Clinton aide hits back against Jeb on Iraq
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A senior policy aide for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report A question for Robert Mueller MORE on Tuesday accused former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of making a “bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility” on the Middle East.
 
Bush is expected to link Clinton to the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a speech later Tuesday.
 
“It’s curious that Gov. Bush is choosing Iraq as the place he wants to engage the foreign policy debate,” Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s senior policy adviser, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
 
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“We’ve seen similar things from other Republican candidates — they cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here. They might hope we all forget but the American people remember.”
 
Sullivan accused the administration of George W. Bush, Jeb’s brother, of sending in too few troops, pushing out Sunnis that later became radicalized and adding to Iranian influence within the Iraqi government. 
 
He added that Bush, not President Obama, set the withdrawal date for U.S. forces in Iraq.
 
“It’s simply wrong to assert that ISIS arose from the vacuum after American troops left,” he said.
 
“ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, and where did AQI come from? It didn’t exist before the invasion. It emerged in no small part as a result of President Bush’s failed strategy, and it gained strength by signing up former Sunni military officers, officers from the very army the Bush administration disbanded.”
 
The comments from Sullivan, who previously served as a key Clinton aide during her time as secretary of State, came just hours before Bush’s speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
 
Bush will accuse the Obama administration, in which Clinton played a key part, of a “premature withdrawal” that served as the “fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill,” according to excerpts released by the campaign.
 
He’ll link Clinton to Obama, arguing that both “stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”
 
Sullivan also defended Clinton from another assertion Bush will make Tuesday night: that Clinton didn’t spend enough time on the ground in the country while at State.
 
Bush plans to criticize Clinton by noting that “in all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once."
 
Allie Brandenburger, Bush's spokeswoman, sent reporters a transcript of a 2009 town hall meeting Clinton held in Iraq, where she promised to hold another meeting when she returned. The campaign noted that she never did go back to the country after that trip. 
 
“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, arguing that Clinton worked toward America’s interest in the country in a variety of other ways.
 
“She is proud of the work she did and very proud of the work that her team did.”
 
This story was updated 6:12 p.m.