Turkey and Iraq are accusing each other of meddling in one another’s internal affairs in a diplomatic spat that could have wide ramifications across the Middle East.Baghdad is supremely unhappy with the warm welcome Turkey gave to Tariq al-Hashemi, a former Iraqi vice president who barely escaped being arrested after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government accused him of “running death squads” earlier this year. Hashemi has been under protection in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Baghdad’s influence is weak. Along with Iraqi Kurdistan’s president, Masoud Barzani, Hashemi travelled to Turkey this week amid warming ties between Ankara and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) in Iraq. This follows Hashemi’s recent tour of the Gulf Arab shiekdoms earlier this month.Needless to say, Nouri Maliki is not pleased that his rivals in Kurdistan are cozying up to foreign powers from Saudi Arabia to Turkey. Among numerous other disagreements, Baghdad is embroiled in negotiations over Kurdish oil fields and who exactly has the authority to sell and develop them. Maliki continues to attack an exploration agreement between Exxon Mobil and the KRG that Barzani says is a done deal.Both Barzani and Hashemi were received in Turkey in a manner befitting foreign heads of state, and both held private meetings with Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogulu, among other high officials. A war of words between Baghdad and Ankara has escalated. Erdogan took a shot at Maliki on Tuesday, calling him “egocentric” and saying his policies will turn Iraq back toward sectarian conflict. Maliki has suggested Erdogan’s meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs will do the same for the entire region.Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar form the heart of the Middle East’s anti-Iran axis. This coalition views Maliki as an Iranian tool in Baghdad and seems to be actively promoting rivals like Hashemi and Barzani as alternative leaders. Turkey in particular needs Barzani’s help in clamping down on the hated PKK, the Kurdish political party and insurgent group responsible for attacks in Turkey, which is based in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.The confrontation between Turkey-Saudi Arabia-Qatar and Iran-Iraq is also visible in Syria. After prodding from Iran, Maliki voiced support for Butcher Assad, and Western officials have accused him of allowing Iranian weapons to be transported through Iraqi airspace to Syria (Maliki denies these allegations). On the other side, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have hosted Syrian exile conferences and toyed with the idea of arming the Free Syrian Army in its fight against Assad.For the US, the latest round of Middle Eastern geopolitics is a nail biter, but on the whole it serves rather than undercuts US interests. The regional alignment against Iran helps the US with its concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Turkish pressure on Iraq, and support for internal opponents to Maliki’s drive for authoritarian power, promotes the kind of pluralism that could make Iraq a nicer place to live. And of course without the regional pressure on Syria there is essentially no chance that Assad could be forced from power.Interesting times.