Last month, the Iraqi army clashed with Kurdish peshmerga forces, leading to multiple casualties on each side. But while ethno-sectarian violence in Iraq was historically aimed at toppling the government, this recent violence should be seen as a way to negotiate power within the political system. And it shows that the equilibrium between Baghdad and Erbil is shifting.
Over the past two decades, Iran has used its political influence in Baghdad to consolidate a strong position in various sectors of Iraq’s economy. Now competition for investments in Iraq, and the economic influence that goes along with them, has become increasingly intense, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE leading the charge.
Though the Iran-Saudi Arabia normalization deal was mediated by China, Baghdad played an important role in pushing it across the finish line. That diplomatic initiative reflects Iraq’s broader efforts toward regional reintegration, which has been a key priority, not least because regional animosities often play out inside Iraq.