Iraq’s al-Sadr joins forces with Iran-backed 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, 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.

Iraqi security forces and firemen gather as smoke rises from a fire that broke out at Baghdad’s largest ballot box storage site, where ballots from Iraq’s May parliamentary elections are stored. – AP