Anti-American Firebrand Cleric Takes Lead in Iraq Election

A coalition headed by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters clashed with U.S. troops after Saddam Hussein was driven from power, is on course for a shock victory in the Iraqi election. The nationalist cleric's group was leading in Iraq’s parliamentary election with more than half the votes counted, the electoral commission said Monday. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who, despite entering the election as the frontrunner, appeared to be running third behind Sadr and Shi’ite militia chief Hadi al-Amiri. Sadr is an enemy of both the U.S. and Iran, and led two uprisings against U.S. forces in Iraq. The Pentagon once said his militia had “replaced al Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence.” Sadr’s apparent victory does not mean his bloc will necessarily form the next government as whoever wins the most seats must negotiate a coalition government, and Sadr will not become prime minister as he did not run. However, his apparent victory may put him in a position to pick someone for the job.