BAGHDAD (Reuters) – If Hadi al-Amiri triumphs in Iraq’s election on Saturday it would be a crowning achievement for the dissident turned Shi’ite militia leader who spent more than two decades fighting Saddam Hussein from exile in Iran.
Leader of the Badr Organization that was the backbone of the volunteer forces fighting Islamic State, Amiri hopes to capitalize on his success on the battlefield in what is expected to be a tight three-way race for the premiership.
Victory - Amiri - Win - Iran - Militia
Victory for Amiri would be a win for Iran as the 63-year-old militia leader has forged close ties with Iraq’s Shi’ite neighbor – but he would also have to balance Tehran’s interests in Iraq with Washington’s often competing goals.
The winner of the election will face the daunting task of rebuilding Iraq after the devastating three-year war against the ultra-hardline Sunni militants, as well as fighting the corruption that consumes much of the OPEC member’s oil revenue.
Frontrunners - Haider - Al-Abadi - Minister - Nuri
Like the other frontrunners, incumbent Haider al-Abadi and former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, Amiri has pledged to restore state institutions and provide badly needed health and education services.
Amiri’s own record in government, a four-year stint as transport minister, was undistinguished.
Amiri - Role - Popular - Mobilization - Forces
Instead, Amiri aims to exploit his leading role in the Popular Mobilization Forces, the mainly Shi’ite, Iranian-backed militias that rallied to confront the self-declared Islamic State caliphate in Iraq four years ago.
“His lucky star rose in 2014. Amiri the unconvincing minister vanished and the guerrilla commander re-emerged when the Shi’ites of Iraq needed him most,” said a Shi’ite scholar and expert in former Shi’ite opposition movements.
Amiri - Connections - Years - Exile - Ties
Amiri’s Iranian connections forged during long years in exile, particularly his ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, were central to his rise to prominence, first challenging and finally helping defeat IS.
The Guards trained and armed the Popular Mobilization forces set up in response to a...
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