The Newsweek 50: Iraqi P.M. Nuri al-Maliki

He came to power in the spring of 2006 as compromise candidates often do, because he was so weak. Maliki's Dawa Party has no legions of gunmen steeled by exile and war. They're the egghead party, the urban Islamists. And Maliki wasn't even the party's leader. But other contenders fell to the side because one faction or another—or the U.S. Embassy—found them too threatening. Now some observers are calling Maliki a new autocrat. He's stocked the military with favorite officers, and brought the special forces—the military's best-trained unit—under his command. Around the country he's set up tribal councils loyal to him, giving Dawa a base from which to contest the two elections due in 2009 and to fend off threats to unseat him. But perhaps most important, America's stature still rests in part on the outcome in Iraq, and it is Maliki—whether through his intentions or missteps—who can decide how well or poorly the war ends.