BAGHDAD — Iraq’s outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an American ally, and the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, a longtime foe of the United States, said on Saturday that they had become political allies in an effort to form a new government in the wake of widely discredited elections.
The announcement, made in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in a meeting between the two leaders, came as a surprise to many political observers, especially because Mr. Sadr — the top vote-getter — had already announced an alliance with a pro-Iranian Shiite leader, Hadi al-Ameri. Mr. Ameri was second in the polls, while Mr. Abadi was third.
“This is a call for an alliance that is nonsectarian and rejects ethnic politics in order to include all of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Sadr said at a joint news conference with Mr. Abadi, who is still the prime minister until the new parliament sits on July 1 and elects his replacement.
“We want to speed up the process of coming to a political agreement to send a positive message to the citizens that we are serious about moving forward,” Mr. Abadi said.
Once a wanted man by the American authorities during the occupation of Iraq, Mr. Sadr, a Shiite cleric and former militia leader, has remained a critic of the Americans while at the same time distancing himself from Iran and presenting himself as a nonsectarian figure. Despite Mr. Sadr’s fiery anti-American rhetoric of the past, he has been quiet on that front since last month’s elections and in his speech in Najaf on Saturday refrained from criticizing the United States.
Mr. Sadr and Mr. Abadi had long been bitter rivals. But similarly, Mr. Sadr had broken with Mr. Ameri over his close ties to Iran. Mr. Ameri is the leader of the Shiite…