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18 September 2014
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British Relations with Iraq

By Derek Hopwood
The rise of the army

A 1934 photograph showing an Iraqi Army inspection
An inspection of the Iraqi Army, 1934 ©
In fact Iraq remained a satellite of Britain for the next three decades, under the terms of a treaty signed the same year (1930), which included the retention of British military bases and an agreement to train the Iraqi army. Ironically, this army became a breeding ground of resentment against the British presence, particularly amongst new nationalist officers. They deeply resented both the British policies in Palestine and the local civilian politicians, who were seen as British puppets. After the death of King Faisal in 1933 the country was virtually ruled by a group of colonels who saw themselves as the future liberators of an oppressed Iraq.

'They deeply resented both the British policies in Palestine and the local civilian politicians...'

During World War Two the British were once again dragged into Iraq - to protect the oil fields in the north and to put down a pro-Nazi coup amongst the army officers. Some 3,000 Iraqi troops were killed, and 3,000 nationalist officers were purged. The British remained to support the monarchy, and a pro-British prime minister, Nuri al-Said, was in place until, in 1958, monarch and politicians were swept away in a vicious nationalist army revolt.

Published: 2003-02-10

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