This dour, charmless Shia has surprised many - perhaps even himself - by emerging as Iraq's leading power broker. Mr Maliki has become steadily more authoritarian, with critics accusing him of inflaming sectarian tensions.
As soon as the Americans departed, he turned upon Tariq al-Hashemi, the vice-president and Iraq's most senior Sunni politician. Mr Maliki accused him of funding terrorist attacks and issued a warrant for the vice-president's arrest, forcing him to flee Baghdad.
But even more than that, he's an exile.
How did the US government ever think this was going to work? That Iraqis would say, "Yeah, bring on the exile who's lived the last two decades plus out of Iraq. That's who we want to rule us!"
26 million or so people living in the country and the US had to go with exiles.
That's Bush and that's Barack.
They both did it.
And what an insult to Iraqis.
They live under Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator, and the US invades their country, tears it apart, kills many of them by accident and 'accident,' and who gets to be leaders?
The people who turned tail and ran decades ago.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"