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The Immense Failure: British Rulers of Iraq, 1914-1933
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By Long, C.W.R.
ISBN 9781846220630
Hardback  454 pages
 
Published 23 January 2020
UK Price £35.00   
US Price $50.00   

Ottoman Turkey’s First World War alliance with Germany provoked the first British invasion of Mesopotamia (Iraq), from India, in November 1914. A year later, General Townshend had to withdraw from Ctesiphon to Kut al-‘Amarah, there to be besieged. Premature attempts were vainly made with great bloodshed to relieve him (including one involving bribery by T.E.Lawrence) until, after the longest ever imperial siege, more than a third of the garrison became casualties during a forced march to an exile of hard labour in Turkey. After Baghdad was finally taken in March 1917, Chief Political Officer Arnold Wilson, wrangling with Gertrude Bell, settled the country’s boundaries and – following a costly uprising epitomising ‘the immense failure’ -- proposed Faysal, expelled from Syria by France, as King. Sir Percy Cox and his successor High Commissioners, constructing institutions, gained for the UK control of the communication sinews of the country via one-sided treaties. Striving with Faysal and inexperienced politicians, they finally secured its ‘independence’ in October 1932. The following year, Faysal died after a massacre of Assyrians by the army of Iraq, whose armed forces were too weak to resist in May 1941 when Britain invaded again to overthrow a pro-German government before being finally expelled from the country in 1958.

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