Despite criminal charge, David Petraeus emerges as key White House advisor on Iraq

Earlier this month, General David Petraeus pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to his decision to pass on classified secrets to a biographer who also happened to be his mistress. The Justice Department passed on recommending jail time for the former CIA director and instead asked that the architect of the Iraq Surge simply pay a $40,000 fine.

The appearance of favoritism offered to the American general has created more problems for the administration than it resolved.

“The lawyer for a former State Department contractor imprisoned last year for leaking classified information is asking federal prosecutors for the ‘immediate release’ of his client in light of the relatively lenient treatment of former CIA Director David Petraeus for similar conduct,” read a Yahoo News report. “The issue of the differing treatment of leakers — and especially the relatively light plea deal for Petraeus, who will receive no prison time — is also expected to come up in next month’s sentencing of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer convicted of leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen.”

While it is likely that Petraeus’ affair and his subsequent violations of U.S. secrecy laws are going to continue to serve as a headache for this White House, it is nothing compared to the migraine associated with the renewed fighting in Iraq. Despite his legal troubles, the White House has confirmed that they’re turning to Petraeus for advice on how to quell the sectarian tensions boiling over in that Middle Eastern nation.

“[Petraeus] is, I think, legitimately regarded as an expert when it comes to the security situation in Iraq, so I think it makes a lot of sense for senior administration officials to, on occasion, consult him for advice,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during Monday’s press briefing.

Newsweek reported Saturday that the administration has been consulting with the former CIA director and CENTCOM chief, even after his recent legal troubles surrounding his sharing of classified information with Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover at the time.

The White House stood by its arrangement with Petraeus Monday, but did not address allegations in Newsweek that it had arranged special treatment for Petraeus.

“General Petraeus is somebody who served for a number of years in Iraq, he commanded a large number of American military personnel in that country,” Earnest said. “Over that time he developed strong relationships with some of his Iraqi counterparts and with some of Iraq’s political leaders.”

The White House did not elaborate on whether they are sharing any classified information with Petraeus who lost his security clearance as a result of his legal troubles.

Petraeus knows something about putting down an insurgency in the Sunni-dominated regions of North and West Iraq. He’ll encounter a new challenge, however, in the post-ISIS environment in Iraq when overly pro-Shia forces with stronger ties to Tehran than to Baghdad occupy the cities they liberate from ISIS. Some fear that the alleged war crimes committed by pro-Western forces in Iraq are indicative of the heavy hand that will characterize their occupation of Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq.