Sources: White House focusing on political transition

(CNN) -- There's a growing chorus -- both in Washington and in the Arab world -- that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has to go if there's any hope of unifying Iraq as Islamic militants advance south toward Baghdad.

While some on Capitol Hill aren't shy about saying his days as the Iraqi leader should come to an end, at the White House it's more of a whisper.

Senior U.S. officials tell CNN that the Obama administration is of the belief that al-Maliki is not the leader Iraq needs to unify the country and end sectarian tensions.

The officials, along with Arab diplomats, say the White House is now focused on a political transition that would move Iraqis toward a more inclusive government -- one without al-Maliki that would include Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions.

Whatever the action, something needs to happen fast.

The lightning-fast advance by Sunni fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has toppled large portions of northern Iraq and brought the militant push to within 40 miles (64 kilometers) of the capital, Baghdad. ISIS wants to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, that would stretch from Iraq into northern Syria.

Iraq's military and the militants have been fighting for control of Iraq's main oil refinery in Baiji, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) north of Baghdad.


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