- He's brought the status-of-forces negotiations with the US to a standstill until his demands are met, yet President Bush continues to consider him as "our man" in Iraq;
- his new Iraqi army continues to grow, and he can call upon the air and ground forces of the US to pull his fat out of the fire;
- his army is going after and rounding up (and the US has left hanging out to dry) the leaders of the much-touted Sunni Awakening, without whose efforts against Al-Qaeda in Iraq Mr. al-Maliki wouldn't be riding as high as he is;
- and, perhaps most important from his point of view, the Iranian government supports him.
And that means, as well, the pre-eminence of the Iraqi army over regional militias like the Kurdish peshmerga, as a report from today's Guardian strongly suggests. In fact, the Guardian report suggests that Kurdish and Iraqi forces may be heading for confrontation in Khanaqin, which the Kurds want to include within the writ of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
Additional irony, of course, comes from the realization that much of the core of the new Iraqi army is derived from the Badr Brigade, which is itself a regional militia, specifically of the Shiite religious party, ISCI (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq), whose stronghold is in the south of Iraq, and one of whose persistent hopes has been to create a southern Shi'ite super-region in a federalized Iraq.