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. This paper traces the evolution of these changes from 2014 through October 2021 and discusses the implications for the future of Iraqi politics.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.