Did somebody say "regime change?" American lawmakers have stepped up their criticism of Nouri al-Maliki even as his government pleads for US help against the insurgency threatening to rip Iraq apart. Administration officials have made it clear that they want the country to have a new government that doesn't involve Maliki, who they accuse of causing the current crisis by discriminating against Sunnis, reports the Wall Street Journal. Arab allies including Saudi Arabia also want Maliki gone, as do Republicans like John McCain, who says he supports airstrikes in Iraq, but the US first "has to make it very clear to Maliki that his time is up." More:
- The Maliki government has failed to govern inclusively "and that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, adding: "The Iraqi people will have to decide the makeup of the next coalition government and who is the prime minister."
- After Iraq's foreign minister made a televised request for US airstrikes on advancing militants, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, didn't give a direct answer when asked if the request would be granted, Reuters reports. He did, however, say it was in America's national security interest to counter ISIS militants "wherever we find them."
- Whether or not the Iraqi request is granted, Mitch McConnell says President Obama has "indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from (Congress) for steps that he might take," the BBC reports. Experts say the president has several options for acting unilaterally.
- At Iraq's largest oil refinery, government forces are still battling ISIS militants and it's not clear who has the upper hand. A top Iraqi official insists that the government still has control of the Baiji refinery, but witnesses tell the AP that the black flags of the Sunni militants are now hanging from the facility's watch towers.