Iraq in Historical Context

For those who are watching what’s going on in Iraq at the moment, this article from the BBC History Department on British relations with Iraq will give you a very necessary historical background on the history and creation of what is actually a very young country.

How many people realise that Iraq was created in the dividing up of the Austro-Hungarian empire between the victorious allied powers of the First World War ?

By gluing three separate provinces (Mosul, Baghdad and Basra) of the Ottoman empire together under the Arabic name for part of the region Iraq was created and then handed over to the British under a mandate from the League of Nations. Much the same happened to the area that then became Palestine.

The British made some bad mistakes in Iraq during their mandate, quoting the BBC:

There was immediate resentment amongst Iraq’s inhabitants at what they saw as a charade, and in 1920 a strong revolt spread through the country – a revolt that was put down only with great difficulty and by methods that do not bear close scrutiny. The situation was so bad that the British commander, General Sir Aylmer Haldane, at one time called for supplies of poisonous gas.

Indiscriminate air power was used to quell the revolt of the region’s tribesmen, methods the British admitted did not win them friends and, as one of them said, implanted undying hatred of the British among the people of the area, and a desire for revenge.

There is also a good Wikipedia article on the British Mandate of Iraq which is well worth a read.

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