Iraqi Shiite cleric 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 negotiations to form a new government. The move was announced by al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri of the Fatah coalition in the revered southern Shiite city of Najaf. The deal came largely as a surprise as al-Sadr has been touting himself as a nationalist leader who opposes Iranian influence in Iraq, AP reported. The new alliance controls 101 seats, still far from the 165 required for a majority. In the years following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, al-Sadr led militiamen who fought American troops in Iraq.