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Petraeus Warns Against U.S. Military Involvement In Iraq

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While David Petraeus was the architect of one of the most successful U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, the retired four-star general has warned against getting involved in the latest insurgency in the country.

In remarks at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty in London on Wednesday, Petraeus suggested that the U.S. should avoid picking sides in a religious conflict that has lasted for centuries.

"If America is to support, then it would be in support of a government against extremists rather than one side of what could be a sectarian civil war," Petraeus said.

He added, "It has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists, who happen to be Sunni Arabs, but extremists that are wreaking havoc on a country."

Petraeus, who oversaw the U.S. military's so-called "surge" in Iraq in 2007, argued that the U.S. cannot act as the air force of Shia militias.

He noted that the success of the surge was partly due to efforts to reach out to the Sunni minority and engage in reconciliation efforts.

"The surge in Iraq, the surge that mattered most was not the surge in forces it was the surge of ideas that changed our strategy," Petraeus said.

He added, "You cannot have 18 to 20 percent of the population feeling disenfranchised, feeling that it has no stake in the success of the country."

Petraeus suggested that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki squandered the opportunity created by the surge with its sectarian policies.

Echoing remarks by President Barack Obama and others, the general said the U.S. should not provide military support until al-Maliki shows his government is becoming more inclusive.

Petraeus' remarks may have come as surprise to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been pushing for increased U.S. involvement in Iraq.

In his frequent criticism of Obama's approach, McCain has suggested that the president should replace his current national security team with people like Petraeus.

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