Iraqi Shiite religious scholar Moqtada al-Sadr visits his father's grave after parliamentary election results were announced, in Najaf, Iraq May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
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Fourteen years after Moqtada al-Sadr's militias fought American troops, the United States is preparing to work hand in hand with the charismatic Shiite religious scholar and his movement, hoping to find common cause in curtailing Iran's influence in the wake of upset Iraqi elections.Can the U.S. really set aside the past and embrace a religious scholar whose Mahdi Army killed U.S. and Iraqi troops and was accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing Sunni Iraqis?U.S. officials involved in Iraq policy said President Donald Trump's administration was cautiously optimistic that Sadr, having evolved over the years into a populist, corruption-fighting leader, could herald the formation of a broad-based and inclusive government that tolerates a continuing American presence in the country.Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said recent public messages from Sadr bode positively for U.S. interests – such as finishing off Daesh (ISIS), a common enemy of the U.S. and Sadr's militia.Peter Feaver, who helped draft Iraq policy in the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2007, said the U.S. had long recognized that, for better or worse, Sadr did have a legitimate political base.
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