Both Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus systematically referred to “Al Qaeda” in their statements, not “al Qaeda in Iraq”. One “al Qaeda-Iraq” in Petraeus’ written statement slipped through the White House screeners, tut tut.
Petraeus’ headquarters used the long form in its press releases until September 7, then dropped “in Iraq”, so the switch is recent (just do a search for both forms). But Crocker, more of a team player, was already using the newly correct short form in an interview on September 2 . Even Fox News isn’t on message yet.
If the Administration had real intelligence that the franchise relationship between bin Laden and the organisation created by his deceased rival Zarqawi has just grown closer, I think they would have made the claim publicly. Absent such intelligence, the change is just deception.
These people surely get their priorities straight. Kirkuk, the oil centre coveted by the Kurds, where the breakup of the Iraqi state can go public at any time, didn’t rate a mention.