In this Friday, May 13, 2011 file photo, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is surrounded by bodyguards as he speaks at Friday prayers in Kufa, 160 kilometers south of Baghdad, in Iraq. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)
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Iraq's Moqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite religious scholar whose political coalition beat out Iran's favored candidates to come in first in national elections, says he wants to form a government that puts Iraqis first.However, even as Sadr is in position to nominate a prime minister and set the political agenda for the next four years, he will find his choices limited by Iran.Sadr's rise threatens Iran's claim to speak on behalf of Iraq's Shiite majority, a precedent that could fuel independent Shiite movements elsewhere.Tehran has sent its top regional military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to pull together a coalition to counterbalance Sadr, according to an Iraqi Shiite militia commander familiar with the meetings.Sadr's relationship with Iran is a complicated one.Though he has maintained close ties with Iran's political and religious leadership, in recent years he has denounced the flow of Iranian munitions to Shiite militias in Iraq, all the while maintaining his own so-called Peace Brigades in the holy city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.Sadr has said he wants the militias absorbed into the national security forces, a move Iran would find difficult to accept.That gives Iran – and Abadi – leverage over Sadr to moderate his positions on the militias and Iran.
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