As they say in politics, timing is everything, and the shock resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director raises serious questions about whether this was genuinely a resignation caused by his affair with his biographer, or whether it was a hatchet job by Barack Obama’s administration to prevent him giving evidence this Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
There is no doubt that General Petraeus made a monumental error of judgement by embarking on an affair with Paula Broadwell, the author of the recent hagiography of America’s most celebrated soldier of modern times, All In: The Education of David Petraeus.
But the general’s friends tell me that his sudden departure from Langley has nevertheless raised suspicions that his political enemies in the Obama administration – and there are many – used his dalliance to force him out of the CIA before he could make damaging allegations about the handling of the al-Qaeda attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi last September, in which US Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other staff died.
Gen Petraeus is a political animal – it was even rumoured that he might run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The Obama crowd certainly saw him in those terms, which is why he was shunted off to the CIA in the first place, rather than being allowed to achieve his long-cherished ambition of becoming head of America’s armed forces.
If Gen Petraeus harboured any thoughts of revenge, then Thursday’s session of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi killings offered him the perfect platform. It is now clear that there were hundreds of threat warnings circulating before the fatal attack on the Benghazi compound, and yet the Obama administration did nothing to improve security at the consulate. (The British consulate, meanwhile, was closed in the summer following a failed assassination attempt against the British Ambassador, Sir Dominic Asquith.)