TIME Iraq

Iraqi Troops Repel ISIS Attack on Anbar Town

Arriving from Baghdad, federal police forces create a barricade to protect the Habaniyah military base near Ramadi, Iraq, in eastern Husaybah town, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Ramadi
AP Arriving from Baghdad, federal police forces create a barricade to protect the Habaniyah military base near Ramadi, Iraq, in eastern Husaybah town, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Ramadi on May 18, 2015.

The militants launched an attack shortly before midnight to try and capture the town of Khaldiya

(BAGHDAD)—Iraqi forces and allied Sunni tribesmen repelled an Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) attack overnight on a town between two militant-held cities in the western Anbar province, a tribal leader said Tuesday.

The militants launched an attack shortly before midnight to try and capture the town of Khaldiya, which is between Fallujah and the provincial capital of Ramadi, Sheikh Rafie al-Fahdawi said.

He said the militants captured a small village outside Khaldiya. He said no troops or tribal fighters were killed in the clashes.

ISIS militants routed Iraqi troops and seized Ramadi over the weekend in their most significant advance since a U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes against the extremists last summer.

The latest advance prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to order Shiite militias to prepare to go into the restive Sunni province following a request from the local government and some tribes.

The paramilitary forces, known as Popular Mobilization Units, played a major role in dislodging IS militants from the northern city of Tikrit last month and rolling back the extremists elsewhere in the country.

But rights groups have accused the militiamen of carrying out revenge attacks against Sunnis and of looting and destroying property. Militia leaders have denied the allegations.

On Monday, the ISIS militants searched door-to-door for policemen and pro-government fighters in Ramadi and threw bodies in the Euphrates River in a bloody purge. Officials put the number of people killed since Friday at least 500, including civilians and security forces.

TIME Iraq

Why ISIS Can Still Defeat the Iraqi Army in Spite of U.S. Help

Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 70 miles west of Baghdad on May 17, 2015.
AP Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 70 miles west of Baghdad on May 17, 2015.

American air strikes cannot compensate for divisions and distrust between the Shi'ite majority and Sunni minority

The U.S.-led coalition pounded the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) over the weekend near the Iraqi city of Ramadi but that didn’t stop them from taking the city.

On Sunday videos appeared that seemed to show Iraqi soldiers clinging to the sides of vehicles speeding out of Ramadi as ISIS moved in. The black flag of ISIS now flies over the capital of Anbar, one of Iraq’s largest provinces.

“ISIS is still a very potent force,” says Kenneth M. Pollack, a specialist in Middle East political-military affairs and a former CIA analyst.

It’s a clear sign that Iraq’s national forces aren’t ready to take on ISIS despite U.S. training and support and that Sunnis still have little faith in the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad. The government has now called on the Shi’ite militias to help re-take Ramadi, which could further alienate Sunnis in the city, if the militias harm local people.

“The central government is accountable and is responsible for the ISIS occupation of [Ramadi] because they did not answer our demands,” says Suleiman al-Kubaisi, a spokesperson for Anbar’s provincial council. “They did not send reinforcements — neither ammunition or weapons.”

Ramadi and Anbar province was a battleground between 2003 and 2006 as the Sunnis including al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of ISIS, took on U.S.-led coalition forces.

After Iraqi forces, flanked with thousands of mostly Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia retook the city of Tikrit from ISIS in March, it seemed like a turning point in the war against ISIS.

“Tirkit was not like Stalingrad,” says Pollack. He says the U.S. needs to make a greater investment in Iraqi ground operations. “We knew all along this was not a war that could be won with air power alone.”

Since Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi took over from Nuri al-Maliki last year, he has been promising reforms for the disaffected Sunni population, but little has changed. “We are waiting, and as we were waiting, Ramadi fell,” says Alaa Makki, a former Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament and senior advisor to the government.

Key to defeating ISIS is getting Iraqi Sunnis to fight with government, but Baghdad has not persuaded them that they are serious. “You’ve got to show the Sunnis that the future of Iraq — the one that they are fighting for — is one that to them is going to be worth fighting for,” says Pollack.

While billions of dollars have been put into military operations against ISIS, little has been invested in political change that could end the sense of marginalization felt by Sunnis and in turn, possibly unite them against ISIS. “There should be real reconciliation among the Iraqis… whatever we bring in forces and weapons won’t matter without a political agreement,” says Makki. “If they continue like this, it’s likely that Baghdad could fall.”

TIME Iraq

Key Iraqi City of Ramadi Falls to ISIS

Displaced Iraqis from Ramadi rest before crossing the Bzebiz bridge after spending the night walking towards Baghdad, as they flee their hometown on May 16, 2015.
Hadi Mizban—AP Displaced Iraqis from Ramadi rest before crossing the Bzebiz bridge after spending the night walking towards Baghdad, as they flee their hometown on May 16, 2015.

The militant group seized control of the city on Sunday

(BAGHDAD) — The Islamic State group seized control of the city of Ramadi on Sunday, sending Iraqi forces racing out of the city in a major loss despite the support of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the extremists.

Online video showed Humvees, trucks and other equipment purportedly speeding out of Ramadi, with some soldiers gripping onto their sides. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered security forces not to abandon their posts across Anbar province, apparently fearing the extremists could capture the entirety of the vast Sunni province that saw intense fighting after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country to topple dictator Saddam Hussein.

The retreat recalled the collapse of Iraqi police and military forces last summer, when the Islamic State group’s initial blitz into Iraq saw it capture about a third of the country. It also calls into questions American officials hopes of relying solely on airstrikes to support the Iraqi forces in expelling the extremists.

“Ramadi has fallen,” said Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the governor of Anbar province. “The city was completely taken. … It was a gradual deterioration. The military is fleeing.”

Earlier Sunday, al-Abadi also ordered Shiite militias to prepare to go into the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, ignoring worries their presence could spark sectarian bloodshed apparently over fears the extremists could seize more territory.

The final push by the extremists began earlier Sunday, when police and army officials said four nearly simultaneous bombings targeted police officers defending the Malaab district in southern Ramadi, killing 10 and wounding 15. Among the dead was Col. Muthana al-Jabri, the chief of the Malaab police station, they said.

Later on, police said three suicide bombers drove their explosive-laden cars into the gate of the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province, killing five soldiers and wounding 12.

Fierce clashes erupted between security forces and Islamic State militants following the attacks. Islamic State militants later seized Malaab after government forces withdrew, with the militants saying they now held the military headquarters.

A police officer who was in Malaab said retreating forces left behind about 30 army vehicles and weapons that included artillery and assault rifles. He said some two dozen police officers also went missing during the fighting.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to talk to journalists.

On a militant website frequented by Islamic State members, a message from the group claimed its fighters held the 8th Brigade army base, as well as tanks and missile launchers left behind by fleeing soldiers. The message, while it could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, was similar to others released by the group and was spread online by known supporters of the extremists.

The new setback came only a day after Baghdad’s decision to send reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi.

Al-Abadi’s comments were carried on state television, which did not elaborate on the situation in Ramadi or elsewhere in Anbar province. Iraqi warplanes also launched airstrikes on Islamic State positions inside Ramadi on Sunday, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said, without elaborating.

Later, the military issued a statement also calling on its forces not to abandon Anbar province.

“Victory will be in the side of Iraq because Iraq is defending its freedom and dignity,” the military said. It did not offer any details about the ongoing fighting.

Last week, the militants swept through Ramadi, seizing the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city. It marked a major setback for the Iraqi government’s efforts to drive the militants out of areas they seized last year. Previous estimates suggested the Islamic State group held at least 65 percent of the vast Anbar province.

Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters have made gains against the Islamic State group, including capturing the northern city of Tikrit. But progress has been slow in Anbar, a Sunni province where anger at the Shiite-led government runs deep and where U.S. forces struggled for years to beat back a potent insurgency. American soldiers fought some of their bloodiest battles since Vietnam on the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi.

U.S. troops were able to improve security in the province starting in 2006 when powerful tribes and former militants turned against al-Qaida in Iraq, a precursor to the Islamic State group, and allied with the Americans.

But the so-called Sunni Awakening movement waned in the years after U.S. troops withdrew at the end of 2011, with the fighters complaining of neglect and distrust from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

The U.S.-led coalition said Sunday it conducted seven airstrikes in Ramadi in the last 24 hours, as well as three in Fallujah.

“It is a fluid and contested battlefield,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “We are supporting (the Iraqis) with air power.”

___

Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef and Jon Gambrell in Cairo and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

TIME jeb bush

Jeb Bush Reverses Himself: ‘I Would Not Have Gone Into Iraq’

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall meeting in Tempe, Ariz. on May 14, 2015.
Deanna Dent—Reuters Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at a town hall meeting in Tempe, Ariz. on May 14, 2015.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sought to turn the page on a week of terrible press coverage Thursday, telling a group of Arizona voters that knowing what is known now, he would not have launched the 2003 Iraq War.

“Knowing what we know now I would not have engaged—I would not have gone into Iraq,” Bush said, in reference to his greatest liability—the unpopular war launched by his brother, former President George W. Bush.

It was the latest turn in a tumultuous week that began with an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Saturday in which he said he would have supported going to war, even knowing that the Iraqi government did not possess weapons of mass destruction. “My mind kind of calculated it differently,” Bush later explained, saying he misheard Kelly’s question.

On Wednesday, Bush dodged the same question Kelly asked him days earlier, saying he wouldn’t answer “hypotheticals” and that the question did a “disservice” to the memories of the 4,491 American war dead.

But that didn’t put the questions to rest, Bush’s Republican opponents lined up to criticize him for the comments, while Democrats gleefully used the opportunity to tie him to his brother.

“If we knew then what we know now and I were the President of the United States, I wouldn’t have gone to war,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN Tuesday. Sen. Rand Paul told the Associated Press that Bush’s comments represent “a real problem if he can’t articulate what he would have done differently.”

“Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq,” Sen. Ted Cruz told The Hill.

Sen. Marco Rubio went even further in an interview Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it. He said so,” he said.

Bush’s reversal may put the controversy to rest temporarily, but it only further highlights the challenges the entire Republican field with respect to talking about the conflict.

In a gaggle with reporters after his remarks, Bush maintained that the war was “worth it” for the families of the war dead.

“It was worth it for those families,” he said. “It was worth it for the people that made major sacrifices. In 2008 Iraq was stable. It was fragile, but it was stable. It was because of the heroic efforts of a lot of people. And re-litigating this and going through hypotheticals I think does no good to them.”

Bush said that after the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the U.S. must “re-engage” in Iraq beyond what President Obama has done.

“I think we need to re-engage and do it in a more forceful way,” Bush said. “The president is very reluctant for whatever reason to make a clear commitment that we should have kept 5,000, 10,000 troops there.”

He acknowledged that there has been success countering ISIS since Obama ordered airstrikes and deployed trainers to assist Iraqi forces last year, but said more has to be done. “We can’t do it by drones. We have to be there to train the military and to do the things that are being done right now. And I believe that if we had stayed the course in that, if we do, we will be successful.”

Read more: Why Presidential Candidates Must Answer Hypotheticals

TIME Foreign Policy

The Republicans’ Iraq Trap

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.
Ricardo Arduengo—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.

Jeb Bush still doesn’t know how to talk about Iraq.

The all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate’s strategy for handling his trickiest political inheritance has swung wildly in recent days, earning criticism from both sides of the aisle.

On Saturday the former Florida governor appeared to say he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq even if he knew weapons of mass destruction weren’t present. By Tuesday, Bush was backpedaling, claiming he “misheard” the question. And by Wednesday he was punting, arguing against answering “hypothetical” questions about a war that claimed 4,491 U.S. lives.

No candidate this year is haunted by that conflict like Bush, who must weigh political and familial considerations. But he’s not alone in his struggles. In a campaign dominated so far by foreign policy themes, GOP presidential hopefuls are increasingly torn between the need to project toughness and the need to acknowledge what many voters see as the defining error of the last Republican commander-in-chief.

It’s a balancing act driven by the demands of the electorate. Years of surveys show the American public’s rejection of a war launched on faulty intelligence: a 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for example, found 71% of voters thought the war “wasn’t worth it,” compared to just 22% who thought it was. At the same time, the tumult rippling across the Middle East—from the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) to the unrest in war-torn nations like Libya, Syria and Yemen—has rejuvenated the nation’s hawkish impulses. A succession of polls this year suggest most Americans support sending ground troops to fight ISIS.

As a result, GOP candidates have embraced anew a muscular foreign policy that had atrophied for much of the Obama presidency. Promises to calm the chaos of the Middle East have dominated early candidate cattle calls, while tough talk on Iran has taken the place of Obamacare as a stump speech fixture. Even Sen. Rand Paul, who advocates a restrained foreign policy as part of the party’s more isolationist wing, introduced an amendment to significantly boost the defense budget. After announcing his presidential bid in April, the Kentuckian posed in front of a retired aircraft carrier in the port of Charleston to repeat his call. On a recent trip to South Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio invoked Liam Neeson’s avenging promise from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.”

The bellicosity is one element of a broader strategy that includes also blaming President Obama for the mess in the Middle East and tethering Bush to his older brother. “If we knew then what we know now and I were the president of the United States, I wouldn’t have gone to war,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN. Paul told the Associated Press that Bush’s comments represent “a real problem if he can’t articulate what he would have done differently.”

“Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq,” Sen. Ted Cruz told The Hill.

Rubio went even further in an interview Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it. He said so,” he said.

Turning Iraq into a centerpiece of the campaign is fraught with risk for Republicans, who have wrestled with the demons of a misbegotten war for a decade now. In 2004, the GOP made support for the conflict into a proxy for patriotism and rode the decision to victory in the presidential election. But by 2006, Democrats regained control of Congress amid the persistent casualties and growing sectarian violence sweeping Iraq.

Two years later, Obama’s early opposition to the war helped vault him past Hillary Clinton in their epic primary contest. He then used Sen. John McCain’s outspokenness for the war against him, mocking McCain’s suggestion that there might be an American presence in Iraq for 100 years. In 2012 Obama won re-election while highlighting his commitment to end the war.

But as the stability of Iraq crumbled in the wake of Obama’s troop withdrawal, Republicans sensed they could regain the upper hand. GOP candidates have criticized Obama for not leaving a larger security force in place to support the Iraqi government. Party strategists believe the path to the presidency hinges in part on an ability to disavow George W. Bush’s mistakes while blaming Obama for making the mess much worse.

Recognizing it won’t be easy, some of the party’s presidential contenders are treading lightly. In a speech laying out his foreign policy vision Wednesday, Rubio only briefly alluded to Iraq, implying that Obama’s troop drawdown was too swift and invoking “Afghans worried that America will leave them like we left Iraq.”

The delicate balancing act is sharply different from the strategy employed by the likely Democratic nominee. After years of standing by her vote to authorize the war, Clinton wrote in her 2014 memoir that she “got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

It was a reflection of how the politics of the issue had shifted—and may be shifting still.

TIME isis

U.S.-Led Airstrike Kills Senior ISIS Commander, Iraq Official Says

Smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq on May 9, 2015.
AP Smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq on May 9, 2015.

No confirmation available from American officials

(BAGHDAD) — The Iraqi Defense Ministry says a senior Islamic State commander has been killed in a U.S.-led airstrike in country’s north. While the U.S.-led coalition says it carried out a strike there in the last 24 hours, American officials could not be immediately reached about the statement by Iraq, which has made incorrect claims before.

The Defense Ministry statement said the strike killed Abu Alaa al-Afari and others in Tal Afar.

A Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press that the airstrike late Tuesday hit a mosque. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it carried out a strike in the past day near Tal Afar, destroying a “militant fighting position and a heavy machine gun.”

TIME Behind the Photos

Ad Agency and Photographer Work to Highlight the Home Front

David Guttenfelder photographed the front lines of an unexpected war zone

Each day, 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide on American soil.

That average, released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013, is at the center of a surprising new campaign, dubbed Mission 22, from advertising agency CP+B and the nonprofit veteran organization Elder Heart. The project is designed “to open the eyes of the American public,” says Daniel Pradilla, an associate creative director at the agency.

With the help of photographer David Guttenfelder, who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Associated Press, Mission 22 takes a novel approach to advocacy work by bringing the message directly to its public. “CP+B is a big ad agency that starts national conversations about products,” says Guttenfelder, “and they wanted to do something about this issue. They wanted to see if they could take the same approach to an ad campaign to the [issue of suicide among veterans].”

The campaign is devised around the stories of five veterans — William Busbee, Shawn Bleeker, Ryan Clapper, Brandon Ladner and Clay Ward — who committed suicide after their tours of duty. “More military men and women die at home each day than in our conflicts abroad,” Pradilla tells TIME. “That means that the deadliest battlefields aren’t remote deserts or faraway countries but our own living rooms, bedrooms, backyards and garages. These battlefields are unexpected. That makes you stop and think.”

The best way to convey that message, CP+B found, was to photograph these spaces and put the resulting images on billboards across the nation. “This work brings war to a place that is familiar,” says Pradilla. “Coming home is supposed to be completely safe. But then, you see David’s photographs and read these veterans’ stories, and you realize it’s not.”

Guttenfelder, who resigned from AP last year to go freelance, had wanted to cover the second half of his war story: the return home. When he got back to the U.S., after spending 15 years traveling the world from one hot spot to the next, he brought a group of photographers together, launched the Everyday USA account on Instagram and helped coordinate for the group to do a Veterans Day project with TIME last November.

But Guttenfelder wanted to do more. So, when he was approached by CP+B, he saw an opportunity. “They were looking for a photographer who had the same story [as these veterans] and who could meet the families and understand,” he explains.

The result, on a personal level, stunned Guttenfelder. “When I was meeting the families and going through this, I was surprised how much of a connection I felt with these people who took their lives because of the struggles that they faced when they came home: trying to find purpose, trying to deal with the horrible things that they had seen. [That connection] was more powerful than I had expected.”

“I would never try to compare my experience to someone who fought in a war,” he adds, “but I did spend my entire adult life covering war and violence and tragedy. I had a very clear purpose, a very strong sense of what my identity was. And to come home to the U.S. and to have to reinvent myself, it opened up a door to understand how confusing and difficult and painful it is for [these soldiers] to come back and not know what they’re supposed to do now. I understood it in a different way.”

Guttenfelder’s photographs are a departure for the former wire photographer: they are simple and quiet black-and-white portraits of the spaces where these veterans committed suicide. They tell a story of familiarity — one that anyone could grasp — and that was CP+B’s precise goal.

The advertising agency published Guttenfelder’s photographs in four national newspapers and magazines, and across 300 billboards in the U.S., including five in the towns where these veterans committed suicide. “To put a billboard on the street near the houses where this happened is not just about educating people, it’s about educating the people who go to the grocery store with these families,” says Guttenfelder.

CP+B has also produced a mini-documentary and an interactive website — with calls for action for veterans and their families — with a traveling exhibition planned for later this year.

For Guttenfelder, Mission 22 is also the beginning of his next personal project, one that will deal with suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder — another focus that, for the former conflict photographer, hits close to home.

Find out more about Mission 22.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Iraq

40 Inmates Escape Iraq Prison in Riot That Leaves Dozens Dead

Guards investigating a fight were overpowered and had their weapons taken

(BAGHDAD)—Forty inmates in a prison in northeastern Iraq, including some convicted of terrorism charges, escaped amid a riot that killed at least six police officers and 30 prisoners, authorities said Saturday.

There were conflicting casualty reports on the attack at the Khalis prison in Diyala province. Two provincial police officials and a medical official put the toll much higher, saying 51 inmates and 12 policemen were killed, while more than 200 inmates escaped. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, the Interior Ministry spokesman, put the death toll at 36, including six police officers and 30 prisoners, and said 40 inmates escaped.

Ibrahim told The Associated Press that a fight broke out among the inmates of the prison and when guards went to investigate, they were overpowered and had their weapons taken. Some of those who escaped were wanted on terrorism charges, Ibrahim added. He said security forces had cordoned off the area and were hunting for the escaped inmates.

The town of Khalis is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

In a statement carried on militant websites, the local chapter of the Islamic State group claimed a completely different account of the incident, describing it as a coordinated operation involving the use of multiple explosives outside the prison. The statement claimed that 30 Islamic State members were among those who escaped.

Ibrahim had originally denied there was any external force involved and he did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the militants’ version of events.

Jailbreaks are common in Iraq and usually a result of assaults from militants seeking to free their comrades in prison. The most stunning one was in mid-2013, when militants carried out a carefully orchestrated attack with mortar shells and suicide bombers on Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 inmates.

Meanwhile Saturday, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s central Karrada area, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 28, a police officer said. Among the dead were Shiite pilgrims preparing for next week’s major event commemorating the anniversary of the 8th century death of a revered religious figure, Imam Mousa al-Kazim. Thousands of pilgrims typically march to his shrine in northern Baghdad to commemorate his death.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State extremist group, which has carried near-daily attacks — along with other Sunni militant groups — against the Iraq’s Shiite majority, government officials and security forces.

The Islamic State group considers Shiites heretics. It captured large chunks of territory in western and northern Iraq last year, plunging the country into its worst crisis since U.S. troops left at the end of 2011.

TIME Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee Is Trying to Re-Run Obama’s 2008 Playbook

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Davenport Chafee Interview
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Lincoln Chafee, governor of Rhode Island, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Monday, April 29, 2013.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama when he hammered her on her vote in favor of going to war in Iraq. Now, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee wants Clinton to keep paying for that vote in 2016.

Chafee, a Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, is running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He hasn’t officially announced yet, he’s still in the exploratory phase, but making it official is something he “plan[s] to do soon.” And when he does, he’s going to make Clinton’s vote for war his central argument against her.

“I always go back to what I call one of the biggest mistakes in American history, the decision to go to war in Iraq,” he told TIME, “and the judgment call made by Senator Clinton.”

Chafee was a Senator at the time too; he served as a Senator from Rhode Island from 1999 to 2007 before he became governor. He voted against the war, and he says that split between him and Clinton highlights a fundamental difference in their common sense.

“That was a critical time in American history, October of 2002, and I made a different judgment call,” he said, again referring to Clinton’s vote in favor of the war. “I think we should have a debate, not only as the Democratic Party first of all, but also in America about where we’re going on in the world and who can make the correct judgment calls as we go forward.”

Even Clinton has publicly regretted her vote. In her 2014 book Hard Choices, Clinton wrote, “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

Although this linchpin of Chafee’s burgeoning campaign happened over a decade ago and was already used at the center of the 2008 election, Chafee says the so-called “biggest mistake” will resonate just as much with voters today.

“We’re still paying for it,” he said, saying the war will end up costing the country $6 trillion. “We’re paying for it financially in taking care of our brave veterans … but we’re also paying for it overseas … The repair work goes on. It’s relevant to today.”

But polling data shows that voters may not agree. In 2008, a Gallup poll found that Americans cited Iraq as the second most important issue facing the country, behind the economy. In 2015, Gallup separated economic concerns from non-economic issues, but even in the non-economic poll the situation in Iraq came in 15th, after issues like race relations, immigration and education. (No. 1 was dissatisfaction with government.)

Chafee outlined some other policy positions: he supports the Affordable Care Act, he would vote for the Trade Promotion Authority, he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But he kept coming back to Iraq.

Chafee faces a steep uphill battle towards the nomination; so far he’s barely even been included in Democratic primary polling.

He said his biggest challenge will be “getting out to every possible potluck supper and gathering in Iowa and New Hampshire and other states.” But, “I look forward to it, meeting the people. I started my career at the local level … by going door to door … It’s going to be no different in this campaign.”

TIME

Girls Who Escaped ISIS Describe Systematic Rape

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Bilgin Sasmaz—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during a press conference at UN headquarters in New York on April 9, 2015.

Girls are forced into marriage and sold as gifts, aid group says

As they destroy antiquities and capture cities, ISIS fighters have also been engaged in a systematic campaign of rape and sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls in Iraq and Syria, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday.

According to the report, the widespread rape of girls and women from the Yezidi Christian minority group—is part of a organized system of abuse that includes slavery, forced marriage, and giving girls as “gifts” to different men. According to a recent U.N. report, about 3,000 people are currently in ISIS captivity, many of them Yezidi women. Last year, ISIS published an article that lays out its defense of sex slavery on religious grounds, despite the fact that sex slavery is condemned by the international community. “The confluence of crises wrought by violent extremism has revealed a shocking trend of sexual violence employed as a tactic of terror by radical groups,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier this week.

One 20-year-old Yezidi woman told Human Rights Watch that ISIS held her and about 60 other women in a wedding hall in Syria, to be raped at will. They were told to “forget about your relatives, from now on you will marry us, bear our children, God will convert you to Islam and you will pray.” Here’s how she described the scene:

From 9:30 in the morning, men would come to buy girls to rape them. I saw in front of my eyes ISIS soldiers pulling hair, beating girls, and slamming the heads of anyone who resisted. They were like animals…. Once they took the girls out, they would rape them and bring them back to exchange for new girls. The girls’ ages ranged from 8 to 30 years… only 20 girls remained in the end.

As horrific as these stories are, they’re not quite new. Human Rights Watch published a similar report detailing ISIS’s forced marriages and conversions of Yezidi people last year, which focused less on specifically sexual abuse and more on widespread devastation of Yezidi communities. Still, international outrage has done little to stop the violence. “People feel quite powerless in the face of a group like ISIS,” says Liesl Gerntholtz, Human Rights Watch Executive Director for Women’s Rights. “Traditional tactics like naming and shaming just don’t work for them.”

ISIS is not the only Islamist militant group to use sexual violation as a tool of terrorism. This week marks the one-year anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from a school in northeast Nigeria. Based on how Boko Haram has treated other female captives, many fear that the schoolgirls have been forced into marriage or sold into sex slavery. Shortly after the kidnapping, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau boasted that he had taken the girls and planned to “sell them on the market.”

More: Boko Haram Has Fled But No One Know the Fate of the Chibok Girls

But despite the atrocities, there is a glimmer of hope in the latest report on ISIS and the Yezidi women. Yezidi religious leaders have issued statements welcoming abused Yezidi girls back into the community after they escape from their captors, a move that may ease the widespread social stigma against girls who have been victims of sexual assault. “That is unusual, and for me personally, that was a heartwarming part,” says Gerntholtz. “They need to be accepted back, they need to be supported. This was very important and very influential to make sure there were no honor killings or honor-related violence.”

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