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Amir hails Iraq poll – Iran allies round on surprise winner

KUWAIT CITY, May 16, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent cables to Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi on Tuesday to congratulate them on parliamentary elections’ success.

His Highness the Amir said the democratic practice and high spirits of the Iraqi people would contribute to honoring aspirations of the Iraqi people, in addition to push forward development, prosperity and advancement. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah congratulated Masum and Al- Abadi on the success of the parliamentary elections. His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables.

Meanwhile, Iran and its allies were mustering a bid Wednesday to limit the role of fiery Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr in Iraq’s next government after his shock electwin reshaped the country’s political landscape. The preacher, who was the bete noire of American forces during the US invasion, captured the most seats in parliament after his improbable alliance with Iraq’s communists tapped popular anger over corruption and foreign interference.

But analysts said the reality of Iraq’s complex political system and the sway still held by neighbouring Iran mean he faces a fight to oversee the running of a country still reeling from a brutal conflict against the Islamic State group. Fanar Haddad, an Iraq analyst at the University of Singapore, said it was “mathematically, legally and constitutionally” possible for Sadr’s rivals to form a coalition government without members of his victorious Marching Towards Reform alliance.

Preliminary tallies from last weekend’s vote put the Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters who helped battle IS in second place, followed by incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bloc. Abadi – a consensus figure favoured by the US – had been seen as likely frontrunner after declaring victory over the jihadists five months ago.

The vote – which saw record high abstentions – was a slap in the face to the widely reviled elite that has dominated Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Since Monday, the powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has met with several members of Iraq’s old guard including Abadi and his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki, several officials told AFP.

According to the officials, Soleimani ruled out any alliance with Sadr, who surprised many last year by visiting Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia as Riyadh seeks increased involvement in Iraq. Sadr rose to prominence in the wake of the US invasion, when his militia fought a bloody insurgency against American troops.

After years on the sidelines, he has reinvented himself as a champion of the poor and linked up with secularists to battle corruption. He is one of the few Iraqi politicians opposed to both the presence of American troops and the heavy infl uence that neighbouring Iran exercises over Iraq. Soleimani’s shuttle diplomacy is

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