HISTORY OF IRAQ (1914-1945)
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 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 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 (picture right), 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 1927, 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).
(Source: History of Iraq, Saleh home achilles)