Iraq History – From the Dismemberment of Ottoman Empire to Independence

By | December 19, 2021

The British, already present in Kuwait since the end of the nineteenth century, had been working for some time to prevent the Germans from entering the region, which threatened to cut off the road to India. The First World War was the occasion for the partition of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. In the agreements that preceded the conflict, as Syria and Lebanon became areas of French influence, England reserved control of Palestine, Jordan, part of the Persian Gulf and Iraq. In March 1917, British troops seized Baghdad and at the end of the war, in November 1918, Iraq, including the ancient vilayets Ottomans, it was entirely occupied by England. The attempt to establish a local government under British control met with strong resistance from the beginning: in the same 1918 the Shiites rebelled and the following year a Kurdish uprising was severely repressed. In 1920 the League of Nations assigned Iraq as a mandate territory to England, which in August 1921 made it a kingdom under the hashimite Faisal, who had directed with Colonel TE Lawrence the military operations of the Arab revolt against the Turks. For Iraq history, please check

The new national state thus constituted was actually composed of a mosaic of ethnic groups and religious confessions: the Kurds in the north, the Sunnis in the center and the Shiites in the south, as well as the remains of the populations who had inhabited Mesopotamia before the Arab invasion., like the Assyrian-Chaldean minorities, long ago converted to Christianity. The renewed riots of Kurds and Shiites, together with the conflicts with the protective power for the exploitation of oil, made the first years of the reign of Iraq difficult. Despite the difficulties, Faisal carried out skilful work to organize the country into a modern state, which in 1925 was endowed with a Constitution contemplating an elective Chamber and a Senate appointed by the director, and to prepare him to free himself from the minority of the mandate. The achievement of independence took place in 1932; However, ties with England remained firm, enshrined in a twenty-five-year treaty, signed in 1930, which allowed, among other things, the permanence on Iraqi territory of British military bases. Faisal, who died suddenly in 1933, was succeeded by his son Ghazi, under whose short reign (he died in a car accident in 1939) Iraq had to face a series of crises, due to the collision of conflicting political trends (from pro-British currents to a strong  Anglophobic nationalism advocating close support for Kemalist Turkey), to the exacerbation of the protests of ethnic and religious minorities, to the great economic interests that were disputing the exploitation of oil wealth. In 1936 the to the great economic interests that disputed the exploitation of oil wealth. In 1936 the to the great economic interests that disputed the exploitation of oil wealth. In 1936 the putsch by General Bekir Sidqi paved the way for a series of coups d’état fueled primarily by nationalistic and anti-British ferments. When Faisal II ascended the throne, under the regency of his uncle Abd ul-Ilaq, the new world war brought back the question of Iraq’s obligations to England, enshrined in the 1930 treaty. The situation worsened in the spring of 1941, when nationalist elements overthrew the government and appointed a new regent. The British concentrated troops around Basra, asking for authorization to organize military bases in the country, and the refusal of the Iraqi government opened hostilities. In less than a month the resistance of the nationalists was overcome, despite the Italian-German air forces intervening to help them. With the resettlement of Abd ul-Ilaq, Baghdad returned to being a faithful ally of England, a position it held during the Second World War and tried to maintain again after the war, after the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth (January 1948), amending that of 1930, rekindled in Baghdad the anti-British agitations. A sign of Iraqi political instability was the succession of 13 governments between 1952 and 1958, a period during which, under the direction of King Faisal II, who came of age in 1953, and his minister Nuri Al Said, the country followed a a fairly constant pro-Western foreign policy line. However, opposition to Al Said’s political directive grew, especially in the army, after the establishment of the Jordanian-Iraqi Arab Federation. announced in February 1958 as an immediate reaction to the establishment of the United Arab Republic (RAU) between Egypt and Syria. On July 14 of that year a bloody military coup, led by Colonel Kassim, cost the lives of King Faisal, Al Said and the crown prince. The insurgent group proclaimed a republic and the immediate withdrawal of Iraq from the Arab Federation. The new government seemed, at first, to move towards cooperation with the RAU, but relations between Kassim and Nasser soon became one of mutual distrust due to the pro-Communist attitude of the former and the hegemonic ambitions of the latter. After the coup the situation remained more precarious than ever: due to the disturbing factor constituted by military interference in political life and the discontent of the provinces.

Iraq History - From the Dismemberment of Ottoman Empire to Independence