Gates comments ‘raised hackles’ at White House.

“Twice now in the past week, Defense Secretary Gates has raised hackles at the White House with headline-making comments on Iraq that sounded a different note from the official line,” saying that the congressional Iraq timeline debate has been helpful, and that the “clock is ticking” for the Iraqi government to make political progress.

Gates’s comments…unsettled Iraq strategists on the Bush team who fear that too many signals about the limits of U.S. patience could backfire, rather than induce the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to get its act together. “If they feel we’re going to leave, they’ll cut deals with Moqtada Sadr” and other bad guys, says one Iraq expert who consults with the White House.

A DoD official says the Pentagon has heard a “question or two” about Gates’s comments from the White House, but that is all. A White House spokesperson did not immediately return a call asking for comment.