Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki (Arabic: نوري كامل محمد حسن المالكي; born 20 June 1950), also known as Jawad al-Maliki (جواد المالكي) or Abu Esraa (أبو إسراء), is an Iraqi politician who was Prime Minister of Iraq from 2006 to 2014. He is secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party and a Vice President of Iraq from 2014 to 2015.
Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. His first Cabinet was approved by the National Assembly and sworn in on 20 May 2006; his second Cabinet, in which he also held the positions of acting Interior Minister, acting Defense Minister, and acting National Security Minister, was approved on 21 December 2010.
Al-Maliki began his political career as a Shia dissident under Saddam Hussein's regime 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 the Islamic Dawa Party, coordinated the activities of anti-Saddam guerrillas and built relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials whose help he sought in overthrowing Saddam. Al-Maliki worked closely with United States and coalition forces in Iraq following their departure by the end of 2011. In the wake of a string of defeats during the Northern Iraq Offensive, United States officials said that al-Maliki should give up his premiership. On 14 August 2014, he announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Iraq.
In September 2014, al-Maliki was elected as one of three Vice Presidents.
Early life and education
Nouri 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.
Exile and return to Iraq
On 16 July 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 in April 2003, 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.
Selection by CIA and Iran’s Quds force
In the Iraqi parliamentary election, December 2005, 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 22 April 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 including Hussein al-Shahristani and Ali al-Adeeb). 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". However, al-Maliki was the preferred candidate of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, and that it was Soleimani who brokered the deal between senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders that led to his election as Prime Minister.
Formation of Al Maliki I Government
On 20 May 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.
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 8 June 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.
The international Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to al-Maliki in June 2006, complaining of a "disturbing pattern of restrictions on the press" and of the "imprisonment, intimidation, and censorship of journalists".
His relationship with the press was often contentious. On 24 August 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".
Early in his term, al-Maliki was criticized by some for alleged reluctance to tackle Shiite militias. In October 2006, he complained about an American raid against a Shiite militia leader because he said it had been conducted without his approval. Al-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 was also frequently blocked by Sunni Arab politicians who alleged that the dominant Shiite parties were pursuing sectarian advantage. Al-Maliki had some success in finding compromise.
On 30 December 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 30 December 2006 (notably, the first Muslim day of the feast of Eid ul-Adha).
January 2007 – end 2009
On 2 January 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.
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.
In May 2007, the Islamic Dawa Party removed Jaafari and elected al-Maliki as Secretary-General of the Dawa Party.
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 [possibly in relation to the renewal, in December 2007, of UN mandate for U.S. operations in Iraq, without Iraqi parliament's approval?] 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.
By late 2008, al-Maliki started to stop transparency efforts by firing inspector generals. He also started using sections of the armed forces against his political rivals.
By October–November 2008, the al-Malki government had 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 in May 2009 talked 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 also acknowledged Iraq's unfortunate reliance on oil to finance reconstruction thus far, although the revenue began to be spent on other possible revenue sources including agriculture and energy.
Al Maliki II Government, 2010–2014
On 22 December 2010, al-Maliki's second government, including all main blocs in the new parliament, was unanimously approved by parliament, 9 months after the 2010 parliamentary election. On 5 February 2011, a spokesperson for al-Maliki said he would not run for a third term in 2014 limiting himself in the name of democracy in a nod to the Arab Spring.
On 19 December 2011, Sunni politician and Vice President of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashemi, was accused of orchestrating bombing attacks and a hit squad killing Shiite politicians, and his arrest was warranted. This led to his Sunni/Shia Iraqiyya party (with 91 seats the largest party in parliament) boycotting parliament, which lasted until late January 2012. Hashimi was in September 2012 in absentia sentenced to death but had already fled to Turkey that said it will not extradite him to Iraq.
This affair fuelled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against Maliki who critics said was monopolizing power.
By August 2014 al-Maliki was still holding on to power tenaciously despite Iraq's President Fuad Masum nominating Haidar al-Abadi to take over. Al-Maliki referred the matter to the federal court claiming the president's nomination was a "constitutional violation." He said: "The insistence on this until the end is to protect the state." On 14 August 2014, however, in the face of growing calls from world leaders and members of his own party the embattled prime minister announced he was stepping down.
Maliki's critics assert that he did his utmost to limit the power of both Kurds and Sunnis between 2006 and 2014. Their view is that Maliki worked to further centralise governance and amass greater controls and power—from militarily to legislative—for his party. Instead of strengthening and securing Iraq, Maliki's actions have led to a rise in both Kurdish nationalism and Sunni insurgency, which has resulted in civil war and the effective failure of the Iraqi state.
The reign of al-Maliki has been described as sectarian by both Sunni Iraqis and western analysts; something which helped fuel a Sunni uprising in the country in 2014. During the Northern Iraq offensive, beginning in June 2014, ISIS vowed to take power away from al-Maliki, who called upon Kurdish forces to help keep Iraq out of the hands of ISIS, as well as air support from American drones in order to eliminate dangerous jihadist elements in the country, which was refused by the United States, as "administration spokesmen have insisted that the United States is not actively considering using warplanes or armed drones to strike [jihadist havens]."
Relationship with the 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. Al-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.
In late 2014, Vice President Al-Maliki accused the United States of using ISIL as a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq. He stated that "the Americans began this sedition in Syria and then expanded its dimensions into Iraq and it seems that they intend to further stretch this problem to other countries in their future plans."
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 al-Maliki. The King said he had met al-Maliki early in al-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, al-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?" Al-Maliki has "opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq" since taking power, the King said, and he was "not hopeful at all" for al-Maliki, "or I would have met with him."
On 13 June 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 25 June, 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 slowly. On 26 July 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-Maliki.
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 11 and 12 September 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-Maliki called the Islamic Republic of Iran "a good friend and brother." A press conference given by al-Maliki and U.S. President George Bush on 14 December 2008, was disrupted when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush.
On 26 January 2013 al-Maliki's opponents passed a law which prohibited al-Maliki from running for a third term but an Iraqi court later rejected it. By August 2014, al-Maliki lost all his chances to win a third term in office.
On 9 September 2015, during approval of the new government led by Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki was named one of the three vice presidents, a prestigious albeit largely ceremonial post.
On 11 August 2015, the Parliament approved a reform package by Prime Minister al-Abadi that foresaw, among other measures, the elimination of the three vice president posts. However, following a lawsuit opened by fellow Vice President Usama al-Nujayfi, al-Maliki declared in September 2015 that he was still holding his office because the removal of the post was not in line with the Iraqi Constitution. Accordingly, the website of the office (albeit not a governmental URL, it is linked to by official government sites) features Nouri al-Maliki prominently as "First Vice President". The title is also kept in international media (like AFP) and recognized by foreign Government officials (like Turkey).
Al-Maliki is married to Faleeha Khalil, with whom he has four daughters and one son. His son Ahmed has been head of Al-Maliki's security and two of his sons-in-law also has worked in his office.
On 26 April 2006, al-Maliki stopped using the pseudonym Jawad which he had used since moving to Syria in the early 1980s. 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 Arab culture (and in Iraqi culture in particular) to call someone by his eldest son/daughter's name, especially among his close friends and followers.