The chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, after completing a two-day tour of Iraq, said on Monday that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki should be voted from office because it has proved incapable of reaching the political compromises required to end violence there.
The Democratic chairman, Senator Carl Levin, and the committee's ranking Republican, Senator John Warner, who traveled to Iraq together, issued a joint statement that was only slightly more temperate than Levin's remarks.
They warned that in the view of politicians in Washington, and of the American people, "time has run out" on attempts to forge a political consensus in Baghdad.
Levin said that in his view, the political stalemate in Iraq could be attributed to al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials who were unable to operate independently of religious and sectarian leaders.
"I've concluded that this is a government which cannot, is unable to, achieve a political settlement," Levin said. "It is too bound to its own sectarian roots, and it is too tied to forces in Iraq, which do not yield themselves to compromise."
In a conference call with reporters from Tel Aviv, Levin called on the Iraqi parliament to vote the Maliki government from power because it had "totally and utterly failed" to reach a political settlement, and to replace it with a team better able to forge national unity.
Levin and Warner are among their respective parties' most esteemed legislators on national security issues.
Their committee will be among those hearing directly from General David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker when the two men deliver their report measuring military and political progress in Iraq next month.
A White House spokesman said on Monday that the Capitol Hill testimony could be expected on Sept. 11 or Sept. 12.
Warner did not explicitly call for the removal of the Maliki government, but he joined Levin in a joint statement that, while noting some success under the current troop increase in improving the security situation in Iraq, was tempered by a grim assessment of political progress.
Meanwhile, two US citizens who served as Marines in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 face charges of killing three men detained in the search of a home in which weapons were found, US officials said on Monday.
Military prosecutors charged Sergeant Jermaine Nelson "for the unlawful murder of an unknown foreign national in Fallujah Nov. 9, 2004," said a statement from Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.
Nelson's squad leader, Jose Luis Nazario, also faces criminal charges, but since he has left the military he was charged with voluntary manslaughter by the US Attorney in Riverside, California.
Nazario and other Marines detained four men while searching a house from which they had earlier taken fire, according to the complaint filed with the US District Court in Central California.
"Nazario said that he was asked `Are they dead yet?'" to which Nazario responded "Negative," the complaint said, referring to a radio conversation. "Nazario said he was told to `Make it happen.'"
The complaint said that Nazario killed one of the unarmed men who was lying on his back on the floor.
"Who else wants to kill these guys, because I don't want to do it all myself," Nazario then said, according to the charges.