As Sunni militants continue to battle against government forces for control of cities in Iraq, U.S. leaders are saying the country would be better off without its prime minister.
Though Washington leaders have kept a straight face in public, internally they are hoping for the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Speaking before a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein said that "I think that most of us that have followed this are really convinced that the Maliki government, candidly, has got to go if you want any reconciliation." Outgoing White House spokesman Jay Carney said that "there's no question that not enough has been done by the government, including the prime minister, to govern inclusively, and that that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq," stressing that the U.S. will focus on the desires of the Iraqi public. "The Iraqi people will have to decide the makeup of the next coalition government and who is the prime minister," he said.
Al-Maliki's Shiite government has been accused of marginalizing the country's Sunni minority, and the U.S. hopes that a new, more unified government will help quash support for the ISIS militants from Iraq's Sunni population. The prime minister has made an effort to bring Sunni leadership into the government, but the move doesn't seem to be yielding results, per the Wall Street Journal:
This week, as pressure rose from the U.S. and other allies to work toward a representative government for Iraq, Mr. Maliki participated in a unity meeting with top Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders. The result wasn't hopeful, U.S. and Arab officials say. "We believe that Maliki's sectarianism and exclusion of Sunnis has led to the insurgency we are seeing," said a senior Arab official. "He unfortunately managed to unite ISIS with the former Baathists and Saddam supporters."
Meanwhile, the U.S. is still trying to figure out how to handle the escalating situation. Barring boots on the ground, most options are still on the table. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that if the U.S. does decide to undertake a military strike against ISIS, the action wouldn't be immediate. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Wednesday that "it's not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then immediately striking it."
In the year leading up to the clashes that erupted last week, Iraqi leadership has called on Washington to step in to quash the strengthening militant group, but both U.S. and Arab officials have blamed the Iraqi government for failing to stop sectarian antagonism within its borders. Now, they seem to think, only a change in leadership will help stop the violence.