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The power of the anti-American cleric grows, the Pentagon's plans for Iraq are lifted



WASHINGTON – For the past four years, US military planning in Iraq has worked with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Muslim who has been able to rebuild the country's army, restore sovereignty and join the United States to unite and Iran to defeat the Islamic State.

But the results of the national elections of the weekend in Iraq have torn apart the American assumptions.

Huge gains in parliament have been made by a party that must now by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose relentless resistance to the presence of US troops in Iraq was a major reason that Washington 201

1 his combat troops retreated decide whether the US can continue with their plans residual strength of about 4,500 American soldiers in Iraq after the war against the Islamic State.

"It is a democratic process at a time when many people doubted that the Iraqis would take charge of themselves could, "said Mattis on Tuesday.

As a young man, Mr. Sadr led a Shiite militia that targeted US troops in Iraq. He fled to Iran to study in Qom, a revered Shiite religious center, before returning to Iraq in 2011 as a cleric and shrill Iraqi nationalist. Sadr is not expected to hold an elected office in Iraq; His power comes from his pulpit.

Given Iran's excessive and year-long influence in Iraqi domestic politics, foreign policy experts said the Trump administration may have made things a bit more complicated in Baghdad. Trump's decision last week to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear program has frozen relations between Washington and Tehran following a thaw that has helped, among other things, facilitate an indirect partnership against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Iran now has no motivation for a leader in Iraq who would be favorable to the United States, "said Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

But Pentagon officials are betting that the Iran also no return of the Islamic State

There is widespread unity among the Shiite political blocs with which Mr Sadr would have to ally to form a government to continue a program of training and equipment for Iraqi security forces supported by international forces American, Italian, and Spanish advisors whose equipment is being paid by the United States, that NATO could serve as a public representative for the US-led mission to Iraq, could be a workaround for Mr. Sadr's sentiments, officials say.

Margaret Coker contributed reports from Baghdad.


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