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George W. Bush knocks Obama on foreign policy

Former US President George W. Bush speaks during "Investing in Our Future" at the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the Kennedy Center August 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush criticized President Obama on foreign policy at a Las Vegas event this weekend, an unusual occurrence, since Mr. Bush has mostly eschewed the political spotlight since he left office. He dismissed the the Obama administration's strategy on Iran by saying, "You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren," according to a Bloomberg View's account of the event. "That's how Americans should view the [Iran] deal."

Bush, who was addressing an audience of 700 Jewish donors, also called Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, was a "smooth" diplomat.

The former president asked the crowd, "And you've got to ask yourself, is there a new policy or did they just change the spokesman?"

Mr. Bush was the keynote speaker for the Republican Jewish Coalition's spring meeting at the Venetian Hotel, which is owned by conservative mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. The casino magnate - who has bankrolled several Republican campaigns in recent elections -- allegedly paid Bush $250,000 for the appearance, the Daily Beast reports.

At the closed-door event, the former president also criticized the following administration for its handling of the terrorist group ISIS. Bush said he views the extremists as the "second act" of al Qaeda's reign of terror.

"In order to be an effective president ... when you say something you have to mean it," Bush said. "You gotta kill em." Instead, the former president said that Obama was putting the U.S. in a position of "retreat" around the world.

Bush also quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, in his assessment of Obama's military decisions in Iraq. "Pulling out of Iraq," Bush said, "was a strategic blunder."

Although public sentiment on the Iraq war had plummeted by the end of his presidency, Bush cited his administration's own troop surges in the region in 2007 as a success, saying "When the plan wasn't working in Iraq, we changed."

Bush also weighed in on the 2016 presidential election, reiterating that he believed that he would be a political liability for his brother -- that "people don't want dynasties in America," according to attendee Elise Weingarten.

Bush's remarks come as his brother starts a round of aggressive fundraising events in Florida this week.

Other declared and likely presidential candidates also showed up for the Republican Jewish Coalition event. Sen. Graham, who is expected to announce soon whether he'll run, attended and was granted time to meet personally with Adelson, who is an RJC board member.

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, delivered a speech that earned some "Jews for Cruz" cheers from the audience, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence also appealed to the crowd by calling Israel "our most cherished ally" numerous times in his speech.

Support for Israel, however, may not be the only thing on the mind of the billionaire funder. RJC board member Kenneth Bialkin told the Times that Adelson "wants to be able to field the strongest field."