The nation's spy chief says the security and political trends in Iraq are moving "in a negative direction." Director of National Intelligence John McConnell says sectarian violence has become "self-sustaining."
He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that unless efforts to change that trend "gain real traction," the situation will continue to deteriorate.
McConnell also says that even if the violence diminishes, the ongoing sectarian animosity makes political reconciliation difficult over the next year.
His comments come as congressional Democrats try to reach a consensus on how best to proceed in Iraq.
Later Tuesday Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will urge lawmakers to quickly approve a $100 billion emergency spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.