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As we heard there from Senator McConnell, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. ground commander said there are some areas in Iraq where progress is being made. But as NPR's Guy Raz reports, General Petraeus also warned today that things could get worse before they get better.

GUY RAZ: Here's a story General Petraeus recounts. A couple of weeks ago, a car bomb went off in Baghdad, and it killed the predictable dozens or scores or however it's characterized number of people. And on that day General Petraeus floated over the city in his helicopter and he saw that...

General DAVID PETRAEUS (Commander, Multinational Force Iraq): ...there were three big amusement parks in operation. I'm talking about, you know, roller coaster kind of - these are not just a couple of little merry-go-rounds in small neighborhood parks. Restaurants in some parts of the city were booming. Lots of markets were open. The people were on the street.

RAZ: Petraeus also described a recent visit to the Durah market in eastern Baghdad. It's a place where on an abnormal day, no one dies.

General PETRAEUS: And, in fact, I walked through that area with a CNN reporter and in fact, a few weeks ago and it has continued to expand over time down there despite attacks. So there's a degree of resilience there as well.

RAZ: Now, David Petraeus isn't one for hyperbole. He's a canny operator. He's a friend of politicians, seeker of media approval. Friend and pal with powerful members of the Washington press corps. So ever mindful of his audience, Petraeus tempered his presentation with a qualification.

General PETRAEUS: I'm well aware that the sense of gradual progress and achievement we feel on the ground in many areas in Iraq is often eclipsed by the sensational attacks that overshadow our daily accomplishments.

RAZ: Ostensibly, Petraeus came to town to update the president and Congress, but it just happened to coincide with a period of deep political division. The general knows he failed to change many minds in Congress. He also knows that whether he likes it or not, David Petraeus has himself been brought into the dirty world of Washington politics. His name, Petraeus, is now invoked by the White House at nearly every turn. Here's the president.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: At the very moment that General Petraeus' strategy is beginning to show signs of success, the Democrats in the House of Representative have passed an emergency war spending bill that undercuts him and the troops under his command.

RAZ: Here's a recent press conference by the president's spokesperson, Dana Perino.

Ms. DANA PERINO (Spokeswoman, White House): What the president is saying is that let this Baghdad security plan have a chance to work as General Petraeus reported today, he only has, I think, about 60 percent of the additional troops that he's asked for.

RAZ: Now, the good news out of Baghad is sectarian murders are down, in some parts of the city, substantially. The bad news is the cost of that. Since February 1st, on an average day, three U.S troops have died in the country, and over all...

General PETRAEUS: The level of violence has roughly been, depending again on how you calculate these things, but by our consistent method, the level of violence has generally been unchanged.

RAZ: Petraeus promises to offer what he calls a forthright assessment to Congress and the president in early September, and at that point, he'll recommend where to go from there.

Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

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