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10:15 20 July
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Fiery cleric Sadr taps anger over Iran to lead Iraq poll


Nationalist Shi’ite Cleric Moqtada al Sadr took a surprise lead in Iraq’s elections by tapping into public resentment with Iran and what some voters say is a corrupt political elite it supports, APA reports quoting Reuters.

 

Sadr is the only Iraqi Shi’ite leader who has challenged both Iran and the United States, a calculation that appears to have made him popular with millions of poor Shi’ites who felt they hadn’t benefited from their government’s close ties to Tehran or Washington.

 

The nationalist cleric’s success in the election dealt a blow to Iran, which has steadily increased its influence in Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

 

His success marks a remarkable comeback for Sadr, who for years had been sidelined by Iranian-backed rivals. He reached out to dispossessed Shi’ites and marginalized Sunnis, and restored links with Sunni neighbors while keeping Iran at bay.

 

As news spread of Sadr’s gains in the election, some of his followers celebrated in Baghdad and chanted “Iran out.”

 

Iraq is rich, the country doesn’t need Iran, it can stand on its feet and be prosperous it just need good management,” said Mohammed Sadeq, a trader in the city of Hilla who voted for Sadr’s list.

 

Forty-four year old Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run in the election but his almost certain victory puts him in a position to pick someone for the job. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however. The other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.

 

Sadr has long been viewed by the U.S. and Iraqi government officials seen as an unpredictable maverick. But a Western diplomat, who met him in his villa in the city of Najaf just after he formed a political bloc with communists in March described Sadr as composed, articulate and a pragmatist.

 

“He didn’t come across as a rabble rouser,” said the diplomat.

 

Sadr, usually stern-faced, joked about the diplomat’s ring. “Then he showed me his ring, which had an effigy of his father,” he said.

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