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Washington Ideas Forum

In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams yesterday at The Atlantic's "First Draft of History" event, General David Petraeus addressed issues ranging from the future of Afghanistan, what's ahead for Iraq, and offered his take on the happenings in the Middle East--including talks with Iran yesterday. He stressed the importance of reevaluating U.S. goals and objectives in Afghanistan and said, "We're not yet at the point of talking about resources or numbers," and added that he has "not yet endorsed the resources" requested by General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. He also made clear the importance of understanding the unique culture of the Afghan people and land while fighting extremist forces there compared to fighting in Iraq: "You cannot transfer everything that we learned in Iraq by any means to Afghanistan without, again, applying it with a very, very careful and granular appreciation of local circumstances." In describing the differences in leadership style between Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Gen. Petraeus said, "I would just say that both of them are absolutely intent on understanding situations and on doing the absolute best they can for our men and women in uniform and for their families--and obviously for our country."

Later at the Forum, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) told NBC's Chuck Todd that he believes Iran is an "outlaw regime" whose participation at the so-called P1+5 meeting yesterday in Geneva should not be taken as a signal that Tehran is willing to be transparent with its nuclear activities. Cantor told Todd that he believed the U.S. was entering its first direct discussions with Iran in thirty years "with the illusion that we can trust this regime." He added that Congress should "act as swiftly as possible to force a regime of sanctions" against it, in response to recent disclosures of a covert nuclear facility at Qom. When asked by Todd whether Cantor's exhortations for increased sanctions--even as President Obama moves forward with direct talks--was "politics on the waters' edge," Cantor responded: "The executive branch is the one to determine the posture of this country vis-a-vis others. It's his prerogative," adding, however: "we shouldn't be engaging with the regime."