Washington (CNN) - As the Iraqi army and al Qaeda-linked militants battle for control of the city of Falluja, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are slamming the Obama administration for its Iraq policy.
More than two years after the administration failed to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq and withdrew all American combat troops from the country, the two senior Republican senators are blaming President Barack Obama for the violence erupting there this week.
"While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the administration cannot escape its share of the blame. When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever," said McCain, of Arizona, and Graham, of South Carolina, in a statement.
Iraq's Shiite-led government sent military forces into Sunni-dominated Anbar province in the west to end anti-government protests late last week.
There were violent protests in response, and the ensuing fighting has pitted government forces against al-Qaeda linked groups, with Sunni tribesmen in between.
It's the kind of chaos that McCain and Graham allege is partially Obama's fault.
"The Administration must recognize the failure of its policies in the Middle East and change course. America has lost time, options, influence, and credibility over the past five years, and we cannot afford to remain disengaged any longer," their statement said.
The administration addressed these charges at the State Department briefing Friday, dismissing the notion that the U.S. abandoned Iraq.
"Let's be clear who's responsible for the violence. It's the terrorists who were behind it," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. "That's why we are partnering with the Iraqi government very closely to fight this shared threat. At the end of the day, we can certainly help them fight it, but we also want to help them build their own capability to do so themselves."
When asked specifically about the status of forces agreement, Harf pushed back hard, arguing that U.S.-Iraqi relations are strong and highlighting the recent sale of weapons, including Hellfire rockets and drones, to substantiate that claim.
"Just because we don't have troops on the ground doesn't mean we don't have a continuing close partnership with the Iraqi government," she added. "We very much have a close and continuing partnership, and we'll keep working with them on this joint threat."
To McCain and Graham, the problem is wider than Iraq policy; they attacked the administration's approach to the civil war in Syria, as well.
"[The administration] has sat by and refused to take any meaningful action, while the conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives, driven a quarter of the Syrian population from their homes, fueled the resurgence of al Qaeda, and devolved into a regional conflict that now threatens our national security interests and the stability of Syria's neighbors, especially Iraq," they said.
The administration acknowledged the role Syria's civil war has played in destabilizing Iraq, but reiterated the difficulty of ending the nearly three-year-old war.
"The threat of terrorism and extremism has increased as a direct result of the atmosphere the Assad regime has created in Syria, the fact that they have decided to engage in violence against their own people and really create a security vacuum has led to a very serious situation where terrorists like al Qaeda affiliated or people that claim ideology with al Qaeda can flourish," said Harf.
"Obviously, that's why we've said that we need to move quickly to end the civil war there, even though it's very, very complicated and hard to do."
–CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Simon Hernandez-Arthur contributed to this report.