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A well first struck oil in Kirkuk in As for Kuwait, it had been virtually a separate British protectorate since and by World War I was already splitting from the Ottoman province of Basra that would become part of Iraq. By the time of the mandate, Iraqi nationalism outweighed pro-British feeling.

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British officials differed over how to deal with the threat. Nationalist protests increased, and in the summer of , one leader, Imam Shirazi of Karbala, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, that British rule violated Islamic law. He called for a jihad, or holy war, against the British—and for once Sunnis, Shiites and rival sheikhdoms united in a common cause. The armed rebellion spread from Karbala and Najaf, in the center, to the south of the country, with uprisings by Kurds in the north as well.

Wilson came down hard, ordering aerial bombardments, the machine-gunning of rebels and the destruction of whole towns. By then, the British press and public had turned against Colonial Office plans to run Iraq. The following year, a conference in Cairo presided over by Winston Churchill, then colonial secretary for Iraq affairs, determined that a constitutional monarchy was the surest path toward a stable, prosperous Iraq.

At first glance, Faisal seemed an unlikely choice as ruler.

A brief history of Iraq

The year-old prince, son of the Sharif Hussein of Mecca now part of Saudi Arabia , had never set foot in Iraq and spoke an Arabic dialect that was barely intelligible to many of his future subjects. But Bell and other Arabists in the Colonial Office believed that Faisal, who had fought with Lawrence against the Turks, had the charisma to hold the new country together.

Also, he traced his lineage to Muhammad, and to emphasize that claim he set out for his new kingdom from Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet. In a national referendum on his monarchy, Faisal was officially declared to have won 96 percent of the vote, prompting charges that the election was rigged. During afternoon teas at the palace, she reeled out her vision of a progressive Iraq that could become a beacon for the Middle East.

Ruling his subjects—divided by ethnicity, religion and geography—was trouble enough. Like the Ottomans before them, the British and Faisal, himself a Sunni, found it expedient to favor the more pro-Western Sunni Arabs of Baghdad and the central region, though they accounted for barely 20 percent of the population. More than half of Iraqis were Shiite Arabs, concentrated in the south.

Close to 20 percent were Kurds, living mostly in the north. The remainder included Jews, Assyrians and other minorities. It was left to Faisal to deal with the Iraqi nationalists. And no law could be passed without his assent. But Faisal struggled to balance British and Iraqi demands.

One moment, he was beseeching British officials not to withdraw from Iraq. Days later, he was refusing to suppress anti-British demonstrations in Baghdad and Basra. The most insistent issue that the king faced was a new Anglo-Iraq treaty, which would provide for the maintenance of British military bases, give British officials a veto over legislation and perpetuate British influence over financial and international matters for 20 years.

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Faisal equivocated. In private, he assured Bell that he favored the treaty.

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But in public speeches, he criticized it for stopping short of removing the mandate. But he had demonstrated that the British could not take him for granted. Faisal ruled long enough to see the mandate end, in , when Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations as an independent state. Faisal died of a heart attack at age 48 in while seeing physicians in Switzerland. Today, scholars debate the extent of British influence on Iraq after the mandate. But Reeva S. It had a press that was open and critical of the British.

In foreign policy, it did not simply follow the British lead but showed itself to be increasingly pro-German during the s, and invited to Baghdad people who opposed British rule in the Middle East.

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Not on developing the country, not on how to make the constitutional system work better, not on how to integrate Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Instead, the question that was always asked was, how can we get rid of the British? As a result, there is even to this day an obsession that there be no foreign control.

Those included Babylon, 50 miles south of Baghdad; the ruins of Ur, where Abraham was born, and of Uruk, not far from the banks of the Euphrates; and the Assyrian cities of Khorsabad and Nineveh. In Baghdad itself, Stark sought out traces of the eighthcentury caliphate that had turned the city into an extraordinary intellectual and artistic center—at a time when Europe plunged into its dark ages. At dawn, she walked the narrow, winding alleys under latticed balconies.

She strolled through the bazaars where Muslims, Indians, Jews and Armenians hawked silks, velvets, indigo and spices. Fluent in Arabic, she interviewed the women of the harems.


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  • She studied the Koran and, veiled from head to foot, slipped into a Muslim shrine. The British found few defenders even among the Iraqi elite who owed the British their status and prosperity. He liked partygoing more than governing. Still, his ability to rally subjects with incendiary speeches broadcast over the palace radio station troubled British functionaries.

    They worried about his repeated denunciations of British control over Kuwait—which Ghazi claimed was a province of Iraq—and his attacks on the Kuwaiti ruling family. But the rhetoric thrilled young Iraqis. Six years after becoming king, Ghazi crashed his sports car into a utility pole in Baghdad after an evening of drinking.

    His two British physicians summoned an Iraqi colleague to the scene of the mortally wounded king. Harry C. Even so, violent street demonstrations erupted in Baghdad the next day. In Mosul, a mob killed the British consul. For years, many Iraqis insisted that Ghazi was killed by the British and their allies. He was succeeded by his son Faisal II. The conspiracy theories also stirred foment in the Iraqi Army, though the British largely missed the warning signs.

    By the s, Arab leaders were also angered by the growing numbers of European Jews migrating to Palestine, a British mandate until When the British suppressed a revolt by Palestinian Arabs in , Iraqi Army officers invited the defeated leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, to live in Baghdad. Iraq attempted to ally itself with Germany and in threatened to fire on British planes at an airfield near Baghdad. British Royal Air Force troops stationed on the outskirts of Baghdad held the Iraqi Army at bay while British reinforcements from India landed in Basra and marched north.

    In Baghdad, some British nationals and their Iraqi sympathizers sought refuge in the British Embassy. The last person admitted into the compound was Freya Stark. Previously disdained by many compatriots, she was now hailed as a savior. Her good relations with the guards may have saved the embassy from mobs.

    By early June, British forces had taken control of Baghdad. The four Iraqi colonels behind his coup were captured and hanged. In retaliation, outraged Iraqi mobs stormed the Jewish quarter, presumed to be pro-British, and killed men, women and children, injuring hundreds more. Anti-British passions were further inflamed by the outbreak, in , of war in Palestine, where Iraqi troops fought on the Arab side against the Israelis, whose ultimate victory, most Iraqis believed, could not have been achieved without British and American assistance.

    A jubilant Saddam Hussein, 31, rode through Baghdad atop a tank. The date of the systematic introduction of irrigation on a large scale in Mesopotamia is somewhat doubtful because most of the early sites of irrigation culture were covered long ago by accumulation of alluvial soil brought down by the spring floods of the Tigris…. The talks brought no important results. In —71 Bahrain and Qatar became independent and subsequently acquired control of Western oil concerns operating in their territories.

    Their way of life was transformed as oil revenues…. By the late 9th and early 10th centuries the last remnant of the caliphal state was Iraq, under control of the Turkic soldiery. Political decline and instability did not preclude cultural creativity and productivity, however. The 14, U. Khrushchev denounced the intervention, demanded…. The Kurdish minority, which had resorted to terrorism in pursuit of its goal of a…. The war had been conducted with the utmost ferocity on both sides.


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    • The Iraqi leader, Hussein, employed every weapon in his arsenal, including Soviet Scud missiles and poison gas purchased from West Germany, and…. Suddenly, in July , the foreign ministers of the two states met in Geneva full of optimism about the prospects for peace. Why Saddam Hussein now seemed willing to liquidate his decade-long conflict….

      However, no evidence was ever found to prove this allegation. In the Corfu Channel case, Britain insisted…. The first Iraqi claim to Kuwait surfaced in —the year oil was discovered in the emirate.

      A Brief History of Iraq

      Although neither Iraq nor the Ottoman Empire had ever actually ruled Kuwait, Iraq asserted a vague historical title. That year it also offered some rhetorical support to a merchant uprising against…. With between 5, and 10, armed fighters, the PKK directed attacks against government property, government officials, Turks living in the Kurdish regions, Kurds accused of collaborating with the government, foreigners, and Turkish…. Caucasus range and in Iraq, he never was able to catch and defeat the Iranian army.

      Supply problems invariably compelled him to retire to Anatolia during the winter months, allowing the Persians to regain Azerbaijan with little difficulty. The Palestinian community in Kuwait, which had consisted of….