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Hashemite Monarchy

In establishing the Ottoman Empire beyond the borders of Iraq, the conquerors left a ravaged, desolate land, stripped of the great wealth accumulated over the ages. The Fertile Crescent thus degenerated into unappealing provinces at the mercy of unscrupulous Ottoman governors, whose main interest was squeezing the last diner of wealth out of the wretched people.

This state continued until the end of the Great War and the collapse of the Ottomans. Mesopotamia was divided then into English and French provincial "spheres of influence" for a time, and granted nominal independence in 1921 under a monarchy.

Britain's suppression of Iraq's 1920 revolt easily was placed within the Shi'ite psychological framework of unjust leaders taking control of an honest, pious, but defeated, people. It also caused most Shi'ites to retreat back into familiar patterns of submission that continued throughout the British Mandate (1920-32). Moreover, in the aftermath of the revolt, the British were unwilling to bring many Shi'ites into government administration. Rather, they depended on Sunni Arabs and other minorities working under the client Hashemite King, Feisal, whom they installed in Iraq.

Faisal I19321933
Faisal II19391958
In 1933, Iraq's King Feisal died. His death coincided with political unrest and dissatisfaction with the government. In 1936, Iraq experienced its first attempted coup d'etat and between 1936 and 1941 there were six more abortive coup attempts. All of these attempted coups were motivated by personal goals rather than political issues. In January 1943, pro-British Iraq declared war on the World War II Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) under the terms of a treaty with Britain. In 1945 Iraq became a founding member of the League of Arab States. Postwar Iraq, however, did not regain the stature it enjoyed in the pre-World War II Arab world. After joining the United Nations (UN) in December 1945, Iraq bitterly opposed the UN partition of Palestine and in 1948 entered the war against Israel.

Sons of the Hashemite family of Hussein ruled both Jordan and lraq in 1948. The family had been displaced from what is today western Saudi Arabia by lbn Saud's forces in the 1920s. While Palestine dominated US concern in the region, there were other important issues in the Saudi Arabian and Arabian Peninsula security milieu. Certainly one such issue in the mind of the Saudi monarch was his relationship to the Hashemites on his northern border. The continuing mistrust, combined with traditional British presence on the Arabian Peninsula and British military assistance to the Hashemites (most tangibly reflected in the Arab Legion of Jordan, under General Sir John Glubb - "Glubb Pasha") led to lbn Saud's concerns about combined Anglo-Hashemite machinations at theexpense of Saudi Arabia. His concern became a motivation for closer securityties with the United States.

In 1958 King Faisal II of Iraq was executed in a coup by army officers. The leaders of the new regime declared their nation a republic committed to a foreign policy of nonalignment. Iraq's foreign policy, however, moved from a pro-West stance to one of friendly relations with the communist powers. Relations with the US were severed in 1967 after the US provided aid to Israel in the Six Day War.

In 1961, Kuwait, another British protectorate, gained its independence from Britain. Iraq immediately claimed sovereignty over it, largely because of Kuwait's oil wealth. However, Britain reacted very strongly to the threat to its ex-protectorate and dispatched a brigade to deter the Iraqi aggression. Iraq was forced to back down and, in 1963, recognized the sovereignty and borders of Kuwait.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:48:36 ZULU