Iraq’s Leader in a Nutshell

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Elected in 2006 as a compromise candidate, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki now heads a shaky Shiite-led government in a fractured country facing a mortal threat from Sunni insurgents.

  • From an educated middle-class Shiite background; married with five children; known as Jawad al-Maliki through much of his career.
  • Active in sectarian politics since he was a college student in the early 1970’s, when he joined the mainly Shiite Islamic Dawa Party.
  • After Saddam Hussein cracked down on Dawa in 1978, he fled to Syria, where he started a branch party; he returned in 2002, just before the American-led invasion.
  • Was deputy chairman of the de-Baathification commission that purged members of Saddam’s party from public life, earning the enmity of many Sunnis.
  • Accepted by Sunni, Shia and Kurdish parties as a compromise choice for prime minister in 2006 after his mentor resigned.
  • Worked to win over Sunni tribal leaders and campaigned against sectarianism in 2007-2009.
  • Built and maintained close ties with Iran, where he spent considerable time while in exile.
  • Split with former allies and formed his own political coalition in 2010.
  • Did not reach agreement with the United States to retain American troops in the country.
  • Has come under growing criticism for amassing personal power and favoring Shiite interests.

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