iraq’s al-Sadr joins with iran coalition
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in last month’s parliamentary elections, has announced an alliance with an Iran-backed coalition ahead of marathon negotiations to form a new government.
The move, announced by al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri of the Fatah coalition in the revered southern Shiite city of Najaf, came as a surprise as al-Sadr has been touting himself as a nationalist leader who opposes Iranian influence in Iraq.
The new alliance controls 101 seats, still far from the 165 required for a majority.
At a news conference Tuesday, the two leaders said their alliance is aimed at expediting the formation of a new government and called on others to join them.
“We had a very positive meeting in order to end the suffering of the country and the people,” alSadr said. “Our new alliance is a nationalist one and within the national frames.”
In the years following the U.S.led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, al-Sadr led militiamen who fought American troops. At that time they were backed by Iran, but in recent years the cleric has presented himself as a nationalist leader opposed to Iranian influence. His main focus has been waging a public campaign against corruption.