Obama, Petraeus on Collision Course?

That’s what Gareth Porter if the Inter Press Service says:

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn’t convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama’s decision to override Petraeus’s recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama’s decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, “Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama.”

Take it for what it’s worth. Given how well things are going in Iraq, and how little interest Obama’s voters seem to have in holding him to campaign promises, I find it hard to believe that he can’t find an approach that will satisfy the generals while yet providing him with a fig leaf.

Still, of all of the foreign policy snafus that have plagued the early days of Obama’s administration, the possibility of a public conflict with General Petraeus is the most immediately threatening. Gen. Petraeus got the loudest applause of anyone who was introduced at the Super Bowl yesterday.

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