From Salt Lake Tribune:
The promotion of Gen. David Petraeus is another ominous sign that the Bush administration may attack Iran.
President Bush is nominating Petraeus, commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, to replace Adm. William Fallon as head of Centcom: U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fallon was forced to resign last month after his outspoken opposition to an attack on Iran. Petraeus, by contrast, has been heating up the rhetoric against Iran.
“Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support to the special groups,” Petraeus testified to Congress in early April. Those special groups (meaning, the militias) pose the biggest threat to the United States, he added.
He blamed Iran for the rocket attacks on the Green Zone, and he warned, “We should all watch Iranian actions closely in the weeks and months ahead.” Petraeus’ boss issued a warning of his own. “The regime in Tehran also has a choice to make,” Bush said April 10. “If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq. If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests, and our troops and our Iraqi partners.”
But neither Petraeus nor Bush mentioned the role Iran played in mediating a ceasefire between the Iraqi government and Shiite militias in Basra last month.
Bush could justify an attack on Iran’s military or nuclear facilities by claiming to protect U.S. troops in Iraq against Shiite militias with links to Tehran. Iran could retaliate by not only threatening those troops but also by inspiring Hezbollah in Lebanon to mobilize jihadists against Israel and the United States.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s announcement Wednesday promoting General David Petraeus from his current post running the war in Iraq to head up U.S. Central Command triggered both political and military unease. That response may be inevitable, coming on the downside of an unpopular war and in the waning months of the tenure of the unpopular President who launched it.
Opponents of the war fear that if the Democrat-led Senate approves Petraeus’s promotion, it could be taken as a signal to “stay the course” in a war that has dragged on for more than five years and has killed more than 4,000 U.S. troops.
Democrats are unlikely to mount a campaign to block Petraeus’ promotion. Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the next CENTCOM commander must come with new plans for Iraq “if directed to by a new President.” Petraeus hedged last month when asked what he would say if a new President were to order a withdrawal plan within 60 days of taking office. He verbally juggled risks and objectives before conceding, “We take orders and we follow them.”
The impact of promoting Petraeus, however, may be even greater in the national security establishment than on Capitol Hill. It’s a wake-up call to old-school Army officers and their vanishing dreams of massive tank battles and artillery skirmishes, some of whom privately call Petraeus “King David” for his high self-regard and chumminess with reporters. Gates has made clear that wants commanders able to carry out the messy, irregular kind of combat championed by Petraeus that the Defense Secretary envisages the U.S. fighting for years to come. The promotion reinforces the message he delivered to young Air Force and Army officers on Monday, when he criticized their leaders for devoting too much time and effort to future potential wars, and not enough to the real wars now under way.