Hadi al-Amiri (right) speaks during a joint press conference with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Photo: Anadolu via AFP/Muqtada al-Sadr Press Office

Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi Shiite cleric whose political faction won a surprise victory in national elections last month, has served up another political surprise for the region. Despite cultivating a nationalist political movement with calls to end Iranian influence in Iraqi affairs, Sadr has joined forces with Iran’s closest political ally in Iraq.

Pro-Iranian militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s bloc won the second most votes in the parliamentary elections, making an alliance with him key to Sadr’s effort to form a coalition with enough seats to hold a majority in parliament.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Amiri, as reported by Radio Free Europe, Sadr said the partnership represented “a true alliance to accelerate the formation of a national government away from any dogmatism.”

“Our meeting was a very positive one. We met to end the suffering of this nation and of the people. Our new alliance is a nationalist one,” Sadr said.

Amiri’s faction was widely expected to win the elections, and Sadr’s upset victory was considered by many observers to be a blow to Iran. Despite his Shiite background, Sadr has been vocal in his opposition to Iran’s involvement in Iraq’s political affairs and has made public efforts to cultivate ties with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leadership.

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