Petraeus and Crocker stress Iran’s destructive role in Iraq at Senate hearing

In his progress report to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the US Iraq commander, Gen. David Petraeus, called for a pause after the next US troop drawdown in July. Progress in Iraq, he said, is definite – Iraqi security forces now number 540,000, with over 100 combat battalions – but still fragile and reversible. Iran’s influence on Iraq’s Special Groups (insurgent militias) remains the gravest long-term threat to the country. Resisting Iran’s encroachments in Iraq is vital to sustainable stability in Iraq and the region and global security, the general stressed.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker warned a “major departure from our current engagement would bring failure”.
He said that “al-Qaeda’s leaders are looking for every opportunity they can to hang on… we cannot allow [al-Qaeda] a second chance”.
Gen. Petraeus attributed the progress achieved both to the American and the Iraqi troop surge in the past year, Iraq’s greater involvement in combat, to Moqtada Sadr’s ceasefire, and the increasing rejection of al Qaeda’s ideology by Iraqis. He praised the role of the Sons of Iraq, the 91,000-strong Sunni and Shiite Awakening Councils dedicated to fighting al Qaeda alongside US troops.
Gen Petraeus and Crocker were due later Tuesday to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama serves. His rival Hillary Clinton is on the Armed Services Committee.

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