Iraq’s al-Sadr joins forces with Iran-backed coalition

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.

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