Good-Bye, and Good Luck

The acclaimed General David Petraeus, who helped turn things around in Iraq, headed up CENTCOM for a bit and swooped in to try to save the day in Afghanistan, is retiring. Well, he’s retiring from the military to become head of the CIA. A big ceremony will take place today at Fort Myer.

Elsewhere, the State Department is still keeping busy with Syria and Libya. Foggy Bottom is a bit concerned about the Algerians’ decision to allow Muammar Qaddafi’s wife, three children and other relatives into their country. As State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland put it: “There are concerns that this isn't in keeping with the travel ban restrictions.” (A UN Security Council resolution imposed travel restrictions on Qaddafi’s family.) Nuland said that the United States is currently reviewing a letter Algeria sent to the UN about the matter.

The Treasury Department is meanwhile imposing more sanctions on Syria. This round targets Syria’s foreign minister, top presidential adviser and ambassador to Lebanon. Nuland said these officials were singled out because of the role they “play in propagating and advancing the reign of terror that Assad is exacting on his own people.” The sanctions freeze the officials’ assets and ban business interactions.

Nuland also said yesterday that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons is still “under government control.” The United States and Israel were both worried that opposition members would manage to get a hold of the weapons. And Nuland warned that an attempt by “pro-government thugs” to portray Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford as “an agiteur” by posting a video on YouTube of Ford at an opposition protest “is going to backfire.” Ford, she said, was bearing witness, along with others, to a protest at the Syrian bar association, and the video “just allows more public understanding of what the lawyers were trying to say to their own government.”

And newly elected Japanese prime minister (and former finance minister) Yoshihiko Noda chatted briefly with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but the conversation was just a courtesy call. They didn’t touch on any sticky issues like exchange rates.