A Bush Has a New Theory on Who Lost Iraq

Jeb Bush had the effrontery or the obtuseness (I like to think the latter) to accuse the Obama administration (read Hillary Clinton) of turning a blind eye to the spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a speech on August 11, Mr. Bush said, "ISIS grew while the U.S. disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat."

It is useful to recall where ISIS (or Islamic State as it is now known) came from. It grew out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), whose initial leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was killed in a targeted American airstrike on June 7, 2006. The fact that the U.S. took down Zarqawi would indicate that the U.S. was opposed to AQI from the outset and was not indifferent to its spread throughout the region, as Jeb Bush and others have claimed.

AQI, the forerunner of ISIS, was the only external Jihadi group recognized as a part of al Qaeda by Osama bin Laden. However, as the correspondence seized at Abbottabad shows, bin Laden became disappointed with Zarqawi due to his indiscriminate killings of fellow Muslims, i.e. Shiites.

When recently queried, Jeb Bush initially said he would have done the same as his brother George W did in invading Iraq in 2003. The invasion upended the centuries-old Sunni dominance in Iraq, leading eventually to a Sunni backlash, embodied in AQI and its successor, ISIS. Despite its appalling brutality, many Sunnis even today regard ISIS as a bulwark against the "Shiite arc" of Tehran, Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah. That is why, despite the calls for an effective anti-ISIS alliance of Jordan, Turkey, the Kurds, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the U.S., it has not been easy to put together an active force.

Though no U.S. commentators have stated that the U.S. government actively aided ISIS and other Jihadi groups, it is worthwhile stating -- at least to my knowledge -- that no Arab Jihadis have received American aid. Some confusion may have arisen from the fact that on the Afghan side it is a different story. Two groups from the half-dozen Mujahidin elements that received American/Saudi aid through Pakistani intelligence in the 1980s in the uprising against the Soviet occupation are now engaged in anti-American actions in Afghanistan: the Hekmatyar group and the Haqqani network, particularly the latter.