Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa

Republicans debate Iraq war at major Iowa gathering for 2016

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, IowaBy Steve Holland DES MOINES (Reuters) – A debate over the Iraq war triggered by Jeb Bush’s wobbly response to questions about it spilled into a major gathering of Republican 2016 U.S. presidential hopefuls on Saturday, reflecting divisions about whether the conflict was worthwhile. The forum sponsored by the Iowa Republican Party was the biggest gathering of 2016 rivals in Iowa to date as the presidential race picks up speed in the state that early next year holds the first nominating contest on the road to the election in November. The threat posed by Islamic State militants who have taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria was a dominant theme on a day U.S. officials said a raid by U.S. commandos in Syria had killed a top leader of the militancy. Former President George W. Bush, who launched a U.S.-led invasion in Iraq in 2003, was defended by his brother, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is likely to join an array of politicians vying for the Republican nomination.

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