," he said. He would provide more support to anti-ISIS Kurds, and work with regional allies to declare a no-fly zone in Syria to counter Syrian President Assad's forces and Iranian influence.
Bush's criticism of Clinton's role in the events leading up to the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces is in line with what other Republicans have contended, that for all her travels around the world as Obama's first-term secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, she showed a disdain for going to Iraq. "In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once," Bush said. The attack comes after weeks in which the Republican race has been dominated by Donald Trump's antics, which have taken the spotlight away from the serious policy issues debated by Bush and his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. Bush is attempting to pierce what the Clinton camp feels is a major selling point for her candidacy for the Democratic nomination, that she is a foreign policy heavyweight. In doing so, he seeks to present himself to Republican voters as a sturdy opponent for Clinton in 2016.
Bush said that a President Bush-ordered U.S. troop surge in 2007 brought stability that would have been extended if Obama had negotiated a U.S. residual force for Iraq. The Obama administration was unable to negotiate a deal with the then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the last troops were brought home in 2011. "ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat," he said. "And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?" Answering his own question, he said Clinton "stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away."
In response, the Clinton campaign held a conference call for reporters with her foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan. Sullivan defended Clinton, saying she had accomplished a successful transition from a U.S. military footprint in Iraq to a civilian one. "The key issue is not how many times does the plane touch down at the airport. It's how intensive and effective is the engagement that leads to progress," Sullivan said. He said Jeb Bush was attempting to "rewrite history," and that George W. Bush had set the 2011 date for a U.S. withdrawal. Several other Republican candidates have criticized Obama's actions and called generally for a more aggressive U.S. posture against ISIS.