Decarbonization and Political Transformation in Iraq: Impact on Politics, Society, and Regional Relations

What happens when a petrostate loses its oil rents? While the oil market continues to go through boom-and-bust cycles, cases such as Iraq provide evidence of how the rapid loss of oil revenues—traumatic decarbonization—may affect the politics and stability of these petrostates. In Iraq, multiple shocks to oil revenues from 2014 through 2020 fundamentally altered the organization and concentration of political power in Iraq with destabilizing and democratic consequences. Using the Political Marketplace Framework as an analytic framework, this paper argues that the successive traumatic shocks to Iraq’s oil revenues bankrupted the government triggering a nominal decentralization process, the fracturing of sectarian power, and contributed to a breakdown of sectarianism among the Iraqi people.

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