Ezra Klein: Ask the ghost of Gen. Stilwell: We don't need to be psychics to figure where this leads: faced with the choice of backing Petraeus, or backing the nominal Iraqi PM, the US Govt. will find some cushy job for Petraeus to retire to. The number of times the US government has found itself committed to defending a client regime with only a feudal sense of governance, unable to make broad national compromises necessary for it's own survival, really defies comprehension. Similarly, the number of times intelligent, well-meaning American officers have gone up against intransigent puppet regimes and lost is beyond counting...
And here is AP:
Aide: Iraq PM relations with Petraeus poors: Steven R. Hurst and Qassim Abdul-Zahra - The Associated Press: BAGHDAD — A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s relations with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington the withdraw the well-regarded U.S. military leader from duty here. The Iraqi foreign minister calls the relationship “difficult.” Petraeus says his ties with al-Maliki are “very good” but acknowledges expressing “the full range of emotions” on “a couple of occasions.” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who meets together with al-Maliki and Petraeus at least weekly, concedes “sometimes there are sporty exchanges.”
Al-Maliki has spoken sharply — not of Petraeus or Crocker personally — but about their tactic of welcoming Sunni militants into the fight against al-Qaida forces in Anbar and Diyalah provinces. But the reality of how the three men get along likely lies somewhere between the worst and best reports about their relationship — perhaps one of the most important in the world and unquestionably central to the future of Iraq, the larger Middle East and scores, if not hundreds, of political, diplomatic and military careers in the United States. A tangle of issues confront the three men, and none of them present clear or easy solutions:
- Al-Maliki, a Shiite who spent years in exile under Saddam Hussein, hotly objects to U.S. tactic of recruiting men with ties to the Sunni insurgency into the ongoing fight against al-Qaida. He has complained loudly but with little effect except a U.S. pledge to let al-Maliki’s security apparatus vet the recruits before they join the force. He also has spoken bitterly, aides say, about delivery delays of promised U.S. weapons and equipment for his forces.
- Petraeus is confronted with an Iraqi military and police force, nominally under al-Maliki’s control, that has in many cases acted on sectarian — namely Shiite — not national Iraqi interests. He has faced a significant challenge in persuading al-Maliki to shed his ties to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who runs the Mahdi Army militia.
- Crocker’s problems with the Iraqi leader are the appearance of foot-dragging or ineffectiveness on the political front — the need to shepherd critical benchmark legislation through parliament. U.S. opponents of the war will undoubtedly demand from Crocker, when he reports to congress in September, an explanation of why U.S. troops are fighting and dying to give al-Maliki political breathing space that the Iraqi leader will not or cannot capitalize on.
First word of strained relations began leaking out with consistency earlier this month. Sami al-Askari, an key aide to al-Maliki and a member of the prime minister’s Dawa Party, said the policy of including one-time Sunni insurgents in the security forces shows Petraeus has a “real bias and it bothers the Shiites. It is possible that we may demand his removal.” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview with Newsweek, that the Petraeus-al-Maliki relationship was “difficult.”... A lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc, who refused use of his name fearing the party would expel him over his continued close ties to al-Maliki, said the prime minister has complained to U.S. President George W. Bush about the policy of arming Sunnis. “He told Bush that if Petraeus continues doing that he would arm Shiite Militias. Bush told al-Maliki to calm down,” according to the lawmaker who said he was told of the exchange by al-Maliki. The lawmaker said al-Maliki once told Petraeus: “I can’t deal with you any more. I will ask for someone else to replace you.”...
Petraeus, a wily, rising star at the Pentagon who is known for holding his cards close to his chest, called his relations with al-Maliki “very good...and that’s the truth,” but acknowledged, “we have not pulled punches with each other.” Here’s why, he said: “We have made an enormous investment here — 3,600-plus soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have given their lives. And where we see something that could unhinge the progress that our soldiers and their soldiers are fighting to make ... or jeopardize some of the very hard-fought gains that we have made, I’m going to speak up. And I have on occasion. And on a couple of occasions have demonstrated the full range of emotions.”
All sides spoke with the critical September reports by Crocker and Petraeus to Congress clearly at the front of their minds — the need to make it clear to an increasingly hostile U.S. legislative branch that progress is being made and it would be wrong to start pulling out troops and cutting support now...
Isn't the need to inform the U.S. legislative branch what is really going on? Isn't the need not to claim that "progress is being made" if progress is not being made?