The Iraq Revolution

In 1920 the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate to control Iraq. Britain provided Iraq with a constitution and arranged for Faisal ibn Ali, the son of Sharif Husain of Mecca, to become king of Iraq. The Kurds were unhappy with this arrangement and were involved in several uprisings against British rule.

The mandate came to an end in October, 1932 when Iraq entered the League of Nations as an independent state. However, Britain bound Iraq closely to the British Empire by a 25 year military alliance. Britain retained military bases in Iraq and exerted a strong political influence in the country. This included ensuring that the concession for oil exploration and exploitation to the Iraq Petroleum Company, a conglomerate of British, French and United States interests.

During the 1930s there were seven military coups. These all failed but Faisal I rule came to an end when he was killed in a car accident in 1939. He was now replaced by Faisal II and as he was only four years old his uncle, Emir Abd al-llah, became regent.

During the Second World War Arab nationalists established close links with Germany in an attempt to gain Iraq independence. Rashid Ali set up a pro-German government in Baghdad and in May 1941 the British Army invaded Iraq and remained until October 1947.

The British continued to give its support to the government of Faisal II and Nuri es-Said. The Baghdad Pact, an agreement on collective security between the two countries, was signed in 1955.

Faisal's rule was destabilized by the events of the Suez Crisis. On 26th July 1956 Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, announced he intended to nationalize the Suez Canal. The shareowners, the majority of whom were from Britain and France, were promised compensation. Nasser argued that the revenues from the Suez Canal would help to finance the Aswan Dam.

Anthony Eden, the British prime minister, feared that Nasser intended to form an Arab Alliance that would cut off oil supplies to Europe. On 21st October Guy Mollet, Anthony Eden and David Ben-Gurion met in secret to discuss the problem. During these talks it was agreed to make a joint attack on Egypt.

On 29th October 1956, the Israeli Army, led by General Moshe Dayan, invaded Egypt. Two days later British and French bombed Egyptian airfields. British and French troops landed at Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal on 5th November. By this time the Israelis had captured the Sinai peninsula.

Although Iraq was a close ally of Britain, King Faisal, under pressure from his own population, was forced to give his support to Egypt in the war. However, he upset Arab nationalists in 1958 when he opposed the plan to establish the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria.

In July 1958, King Faisal II and his entire household were assassinated during a military coup. Nuri es-Said attempted to escape from Baghdad disguised as a woman but he was captured and executed on 14th July, 1958.

As a result of the Iraqi Revolution, the Arab nationalist, Abdul Karim Kassem, became the country's new leader and in 1959 Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact.