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Iraq History

 British influence

During the First World War, which broke out in 1914, Turkey became a German ally along with Austria in a global conflict against Britain and France. Just before that time Arab independence

movements were picking momentum. Arab leaders in many parts of the Arab world -including the Hashemite family of Hussein ibn-Ali promised to aid Britain by revolting against the Ottoman Turks.

Arab cooperation came about when Britain agreed to recognize Arab independence after the war. The Ottoman empire collapsed when British forces invaded Mesopotamia in 1917 and occupied Baghdad. An armistice was signed with Turkey in 1918.

Arab leaders expected to work out the details of Arab independence. But in 1920 the international League of Nations assigned pieces of the Ottoman empire to the victors, putting Mesopotamia under a British administration.

This arrangement, called a mandate, meant that Britain would establish a responsible Arab government in the territory according to a league-approved timetable. The failure of the British to fulfill their promises of independence encouraged Arab nationalism.

Now the country became a British Mandate - due, in no small part, to the British interest in Iraqi oil fields, and because they wanted to build a transcontinental railroad from Europe, across Turkey, and down through Iraq to Kuwait on the Persian Gulf. This railroad would allow a direct trade route with India without having to skirt Africa. Local unrest (Thawrah), however, resulted in an Iraqi uprising in 1920, and after costly attempts to quell this, the British government decided to draw up a new plan for the state of Iraq.

The British government had laid out the institutional framework for Iraqi government and politics; the Iraqi political system suffered from a severe legitimacy crisis; Britain imposed a Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) monarchy, defined the territorial limits of Iraq with little correspondence to natural frontiers or traditional tribal and ethnic settlements, and influenced the writing of a constitution and the structure of parliament.

The British also supported narrowly based groups--such as the tribal shaykhs--over the growing, urban-based nationalist movement, and resorted to military force when British

interests were threatened, as in the 1941 Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani coup. Iraq was to be a kingdom, under the rule of Emir Faisal ibn Hussain, brother of the new ruler of neighboring Jordan, Abdallah, a member of the Hashemite family, and although the monarch was elected and proclaimed King by plebiscite in 1921, full independence was not achieved until 1932, when the British Mandate was officially terminated. In 1927, discovery of huge oil fields near Karkuk brought many improvements to Iraq.

The Iraqis granted oil rights to the Iraqi Petroleum Company -a British dominated, multinational firm. Iraq joined the League of Nations in the October of that year, and was officially recognized as an independent sovereign state. On Faisal's death in 1933, he was succeeded by his son, King Ghazi I.

In March 1945, Iraq became a founding member of the League of Arab States (Arab League), which included Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. And in December 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations (UN).


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