TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran on Wednesday dismissed a long-awaited progress report by the two senior U.S. officials in Iraq saying it would not “save America from Iraq’s swamp.”
General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and ambassador Ryan Crocker testified to the U.S. Congress on Monday.
Petraeus recommended cutting U.S. troops by about 30,000 by next July, ending a so-called surge of forces but not fundamentally changing strategy in the unpopular war.
Iran has long called for U.S. forces to leave its neighbor, but a Foreign Ministry statement made clear the suggested troop withdrawal did not go far enough for Tehran.
“This report does not reflect the real demands and priorities of the majority of the American people,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in the statement, according to the official IRNA news agency.
It was the first official reaction from Tehran about Monday’s testimony, which has been welcomed by the Iraqi government.
Tehran and Washington, which have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, often trade blame for the bloodshed threatening to tear Iraq apart.
Iran rejects U.S. accusations it is fomenting instability in its neighbor by arming and training militias there and says the presence of U.S. forces is behind the violence.
The two old foes are also at loggerheads over Iran’s nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at making atom bombs. Iran says it solely aims to generate electricity.
Petraeus and Crocker appeared at a congressional hearing regarded as a pivotal moment in the U.S. debate over the war, which U.S. President George W. Bush has vowed to pursue but which many Democrats, who control Congress, say must end.
Analysts said Petraeus’s recommendation to bring some troops home by Christmas and more in 2008 could provide political cover for Republicans and dissuade them from abandoning Bush while blunting Democratic calls for more dramatic withdrawals.
In Tehran, Hosseini accused the United States of committing a “large amount of mistakes” in Iraq since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
“The Bush administration wants to transfer most of their problems to others and to convince the representatives of the American people of the need to continue the occupation,” he said, referring to the U.S. allegations.
“This report will not save America from Iraq’s swamp.”
Ties between Shi’ite-dominated Iran and Iraq have improved since the ousting of Saddam, a Sunni Arab strongman who waged war against his neighbor in the 1980s.
But in contrast to Iran’s dismissal, Iraq’s government has welcomed Monday’s testimony and said it would have less need for foreign forces to carry out combat operations “in the near future.”