Despite some incremental progress under sane counter-insurgency measures, the basic facts of Iraq remain as I outlined yesterday: no sign of a political settlement at the center, a sectarian-dominated military and police, profound corruption, continuing sectarian violence (almost 70 murdered today) and insufficient US troops to secure the entire country. As the Iraqi parliament disbands for the summer, a Sunni faction quits the ruling coalition:

Rafaa al-Issawi, a leading member of the Front, said at a news conference that the bloc's six Cabinet ministers would submit their resignations later in the day.

Al-Issawi said the decision to pull out from the government followed what he called Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's failure to respond to the Accordance Front. It gave him seven days to meet its demands, and the ultimatum expired Wednesday.

Among the demands: a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.

"The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand and has slammed shut the door to any meaningful reforms necessary for saving Iraq," al-Issawi said.

"We had hoped that the government would respond to these demands or at least acknowledge the failure of its policies, which led Iraq to a level of misery it had not seen in modern history. But its stand did not surprise us at all," he said, reading from a prepared statement.

The incoming JCS chairman was candid yesterday:

The failure of the Iraqis to make progress toward political unity imperils Iraq, said the nominee, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who said that unless things changed, “no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference.”

He said he believed that the American troop increase this year in Iraq had helped tamp down violence, saying security was “not great, but better.” But he also said that the United States risked breaking the Army if the Pentagon decided to maintain escalated troop levels in Iraq beyond next spring.

This is the reality that should be the basis for any decisions we make next month about the future.

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