Nouri al-Maliki biography
Middle East politician, diplomat, prime minister of Iraq. Born June 20, 1950, in small town of Hindiya, Iraq. Prime Minister of Iraq since May 20, 2006, and secretary general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Married to Fareeha Khalil, has four daughters and one son. Started out as a dissident against Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1970s. Rose to prominence after he fled a death sentence and went into exile. During time abroad he became senior leader of Dawa Party, coordinated anti-Saddam activities and guerillas, and built relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials whose help he sought to overthrow Hussein.
Born Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki on June 20, 1950, in Hindiya, Iraq, to a middle class family, in a small town 75 miles south of Baghdad. His grandfather was Hasan Abdul Muhassin, a religious cleric, poet, and politician who had been a member of the anti-British revolt in 1920. Al-Maliki attended school in Hindiya and received his bachelor's degree at Usul al-Din College in Baghdad. He later earned a master's in Arabic literature from Baghdad University.
Dissident and Politician
In the late 1960s, he joined the Islamic Dawa Party, an armed, political underground resistance movement, associated with the Shia sect of Islam. During the late 1960s and 1970s, al-Maliki worked to resist the influence of Saddam Hussein's Baathist leadership. After college, al-Maliki lived in Al Hillah and worked in the education department. It was during this time that he became active in the Dawa party operations and rose quickly within the ranks of the party.
In 1979, al-Maliki fled Iraq after learning the Hussein government was planning to execute him, along with many other Dawa party members, for their subversive activities. The Iraqi government sentenced him to death in absentia in 1980. Al-Maliki left Iraq via Jordan and moved to Syria, assuming the pseudonym Jawad Maliki. In 1982, he left Syria for Tehran, Iran, where he lived until 1990. Later, he moved back to Syria where he directed guerilla forces against Saddam Hussein's regime until the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, former opposition groups began returning to Baghdad. A scramble for power began among the different political factions under the umbrella of American occupation. With the Baathists defeated, two Shia political groups emerged: the Al Dawa party and Muqtada al Sadr's militia group, the Mahdi Army. Al-Maliki was appointed as vice president for de-Baathification of former Iraqi government and military personnel. He was then appointed vice president of the provisional parliament and helped draft the country's constitution.
Prime Minister of Iraq
In January, 2005, al-Maliki won a seat to the transitional National Assembly, when Dawa Party leader Ibrahim al Jaafari was chosen prime minister. During this time, Iraq plummeted into sectarian violence and civil war. Al-Jaafari's leadership came into question as violence escalated and the country's infrastructure fell into disarray. The crackdown on Baathist civil servants left the country with few qualified persons to help run the government. Out of a job and exiled from the political process, many Baathists resorted to insurgency to regain their power. Losing confidence in the prime minister, the Iraqi parliament chose al-Maliki to replace al-Jaafari.
Nouri al-Maliki's appointment to prime minister came among the belief that he was not as close to Iran as his predecessor al-Jaafari, and he had the support of the Kurds. Though he was hard on the Sunnis (particularly, anyone associated with the Baathists), it was believed that he was willing to work with the remaining Baathists who had positions in the government. Some in the Bush Administration saw al-Maliki's lack of previous government experience as an indication he lacked political ambition and that he would be compliant to their policies. They seemed to be wrong on both assumptions.
Once in power, al-Maliki worked to help formulate agreements over the government structure and unify the different religious and political factions. He solidified his political power by sending Iraqi troops to Basra, the country's second-largest city, to successfully put down a rebellion by Muqtada al Sadr's militia. Then, he played a key role in drafting the Status of Forces agreement with the United States that mandated American forces be out of Iraqi cities by June 2009. As a result of these victories, al-Maliki's reputation soared with Iraqis.
Leadership in Post-War Iraq
Nouri al-Maliki further consolidated his power by extending the authority and patronage of the Dawa party. He divided most of the national government's 37 cabinet ministries among the political factions in the Parliament. These cabinet ministers, regardless of their political faction, are indebted to al-Maliki, giving the Dawa Party near exclusive control of the cabinet ministries. To win a broader electoral mandate, he has used the massive power of the national government over the provincial governments. The national parliament controls the provincial councils' budgets and can vote out any governor, even though the governors are elected locally. Critics of al-Maliki state that these measures have put a virtual lock on Dawa's control of national and local government.
Known as an eloquent speaker, Nouri al-Maliki is not afraid to voice his opinion. He has repeatedly criticized occupying U.S. forces of causing needless civilian causalities and deaths in its attempt to counter the insurgency. He unilaterally ordered troops into Basra to put down the Mahdi Army (followers of Muqtada al-Sadr), without coordinating with the U.S. Command.
His 2007 visit to Iran raised concern and suspicion among many about his commitment to align Iraq with Western interests. However, it is widely believed that his intent is to defend Iraq from oppression and instability.
Most political analysts state that Nouri al-Maliki has done a satisfactory job serving his country under extremely difficult circumstances. He walks a treacherous tightrope, trying to promote peaceful coexistence between three factions: the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia. He balances working with U.S. occupation forces while trying to maintain amicable relations with Arab neighbors, most notably Iran. Billions of dollars have been poured into rebuilding Iraq, yet the infrastructure of urban areas is often reported to be no better than during the days before the invasion. There are tens of thousands of refugees still in the countryside of Iraq with no allegiance to the government.
Leading Iraq into the Future
Al-Maliki has also been perceived as impotent when dealing with alleged American atrocities. When the private security firm Blackwater was accused of murdering 17 Iraqis, his government tried to prosecute perpetrators and expel the company. However, he was constrained by the agreement of the Coalition Provisional Authority, established in May 2003, that stated Americans were immune from prosecution. Al-Maliki could do not much more than complain about abuse by U.S military prison guards at Abu Ghuraib and reported harsh interrogations of Iraqi prisoners.
Nouri al-Maliki came into office saying he wanted to see a pluralist Iran whose various ethnic and sectarian groups regarded each other as equals. Critics and supporters alike say he has done a good job under the circumstances. He signed the death warrant for Saddam Hussein, putting closure to that part of the nation's past. Though insurgent attacks continue, primarily in the larger cities, al-Maliki's government has greatly improved security conditions in many parts of the country. In 2008, he convinced Sunni members of Parliament to return after a year-long boycott, and appointed some to cabinet positions. Probably most important to many Iraqis, al-Maliki successfully negotiated an agreement by which U.S. forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities to military bases in the countryside by the end of June 2009 and that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by December 2011.
the future hold for Nouri al-Maliki? Has he positioned himself to be a
perpetual leader, similar to Vladimir Putin? Or, will he only serve a
short time after U.S. forces have completely left the country? In
January 2007, he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, "I
wish I could be done with it even before the end of this term. I didn't
want to take this position...I only agreed because I thought it would
serve the national interest, and I will not accept it again." As of yet,
this is not for certain. In January 2010, al-Maliki's government was elected to another term.