Iraqi Voters Strengthen Hand of Militia Leader Who Battled US

Posted May 15, 2018

An alliance spearheaded by nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose fighters once battled the United States, led Monday in surprise preliminary results from Iraq's first poll since the defeat of the Islamic State group.

Iraqis sprung a political surprise by voting for two electoral lists opposed to the current political class during Sunday's parliamentary elections, showed preliminary results on Monday.

On Saturday, Iraqis voted in the first parliamentary election since the country declared victory over Daesh terrorist group at the end of 2017.

Observers predict Mr Abadi will try to form a deal with Mr Al Sadr, although the cleric's attitude towards Mr Al Abadi's bloc remain unknown. The Shia militia announced it would kill any British troops it saw.

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"The country has just overcome ISIL which has affected the way voters see the election".

Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, appeared to be running third.

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US -led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shi'ite majority into power.

BAGHDAD — The surprisingly strong showing of a ticket backed by maverick cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi elections over the weekend will force USA officials to recalculate how best to proceed in the region at an especially sensitive moment. The United Arab Emirates flew him in for talks previous year, following a meeting the cleric held with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the desert kingdom.

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Iraq has good relations with Iran and Russia, Assad's main backers in the seven-year-old Syrian civil war, while also enjoying strong support from the USA -led coalition fighting Islamic State. Al-Sadr is a staunch foe of Iranian and American influence in Iraqi politics.

According to a nation-wide poll conducted in March, 66 percent of the Iraqi people viewed Sadr favourably across most of Iraq's provinces.

Al-Sadr has won the attention of some of those regional rivals.

The head of the list is Hadi al Ameri, a long-time ally of Tehran, whose forces ended up battling alongside the United States to oust the militants. The faction acts as an umbrella for traditionalists of the Islamic Supreme Coalition of Iraq (ISCI) and groups affiliated with the Shia militia groups - the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs). Dozens of alliances ran for office in these elections and months of negotiations are expected before any one alliance can pull together the 165 required seats.

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