Muqtada al-Sadr's election upset could rattle US-Iraq relations

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Populist Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr on Tuesday eyed a broad coalition after appearing to deal a blow to both Iranian and American influence with a shock election triumph that has upended Iraqi politics.

O'Neill said al-Sadr cleverly renamed his "Mahdi Army" the "Peace Brigade" and said the name can be easily used as a propaganda tool to hurt people like Trump who oppose it.

After the 2003 invasion, his militia battled United States forces.

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

The election came as Iraq is struggling to bring down soaring unemployment and reintegrate its disenfranchised Sunni minority.

But after 14 years, more than $1 trillion, millions of Iraqi dead and thousands of US troops killed and maimed, the USA now has less influence over Iraq than it had while former Central Intelligence Agency operative Saddam Hussein was in power.

It is the only province so far to give a plurality of votes to al-Abadi, who has performed poorly in this year's parliamentary elections.




Despite the election setback, Abadi might still be granted a second term in office by parliament and on Monday he called on all political blocs to respect the results and suggested he was willing to work with Sadr to form a government. The liberation came at a tremendous cost to the city, parts of which has been laid waste by the US and Iran-backed campaign, but the province appears to have rewarded al-Abadi for his leadership.

The elections commission has announced results from 16 of Iraq's 19 provinces. He is now calling for the latest deployment of American troops to leave following last year's defeat of the Islamic State group.

Sadr for now appears to be ruling out an alliance with two other powerful forces inside Iraq: the Iran-backed Conquest Alliance of former anti-IS paramilitary fighters and ex-premier Maliki.

The announcement came just over 24 hours after polls closed across the country amid record low voter turnout.

Celebrations erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City, an impoverished quarter that is home to about 3 million people and is named after the cleric's father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, who was killed by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999.

Any political party or alliance must gain a majority of the 329 seats in parliament to be able to choose a prime minister and form a government.

Sadr will not become prime minister, as he wasn't on the ballot, but a victory would allow him to appoint someone to the post.

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