Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, expected to be named the victor when Friday’s final Iraqi election results are published, is reportedly seeking to ally his Sairoon (“On the Move”) coalition with several allied blocs in Iraq to form a government.
Preliminary results on Kurdish outlet Rudaw place al-Sadr’s coalition, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) Coalition, and Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatih (Conquest) Coalition in a virtual three-way tie.
Al-Sadr joined forces with the Communist Party of Iraq and six “secular” groups to build his coalition. Al-Sadr is an Arab nationalist, despite the fact that his Mahdi army was once heavily reliant on Iran. Ahead of Saturday’s national election, he distanced himself from Iran and positioned himself against the growing influence of Tehran on Iraqi politics under Abadi.
Prior to his newfound distaste for Iran, al-Sadr made his name as a prominent anti-American cleric, urging Iraqis to fight and kill the foreign “invaders” seeking to stabilize the country. Al-Sadr recently called President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel, a “declaration of war.”
The news that al-Sadr might be creating a cabinet has alarmed Iran. The Saudi outlet Al Arabiya reported this week that Iran appears to be attempting to interfere in al-Sadr’s cabinet formation process by attempting to bring some political blocs of their own choosing into his government.
Multiple regional outlets reported that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Forces General Qassem Soleimani arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to meet with Shi’ite leaders following the preliminary results from Iraq’s elections on Saturday. Soleimani’s presence in Iraq, if confirmed, would suggest that reports of Iranian meddling in the election are accurate.
According to Rudaw, Masoud Barzani—the former president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the current leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)—and nephew Nechirvan Barzani, who serves as the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and deputy leader of the KDP, called al-Sadr on Tuesday to extend their congratulations on “his eminent success.”
KRG leaders appear to be reaching out to al-Sadr, despite his position as an Arab nationalist, in light of last year’s conflict with current PM Abadi. The KRG staged a non-binding referendum on independence in September that Barzani insisted would not result in unilateral secession. In response, Abadi sent his forces to the disputed territories that the Kurds controlled in Kirkuk following the Iraqi military fleeing the area and abandoning it to the Islamic State in 2014. The Kurdish Peshmerga entered Kirkuk and saved it from ISIS colonization.
Al-Sadr reportedly thanked the Barzanis for their wishes during their talk this week and expressed his hope that “the brotherhood of the Iraqi people be strengthened and for the love ties be solidified between the different sects, components and ethnicities.”
Abadi also called to congratulate al-Sadr on Tuesday. A statement on al-Sadr’s website wrote that al-Abadi called him “congratulating his Eminence on conducting the electoral process in a secure, democratic atmosphere and the Sayirun national alliance winning first place among the electoral lists.”