Enemy on the Euphrates: The British Occupation of Iraq and the Great Arab Revolt, 1914-1921
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Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia - now the modern state of Iraq - an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army led by Shi'i clerics, Baghdad notables, disaffected sheikhs and former Ottoman army officers surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-armed British gunboats were sunk or captured. The quest for oil was central to Britain's Middle East policy during the First World War and was one of the principal reasons for its continuing occupation of Iraq. However, with around 131,000 Arabs in arms at one stage of the conflict, the British were very nearly driven out. Only a massive infusion of Indian troops and the widespread use of aircraft prevented a total rout. Enemy on the Euphrates is the definitive history of the first British occupation of Iraq and the revolt against it in 1920 - the most serious armed uprising against British rule in the twentieth century. Using a wealth of primary sources, Ian Rutledge brings central players such as Winston Churchill, Arnold Wilson, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Sir Mark Sykes vividly to life in this gripping account.
Mujtahid wrote to Major Pulley demanding a face-to-face meeting with him. Pulley bluntly refused, telling Shirazi that the purpose of the blockade and the arrests was to maintain law and order. Once more the aged Shirazi wrote to Pulley. The letter began in tones more of sorrow than anger. He expressed his ‘surprise’ at the contents of Pulley’s previous message. He stated how he believed that Pulley had been deceived by influential persons who wished to exacerbate the tension between the Iraqi.
Exceptions. There was George Clerk of the Foreign Office, whom Sykes had met once or twice and who was in his mid-thirties, and sitting to the left of the chairman was a very short bald man whom Sir Maurice introduced as ‘Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Hankey, secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence’. As yet Sykes knew him only by reputation. SYKES’S 1915 PROPOSED SCHEME FOR THE ‘DECENTRALISATION’ OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE’S EASTERN POSSESSIONS Calling the meeting to order, Sir Maurice reminded.
New persona. Faysal invited his guests to be seated on the Persian carpets covering the floor of the tent while the customary interchange of compliments and courtesies took place. Faysal then asked questions about the progress of the Mesopotamian campaign, but to Bray and Leachman it seemed that he was doing this ‘more out of courtesy to his guests than with a real desire to know more than that the Turks were being well beaten’. As for Lawrence, according to Bray, his appearance conveyed an aura.
Days later, he wrote to her again describing the ‘clear efforts … being made to bring an entente between the Sunnis and the Shias’. He related how, on 24 May, the authorities had been forced to intervene. A young man named ‘Isa Abd al-Qadir had been arrested after delivering a nationalist poem at the Jalani Mosque which Wilson considered to be ‘dangerous to public order’.48 The following day the young man was bundled off to imprisonment at Basra.49 However, General Leslie had his own particular.
Opportunity of explaining the British government’s policy ‘in this matter’ and reminded the assembled notables of the Anglo-French Declaration of 8 November 1918 and Article 22 of the League of Nations Treaty, adding, ‘These declarations represent the policy of H.M.’s Government from which it has at no time diverged.’ Wilson then proceeded to read out in extenso the text of these documents, documents which were already perfectly well known to the educated and, in some cases, elderly men who stood.