On Saturday, March 21, CNN reported that General David Petraeus has been hired as a consultant to the National Security Council, advising the President on the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. A day earlier, while visiting Iraq for the first time since his forced resignation as CIA Director, Gen. Petraeus gave an exclusive interview to the Washington Post. In that interview, he called for a replay of his successful Iraq Surge, this time with the Iraqi armed forces playing a bigger role. He went on to warn that the greatest threat to Iraq's future and the stability of the region was not ISIL, but, rather, Iran. The Shi'ite militias that are the backbone, along with the Kurds, of the battle against ISIL, he warned, can emerge as an Iraqi Hezbollah, extending the sectarian conflict and preventing any viable Iraqi military from emerging. He called the Syria situation a "geopolitical Chernobyl."
While it is not surprising to hear Gen. Petraeus once again calling for a civil-military counterinsurgency campaign as the cure-all for the Iraq and Syria crises, what is truly amazing is the fact that he is now back on Team Obama. Just weeks ago, the retired Army Four Star was grabbing very different headlines, when the Justice Department announced a plea deal with Petraeus, dropping felony charges over his handing over large quantities of classified documents to his ghost writer/mistress Paula Broadwell. While whistleblowers like former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling were being prosecuted under the Espionage Act, Petraeus was given a slap on the wrist--and a consulting job with the Obama NSC.
One Washington insider familiar with the Petraeus saga put it simply: "He is politically harmless. The DOJ has him by the b___s."
The return of Gen. Petraeus to the Obama fold has another dimension. President Obama's favorite neocon is Robert Kagan, the husband of his Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland. The President has touted Kagan's recent writings as must-read. Gen. Petraeus, during his career in Afghanistan and at CENTCOM, was a big Kagan booster, hiring Kimberley and Fred Kagan as counterinsurgency advisors, and helping to launch her Institute for the Study of War.