Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad January 12, 2014. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)
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Nouri al-Maliki's political skills have kept him at the pinnacle of power in Iraq since 2006, but the Shiite leader has yet to heal the wounds of a country traumatized by tyranny, occupation and communal strife.A former senior adviser to Maliki is cited by Iraq expert Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics as saying the prime minister began keeping decision-making far more to himself after the formation of his government in 2010 .Christopher Hill, another former U.S. ambassador to Iraq who worked with Maliki, said the Iraqi leader had paid a "steep price" among Shiites for that Basra intervention.Maliki, a proud Iraqi nationalist, says he is beholden to neither, wants good ties with both, and puts Iraq's interests first.Washington has also urged Maliki to reach out to Sunnis feeling disenfranchised in the post-Saddam era.Maliki told Reuters the government would pay and arm anyone combating Al-Qaeda as part of "Sahwa" (Awakening) Sunni tribal militias that helped U.S. forces drive back the militants in Anbar in 2006-07 . Maliki sometimes uses sectarian language, often conflating Sunni political opposition with Al-Qaeda and terrorism.U.S. President Barack Obama, hosting Maliki in November, urged him to promote sectarian reconciliation, but American influence has waned since U.S. troops left two years ago.
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