Iraqi air force destroys Islamic State command center in Syria

  • Iraqi air force destroys Islamic State command center in Syria

Iraqi air force destroys Islamic State command center in Syria

According to partial results seen by AFP, the Marching Towards Reform alliance of Shiite cleric Sadr and his communist allies was ahead in six of Iraq's 18 provinces and second in four others. Horse-trading likely before a premier and a coalition government is installed.

Firebrand Iraqi Moqtada al-Sadr formed the Mahdi Army in 2003 which was responsible for bloodshed on the streets on Basra and the shooting down of coalition planes. Because al-Sadr did not run for a seat, he can not become prime minister, but his deputies in parliament are expected to follow his directives.

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.

Sadr first came to prominence as a preacher in the weeks after the United States invasion of Iraq, in 2003, opposing the US-led occupation. He's still calling for the removal of all American forces from Iraq, at a time when even some Shiite leaders close to Iran are saying they want them to remain to continue training Iraqi forces.

A victory for Sadr would be a major upset for Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who led the country during its four-year battle against Islamic State and is supported by the US and other Western nations.

The electoral commission released results from 10 of 19 provinces Sunday night, including tallies from Baghdad and Basra provinces.

Final poll results are expected to be announced sometime later this week.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said - significantly lower than in previous elections. Al-Sadr said in Tweet he was open to forming a coalition with al-Abadi to form a new government for Iraq. Sadr portrays himself as an Iraqi nationalist and is tired of Iranian support, thus he will be cautious of prompting a pro-Iranian figure.

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.

An alliance backed by populist Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr took a surprise early lead as votes were counted in Iraq's election, a test of the country's efforts to recover from the long war with Islamic State as well as a gauge of the influence wielded by neighbouring Iran.

Whoever emerges as premier will face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against IS - with donors already pledging $30 billion (25 billion euros).

Tensions in the region have mounted - and in particular between the United States and Iran - partly because of President Trump's decision last week to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Tehran. Unlike most people in the Middle East, Iraqis were able to cast a vote against their government and the reigning elite - and it looks as if many did just that.