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Moqtada al-Sadr: Ex-militia leader emerges as Iraq's kingmaker

BAGHDAD, IRAQ - MAY 13: Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr celebrate the results of the parliamentary election at the Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq.
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr celebrate the results of the parliamentary election at the Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The political coalition of Moqtada al-Sadr — a firebrand nationalist Shiite cleric — has surprisingly emerged as the presumptive winner of Iraq’s first national parliamentary election since the country declared victory over ISIS.

Why it matters: Sadr has long been a staunch critic of the U.S., so a victory for his alliance means Iraq's next government is likely to be hostile to the U.S. And while Sadr is not formally a candidate for prime minister, he has vast political influence over his followers.