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As former US foe gains, Mattis 'stands with' Iraq election result

As former US foe gains, Mattis 'stands with' Iraq election result

Sadr has led two uprisings against US forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shiite leaders to distance himself from Iran.

Meanwhile, conservative Tasnim News Agency reported on May 15 that Sadr is seeking to reach a coalition with Ammar al-Hakim's Hikma (National Wisdom Movement) and Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Alliance Coalition to form a "technocrat" government.

Sadr - who has ruled himself out of becoming PM - should be the key powerbroker and is already eyeing a coalition of around a dozen groups to reach a majority. The elections were held Saturday, with low turnout. The alliance is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, a former minister of transport with close ties to Iran who became a senior commander of paramilitary fighters in the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Sadr rose to prominence in the wake of the United States invasion, when his militia fighters fought a bloody insurgency against American troops.

"If we want to change things then the prime minister needs to come from Marching Towards Reform", said resident Salah Jamal, 24.

Moreover, Qasem Mohebali, former director-general of political affairs of the Middle East in Iran's Foreign Ministry, told the moderate Entekhab news site on May 15, "Perhaps the reason for [Sairoon] Alliance's attraction for the Iraqi people was Muqtada al-Sadr's nationalist slogans like 'Arab Iraq.' On the other hand, the corruption of the previous governments was also impactful in turning people away [from the other groups]".

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In a surprising pivot a year ago, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia to the south, with Riyadh looking to increase its involvement in Iraq as it vies with Tehran.

The protracted horse-trading ahead comes at a time of high tensions after Washington's withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran and fears of a tug-of-war over Iraq.

The coalition government will likely take months to be negotiated and formed, and this could also impact Iraq's new oil contracts and have worldwide oil companies hanging to see what the investment and contract climate will be like.

Sadr fled to Iran before a government crackdown on the Mehdi Army, but has since moved to distance himself from Iran.

The final vote count is yet to be completed before confirming the final make-up of Iraq's new 329-seat parliament. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

The final nationwide tally and exact make-up of the country's next parliament is expected to be released in the coming days.


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