For some time, the US President George W. Bush has been promoting General David Petraeus as the person able to produce solutions on Iraq. With just over a week before he presents his assessments to Congress, anything he might let slip on the subject is eagerly picked up and microscopically examined by everyone, especially the media.
In a US television programme, Petraeus said there were limits to what the military could do, and agreed that next March - six months away - would be "about right" to start drawing down US troops. If this is an indication of what Petraeus will say to Congress and the president, then regardless of how he presents his report, it will not be well received by Bush. For the president is firmly convinced the US is winning and will stay the course. But then perhaps Bush is working from a different script to the ever-increasing number of people in the administration, as well as the public.
Combined with criticism from the US Government Accountability Office that Congress benchmarks on Iraq had not been achieved, it has not been a good week for Bush. Doubtless stalwart Australian Prime Minister John Howard will cheer him during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.