Profile: Nouri Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki speaks during a joint press conference with Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil (9 June 2014) Nouri Maliki was relatively unknown internationally until he became prime minister

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki first came to power in 2006, at a time when sectarian violence was threatening to tear the country apart.

He has remained in his post since then despite shrinking support from Sunnis and Kurds.

Mr Maliki resisted pressure from Washington to request an extension of US troop presence in the country, and presided over the formal end of the US military presence in Iraq.

However, despite his alliance narrowly winning the 2014 parliamentary election, he has struggled to contain a new tide of violence which has seen several cities slip from Iraqi government control.

He has also been forced to defend himself from accusations that he has used the judiciary to silence and imprison political rivals.

Self-imposed exile

Nouri Mohammed Hassan Maliki was born near the Iraqi town of Hilla in July 1950. He has a master's degree in Arabic literature and is married with four daughters and one son.

Political career

  • Joined the Islamic Dawa Party in the late 1960s
  • Helped organise resistance against Saddam Hussein's regime; Fled to Syria in the 1970s
  • Led the Dawa Party in Syria in the 1980s
  • Returned to Iraq after Saddam toppled in 2003
  • Became lawmaker and deputy chair of de-Baathification committee under the Coalition Provisional Authority
  • Appointed prime minister on 20 May 2006 as a compromise candidate among Sunni Arab, Shia and Kurdish parties
  • Reappointed prime minister on 21 December 2010
  • His State of Law coalition won most seats in 2014 election

His grandfather, Mohammed Hassan Abul Mahasin, was a poet and rebel fighter who opposed the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s.

He is widely seen as the inspiration for Mr Maliki's strong nationalist ideals and his decision to join the Shia Islamist Dawa (Call) party as a university student in Baghdad in the 1970s.

Despite Dawa's Islamist roots, Mr Maliki sought to position himself as a strong and unifying leader in post-Saddam Iraq after coming to power in 2006.

However since the 2010 elections Mr Maliki has been accused of abandoning a consensus-building strategy in favour of concentrating power among his mostly Shia allies. He has also become more closely allied with Iran over issues such as the conflict in Syria.

Return to Iraq

Mr Maliki returned to Iraq from exile after the US-led invasion in 2003 that overthrew Saddam Hussein and Dawa soon emerged as a major political force - with Mr Maliki among its vanguard.

An anti-terrorism banner with a photo of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, in Baghdad, Iraq (18 March 2014) Mr Maliki has struggled to contain a new tide of violence led by Islamist militants

He served as a spokesman for the party as well as for the broader coalition of Shia parties, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which won the most seats in legislative elections in December 2005. He was relatively unknown before being nominated for the post of prime minister in 2006.

He helped draft the country's new constitution and was a member of a committee, set up by the US, tasked with purging Iraq of its Baathist legacy.

The work of the committee attracted criticism for apparently extending its crackdown to officials that had been Baath Party members.

Turbulent times

In 2007, Mr Maliki authorised a surge in US troop numbers that targeted al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni militants and led the 2008 campaign against Shia militias loyal to the radical cleric, Moqtada Sadr.

President Bush, left, shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, right, following their teleconference with members of the U.S. And Iraqi Cabinet members at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday (13 June 2006) Mr Maliki had to work closely with the US during his early years in power

Under fire from his Shia allies and under pressure to reconcile with Iraq's Sunni community, he split from the UIA in early 2009 and formed the broader-based State of Law coalition.

The alliance campaigned on a platform of a unified Iraq in the March 2010 elections, but lost by a mere two seats to the mostly Sunni-backed al-Iraqiyya alliance of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

In the months of deadlock that followed the poll, Mr Maliki was accused of turning to Tehran to help rebuild his power base and remain prime minister. The support of Moqtadr Sadr's bloc - reportedly the result of pressure from the Iranian government - was crucial.

Fragile coalition

After nine months of tortuous negotiations, Mr Maliki eventually formed a fragile government which included members of the al-Iraqiyya bloc.

However, the government quickly unravelled when, after the withdrawal of US troops, arrest warrants were issued for a senior member of al-Iraqiyya, Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi.

Mr Hashemi, Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, was accused of funding attacks on government and security officials during Iraq's bloody insurgency. He was sentenced to death in absentia in September 2012 but has since sought refuge in Turkey.

Mr Maliki denied that the charges against Mr Hashemi were politically motivated.

Militant insurgency

Since 2012, Mr Maliki has faced both popular protests and an increasingly violent insurgency, led by groups fighting for an "Islamic state" in the region.

He has struggled to confront new militant groups operating across the Syria-Iraq border.

File photo: Nouri Maliki He has denied using the judiciary to silence his opponents

One of the biggest groups, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), pushed Iraqi government forces out of several cities in the north and east of the country. Large parts of Anbar province had already been under the control of al-Qaeda-inspired militants for several months.

Mr Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia of being behind much of the unrest.

Political survival

Many Iraqis accuse Mr Maliki of nepotism and mismanagement of Iraq's vast oil wealth. Both of his sons-in-law have worked for his office and his son Ahmed is head of his security. Many parts of Iraq remain poor and undeveloped.

Despite these difficulties, his State of Law coalition won the most votes in the last parliamentary elections in April 2014.

Mr Maliki is therefore likely to serve a third term as prime minister. There is no constitutional limit on the number of terms that can be served. An attempt by parliament to introduce a three-term limit, and therefore prevent Mr Maliki from running again, was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

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