WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has resorted to violence, intimidation and arrests of political foes in his quest for power and re-election, observers say.
His brutal ways recall those of Iraq's last strongman, Saddam Hussein, The Washington Post reports.
Critics say Maliki's "systematic campaign" of arrests and discord fueled by political maneuvering could get out of control quickly.
"These political tensions are undermining the security of the country, and I'm worried about it," Barham Salih, the deputy prime minister and a Kurdish leader, told the Post.
Since becoming prime minister in 2006, critics told the Post, Maliki has surrounded himself with "the impenetrable circle" and taken command of military units that gave him and his Dawa party men with guns and, thus, power.
They have made their presence felt in the arrests of scores of opponents since January, reported torture and the not-so-subtle message that those who don't cooperate will face Maliki's wrath, the Post reported.
Among opponents, the Islamic Party, promising to root out government corruption, may become Maliki's biggest vulnerability in the January election, the Post said.
But Maliki party officials remain confident they can revive a Shiite alliance that competed in the 2005 elections and bring in Sahwa and other Sunni factions in northern Iraq as well, the Post said.