BAGHDAD – 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, which was announced by al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri of the Fatah coalition on Tuesday, came largely 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, both leaders underscored that their alliance is aimed at expediting the formation of a new government, calling on others to join.
Iraq’s May 12 elections, the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, has been marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities.