When Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki rounded up hundreds of former Baathists, accused the vice president of running a hit squad and threatened to use the apparatus of state to target other top Sunni leaders, some rivals and critics said that Mr. Maliki’s authoritarian streak had finally antagonized enough of Iraq’s political class to jeopardize his hold on power.
Instead, Mr. Maliki appears to have emerged from a potentially destabilizing political crisis with even more power over the Iraqi state and more popularity among his Shiite constituents, many people here said.
“People trust him more and more after this,” said Rahman Tal Jukon, a retired businessman in Hilla, a town in the Shiite-dominated south where expressions of support for Mr. Maliki, once tepid, are now more common and enthusiastic. “He is a brave man. He has guts.”