Iraqi air force destroys Islamic State command center in Syria

Preliminary results of the Saturday Iraq election show a major victory for cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, which has secured a plurality estimated at 54-55 seats.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said - that was significantly lower than in previous elections.

Members of the national election commission read out vote tallies for each candidate list in each of the 10 provinces on national TV.

Polling station officials blamed the low turnout on a combination of tight security measures, voter apathy and irregularities linked to a new electronic voting system.

Mustering a government the people can trust and that can heal the great ethnosectarian divide is no easy feat and nearly 7,000 candidates from dozens of rival alliances vying for just 329 seats in the assembly, sums up this hard undertaking.Even the unified Shiite parliamentary bloc, led by the Dawa Party, which allowed current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to assume power from Nouri al-Maliki in 2014 has splintered into five competing factions. Abadi could be out of a job if Sadr, reportedly closer to Saudi Arabia than Iran, allies himself with Iranian proxies, such as Hadi al-Amiri. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that, however.

Mr. Abadi, a rare ally of both the US and Iran, is mainly concerned with fending off Shia groups other than Mr. Sadr's alliance, which are seeking to pull the country closer to Tehran. Al-Sadr commanded fighters in the war against the IS group and headed a powerful militia that fought US forces in Iraq prior to 2011, but his 2018 campaign focused on social issues and eliminating government corruption.

Sadr leads the al-Sairoon Coalition (The Marchers) that brings together his Sadrist Movement and the Iraqi Communist Party. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow his bloc to govern.

The elections held Saturday were the fourth since the 2003 USA -led toppling of Saddam Hussein.

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On May 6, Abadi's office said in a statement that the 66-year-old prime minister had ordered the "painful strike" which targeted "a meeting of Daesh commanders south of al-Dushashiya region in Syrian territory".

Election officials said that full final results could be announced in the next 24 hours.

Both Sadr and Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but they pitched themselves as seeking to sweep clean the country's reviled elite.

His father's cousin, Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, was killed by Saddam in 1980. Many of his supporters chanted "Iran out".

Abadi, who'd been at the helm of the battle that routed the Islamic State from its strongholds in Iraq, may now have to negotiate with his chief rivals to retain power.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theatre of conflict between Washington and Tehran.

A Pentagon spokesman told Eric Pahon that the USA government does not support any particular Iraqi candidate or party.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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