By Kristina Wong - 06/17/14 02:11 PM EDT
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday said the U.S. must take “direct” military action against an Islamic extremist group marching on Baghdad and called for Iraq’s president to step down.
"I think most important is that we take direct action now against ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], marching down to Baghdad, and prevent them from getting into Baghdad," the Senate Intelligence chairwoman said.
ISIS, a Sunni al-Qaeda-linked group, has captured key cities in Iraq, including Mosul, Tikrit and Tal Afar, and are near Baghdad, raising worries that the government of President Nouri al-Maliki could lose the capital.
The lightning advance has caused alarm for the White House over the prospect of losing a country U.S. troops fought in for almost a decade and sparked fears of a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and the majority Shia government.
Feinstein said Maliki should go, saying he had failed to create a broad representative government that included the minority Sunni population.
"I think it's most important that the Maliki government be replaced, and that includes Mr. Maliki, with a reconciliation government," she said. "Based on all I've heard, read and know, Mr. Maliki is not able to bring about reconciliation in that country.
"So you need the political strategy, you need the military strategy -- hopefully that's going to be forthcoming," said Feinstein.