White House press secretary Josh Earnest blamed former President George W. Bush for the presence of the Islamic State group in Iraq, highlighting the militant group’s tie to Al Qaeda.
Earnest was responding to a rare bit of public criticism from Bush, who told told Republican Jewish donors Saturday: “Just remember the guy who slit Danny Pearl’s throat is in Gitmo.
“Now [the Islamic State is] doing it on TV.”
Earnest said it’s not surprising there are foreign policy differences between the current president and his predecessor.
“There are links between Al Qaeda in Iraq and ISIL,” Earnest said. “The fact is that Al Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to President Bush’s decision to commit significant American resources on the ground in that country. That is a historical fact. ”
“But again, the fact that President Bush has a different perspective and a different philosophy when it comes to foreign policy isn’t just a well-known difference,” Earnest continued. “In the minds of many people it’s the principle reason President Obama is in the Oval Office.”
During his weekend remarks, Bush also reportedly criticized the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran.
“You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren,” Bush said. “That’s how Americans should view the deal.”
Speaking broadly about to a question about whether Bush violated his policy of not criticizing Obama, Earnest said that Bush did not give up his right to comment freely on public policy.