One of the most interesting bits of news to come out over the weekend was this report by Mark Perry, at Foreign Policy, that Gen. David Petraeus put in a request to Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen that his Central Command (CENTCOM), take over responsibility for the Palestinian occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Those areas, along with the entire Levant, fall under EUCOM. Petraeus was frustrated by the U.S. inability to make any progress on what is the major flashpoint for Arab anger, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, when his constituency is predominantly Arab, says Perry.
CNAS’s Levant expert, Andrew Exum, for one, says such a move makes eminent sense from a strategy perspective, “it doesn't make sense to decouple what's going on with respect to the Middle East Peace Process and the command in charge of the Middle East.” But he also highlights some of the difficulties such a move would entail: “What is the optic we send when a senior commander of U.S. troops in the region makes a visit to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt... and then caps his trip off with a visit to Israel?” He notes EUCOM would vigorously resist the move as a further dilution of its already wan influence.
Petraeus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning on the CENTCOM budget request. Hopefully there will be at least one Senator of curious mind present who might compel the general to explain his thinking on the matter and publicly make the case for why such a move makes strategic sense.
Update: Well, Petraeus touched on the Israel-Palestinian issue in response to a question from Sen. John McCain, and it was a bit of a punt. He said at "various times" CENTCOM "staff members" have discussed asking that the Palestinian territories be included in the CENTCOM AO, although he himself has never made a formal request to the White House for such a change. He did call for some signs of progress in the peace process as it would make his job easier.