Alleged White House-Petraeus Arm Wrestling Over September Report a Ruse?

| Thu Aug. 16, 2007 10:34 AM EDT

Add me to the list of the puzzled. Many signs are from those advising Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus that he and his advisors think they have a strategy that they say is somewhat succeeding and don't want Congress to pull the plug. In other words, Petraeus and the White House are ostensibly pretty close in advocating a continued large scale US presence in Iraq for as long as possible.

So it's bizarre that the White House is apparently indicating that it wants to preempt his findings and hijack the Petraeus report from Petraeus, and confine Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker to testifying before Congress in closed session.

So puzzling that one is suspicious: is the White House ultimately going to "give in" to Congressional pressure and "let" Petraeus testify, only to have it revealed, that, what do you know, it turns out that the good general too thinks the surge has done wonders and, with time, might reduce violence to a degree that greater political reconciliation takes hold. He even forecasts that over the next year, he might be able to move troops out of the areas where violence has gone down, hinting at a lower US troop presence by next year, without offering too many specifics.

Of any reported White House effort to silence or sideline Petraeus, one of the general's close associates emails me, "I do not believe it."

I am not sure I do either. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that the White House is seeking to control the optics with Congressional Republican leaders anxious about how basically continuing a maximal US presence in Iraq will affect their '08 reelection prospects.