While Mr. Sadr has a checkered past, including violence by his Mahdi Army, his new alliance and political positions seem to be the best option for Iraq. An alliance between Mr. Sadr and Mr. Abadi could move Iraq toward a more stable, inclusive and less corrupt state of affairs. Both have steered clear of the corruption that plagues many of those in power in Iraq. Mr. Abadi has experience in government, is known globally and has proven to be a capable politician. Mr. Sadr has wide popular appeal and can provide legitimacy to efforts against corruption.
Both have support from a Shiite Islamist base. Both have pledged to have technocrats in ministerial posts, a necessary move to get Iraq’s ministries to function and deliver services and not serve as mere sources of patronage for various political parties. They would also need to ensure that their alliance is inclusive, both in terms of gender and ethnicity, to expand their appeal.
Mr. Sadr and Mr. Abadi are Iraqi Islamist leaders who are vehemently Iraqi first. They are not focused on their Shiite identities and have remained largely free of Tehran’s control. The United States and the Arab states should seize the opportunity and support them. Mr. Abadi could help build a new relationship between Washington and Mr. Sadr, who fought American forces after the invasion and had an arrest warrant against him in 2003.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, was quick to welcome Mr. Sadr’s ascendance. Last year, Mr. Sadr visited both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and met with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed. Mr. Abadi made a point of reaching out to Arab states during his tenure. A government led by Mr. Sadr and Mr. Abadi can build on the initial engagement with Arab states.
Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have committed billions in reconstruction aid to Iraq. A new government in Iraq can work toward attracting investments from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. to boost private sector growth, which is crucial to economic diversification in Iraq.
Mr. Abadi could potentially help maintain a delicate balance between the regional rivals, as he has supported building ties with Arab countries while maintaining relations with Tehran.
Iran immediately sent Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, to Baghdad after the results, to ensure that its influence does not