Nuri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki (Arabic: نوري كامل محمّد حسن المالكي Nūrī Kāmil al-Mālikī; born June 20, 1950), also known as Jawad al-Maliki or Abu Esraa, is the authoritarian  Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. He is currently in his second term as Prime Minister. His first Cabinet was approved by the National Assembly and sworn in on May 20, 2006; his second Cabinet, in which he also holds the positions of acting Interior Minister, acting Defense Minister, and acting National Security Minister, was approved on December 21, 2010.
Al-Maliki began his political career as a Shia dissident under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in the late 1970s and rose to prominence after he fled a death sentence into exile for 24 years. During his time abroad, he became a senior leader of Dawa, coordinated the activities of anti-Saddam guerillas and built relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials whose help he sought in overthrowing Saddam. While having worked closely with United States and coalition forces in Iraq since their departure by the end of 2011, there have been claims that al-Maliki has been trying to gain control over the armed groups in his country as means to consolidate the Prime Minister's power and marginalize Sunni opposition.
Early life and education
Al-Maliki was born in Janaja village in Abu Gharaq, a central Iraqi town situated between Karbala and Al Hillah. He is a member of the Al-Ali Tribe, an offshoot of the Bani Malik tribe. He attended school in Al Hindiyah (Hindiya). Al-Maliki received a bachelor's degree at Usul al-Din College in Baghdad, and a master's degree in Arabic literature from Baghdad University. Al-Maliki lived for a time in Al Hillah, where he worked in the education department. He joined the Islamic Dawa Party in the late 1960s while studying at university. His grandfather, Muhammad Hasan Abi al-Mahasin, was a poet and cleric who was the representative of the Revolutionary Council (Al-Majlis Al-Milli) of the Iraqi revolution against the British in 1920, and served as Iraq's Minister of Education under King Faisal I.
On April 26, 2006, al-Maliki stopped using the pseudonym Jawad. However, the pseudo- or code name "Abu Esraa" (father of Esraa - his eldest daughter) is still heard on Iraqi satellite media every now and then, because it is very common in Arabic culture (and in Iraqi culture in particular) to call someone with his eldest son/daughter's name especially by his close friends and followers. Al-Maliki is married to Faleeha Khalil, with whom he had three daughters and one son.
Exile and return to Iraq
On July 16, 1979, al-Maliki fled Iraq after he was discovered to be a member of the outlawed Islamic Dawa Party. According to a brief biography on the Islamic Dawa Party's website, he left Iraq via Jordan in October, and soon moved to Syria, adopting the pseudonym "Jawad". He left Syria for Iran in 1982, where he lived in Tehran until 1990, before returning to Damascus where he remained until U.S. coalition forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam's regime in 2003. While living in Syria, he worked as a political officer for Dawa, developing close ties with Hezbollah and particularly with Iran, supporting that country's effort to topple Saddam's regime.
While living in Damascus, al-Maliki edited the party newspaper Al-Mawqif and rose to head the party's Damascus branch. In 1990, he joined the Joint Action Committee and served as one of its rotating chairman. The committee was a Damascus-based opposition coalition for a number of Hussein's opponents. The Dawa Party participated in the Iraqi National Congress between 1992 and 1995, withdrawing because of disagreements over who should head it. Upon his return to his native Iraq after the fall of Saddam, al-Maliki became the deputy leader of the Supreme National Debaathification Commission of the Iraqi Interim Government, formed to purge former Baath Party officials from the military and government. He was elected to the transitional National Assembly in January 2005. He was a member of the committee that drafted the new constitution that was passed in October 2005.
In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, the United Iraqi Alliance won the plurality of seats, and nominated Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be Iraq's first full-term post-war prime minister. In April 2006, amid mounting criticism of ineffective leadership and favoritism by Kurdish and Sunni Arab politicians in parliament, al-Jaafari was forced from power. On April 22, 2006, following close U.S. involvement in the selection of a new prime minister, al-Maliki's name arose from the four that had been interviewed by the CIA on their connections to Iran (the others being Hussein al-Shahristani, Ali al-Adeeb, and one other). United States Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said that "[Maliki's] reputation is as someone who is independent of Iran". Khalilzad also maintained that Iran "pressured everyone for Jaafari to stay". On May 20, 2006, al-Maliki presented his Cabinet to Parliament, minus permanent ministers of Defense and of Interior. He announced that he would temporarily handle the Interior Ministry himself, and Salam al-Zobaie would temporarily act as Defense Minister. "We pray to God almighty to give us strength so we can meet the ambitious goals of our people who have suffered a lot", al-Maliki told the members of the assembly. In May 2007, Dawa removed Jaafari and elected Maliki as Secretary-General of the Dawa Party.
During his first term, al-Maliki vowed to crack down on insurgents who he called "organized armed groups who are acting outside the state and outside the law". He had been criticized for taking too long to name permanent interior and defense ministers, which he did on June 8, 2006, just as al-Maliki and the Americans announced the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  Meanwhile, al-Maliki criticized coalition armed forces as reports of allegedly deliberate killings of Iraqi civilians (at Haditha and elsewhere) became known. He has been quoted as saying, "[t]his is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It's unacceptable." According to Ambassador Khalilzad, al-Maliki had been misquoted, but it was unclear in what way.
On December 30, 2006, al-Maliki signed the death warrant of Saddam Hussein and declined a stay of execution, saying there would be “no review or delay” in the event. Citing the wishes of relatives of Hussein's victims, he said, “Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him.” Hussein's execution was carried out on December 30, 2006 (notably, the first Muslim day of the feast of Eid ul-Adha). After only two years, as of late 2008, the al-Malki government has witnessed improvements in the security situation in many parts of the country. In Baghdad, a peace deal signed between Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the government had eased tensions, though sporadic sectarian incidents continued, as did occasional fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite militiamen, particularly in Sadr City. Maliki's job was complicated by the balance of power within parliament, with his position relying on the support of two Shiite blocs, that of Sadr and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, that his Dawa party has often been at odds with. Progress has also frequently been blocked by Sunni Arab politicians who allege that the dominant Shiite parties are pursuing sectarian advantage. Maliki has had some success in finding compromise. In July 2008 al-Maliki, who earlier in the year fought off a recall effort in parliament, convinced Sunni politicians to end a year-long boycott of the chamber and appointed some of them to cabinet positions. Analysts said the return of the Sunnis was made possible by the security gains under al-Maliki and by apparent progress in negotiations with the United States over American military withdrawal. Early in his term, al-Maliki was criticized by some for alleged reluctance to tackle Shiite militias. In 2006 he complained about an American raid against a Shiite militia leader because he said it had been conducted without his approval. In 2007, unnamed U.S. military officers alleged al-Maliki was replacing Iraqi commanders who had cracked down on Shiite militias with party loyalists. An al-Maliki spokesman denied the allegation. His relationship with the press has often been contentious. On August 24, 2006, for example, he banned television channels from broadcasting images of bloodshed in the country and warned of legal action against those violating the order. Major General Rashid Flayah, head of a national police division added "...We are building the country with Kalashnikovs and you should help in building it with the use of your pen". The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote to al-Maliki complaining of a "disturbing pattern of restrictions on the press" and of the "imprisonment, intimidation, and censorship of journalists". Maliki has spoken about the need to make a secure and sustainable environment for investment in order for successful reconstruction and has enacted new investment laws to try to achieve this. He has also acknowledged Iraq’s unfortunate reliance on oil to finance reconstruction thus far, although the revenue has begun to be spent on other possible revenue sources including agriculture and energy. On January 2, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with al-Maliki in which he said he wished he could end his term before it expires in 2009.
On December 21, 2010, al-Maliki's government was unanimously approved by parliament more than 9 months after the 2010 parliamentary election. On February 5, 2011, a spokesperson for al-Maliki said he will not run for a third term in 2014 limiting himself in the name of democracy in a nod to the Arab Spring. In December 2011, Maliki was embroiled in a deep political crisis with Sunni opponents including Tariq al-Hashemi.
Relationship with U.S.
In an interview published by the German magazine Der Spiegel in June 2008, al-Maliki said that a schedule for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country of "about 16 months... would be the right time-frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes". In the interview, he said the U.S. government has been reluctant to agree to a timetable "because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn't the case at all... it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on Al Qaeda and the militias." He said U.S. negotiators were coming around to his point of view. Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin were two of several U.S. politicians who called for him to be removed from office in 2007. Senator Clinton urged Iraq's parliament to select a "less divisive and more unifying figure" and implied she felt al-Maliki was too concerned about Iraq's Shiite majority and not enough with national reconciliation. "During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Levin ... confirmed that the Iraqi government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders", she said. Maliki hit back and said the Democratic senators were acting as if Iraq were "their property" and that they should "come to their senses" and "respect democracy". After 17 Iraqis were shot and killed by Blackwater USA security guards al-Maliki called on the U.S. embassy to stop working with the company and said: "What happened was a crime. It has left a deep grudge and anger, both inside the government and among the Iraqi people." Maliki's friendly gestures towards Iran have sometimes created tension between his government and the United States but he has also been willing to consider steps opposed by Tehran, particularly while carrying out negotiations with the United States on a joint-security pact. A June 2008 news report noted that al-Maliki's visit to Tehran seemed to be "aimed at getting Iran to tone down its opposition and ease criticism within Iraq". Al-Maliki said an agreement reached with the U.S. won't preclude good relations with neighbors like Iran. In August 2007, CNN reported that the firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers had "begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki". The network described BGR as a "powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House". CNN also mentioned that Ayad Allawi is both al-Maliki's rival and BGR's client, although it did not assert that Allawi had hired BGR to undermine al-Maliki.
Relationship with Saudi Arabia
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was described In a leaked March 2009 diplomatic cable:
The King said he had "no confidence whatsoever in (Iraqi PM) Maliki, and the Ambassador (Fraker) is well aware of my views." The King affirmed that he had refused former President Bush's entreaties that he meet with Maliki. The King said he had met Maliki early in Maliki's term of office, and the Iraqi had given him a written list of commitments for reconciliation in Iraq, but had failed to follow through on any of them. For this reason, the King said, Maliki had little credibility. "I don't trust this man," the King stated, "He's an Iranian agent." The King said he had told both Bush and former Vice president Cheney "how can I meet with someone I don't trust?" Maliki has "opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq" since taking power, the King said, and he was "not hopeful at all" for Maliki, "or I would have met with him."
On June 13, 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush paid a visit to Baghdad to meet with al-Maliki and President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, as a token of support for the new government. During this visit, they announced the Iraqi Leaders Initiative, in which students from Iraq would go to the United States to build a personal connection between the two countries. On June 25, al-Maliki presented a national reconciliation plan to the Iraqi parliament. The peace plan sets out to remove powerful militias from the streets, open a dialogue with rebels, and review the status of purged members of the once dominant Ba'ath party. Some viewed this as a bold step towards rebuilding Iraq and reaching out to Sunnis.
By July 2006, when al-Maliki visited the United States, violence had continued and even escalated, leading many to conclude that the reconciliation plan was not working or was moving too slow. On July 26, 2006, al-Maliki addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. Several New York Democrats boycotted the speech after Al-Maliki condemned Israel's attack on Lebanon. Howard Dean, the DNC chairman, accused Al-Maliki of being an "anti-Semite" and said the United States shouldn't spend so much on Iraq and then hand it over to people like al-Malki.
In September 2006 Al-Maliki made his first official visit to neighbouring Iran, whose alleged influence on Iraq is a matter of concern for Washington, D.C. He discussed with Iranian officials, including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the "principle of no interference in internal affairs" during his visit on September 11, 2006, and September 12, 2006, i.e., political and security issues. His visit closely followed an incident in which Iran detained Iraqi soldiers it accused of having illegally crossed the border. Ibrahim Shaker, Iraqi defence ministry spokesman, said the five soldiers, one officer and one translator involved had simply been doing "their duty". During his visit al-Malki called the Islamic Republic of Iran “a good friend and brother.” A press conference given by al-Malki and U.S. President George Bush on December 14, 2008, was disrupted when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush.
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