"Maliki’s ascent has become a familiar narrative in Iraq. In 2006, a reputation for weakness helped secure him the post. Opponents deemed him malleable. Since then, he has concentrated power in the hands of what critics call “the impenetrable circle’’ and taken command of military units that delivered him and his Dawa party what they had lacked since 2003: men with guns.
But the narrative still tells only part of the story of how complicated Iraq is these days. Everyone seems to be looking for an angle, in pursuit of the coalition they think can triumph in the January elections. Everyone has a grievance, no less pronounced.
Maliki’s Shi’ite rivals - followers of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq - have fought for primacy in the southern province of Qadisiyah. Another group, known as Sahwa or Awakening, filled by former Sunni fighters and long backed by the US military, is hopelessly divided. Maliki has cracked down on some of its leaders, especially in Baghdad.
An Iraqi official said Maliki had ordered the arrests of at least six of the party’s candidates a week before the January elections. The official said he was stopped only after General Ray Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, personally intervened."