Katie Paul 4
November 13, 2009
Outline / Griffin
The Iraq and Transjordan Mandates
I. Thesis: Though both under British control at roughly the same time, the outcomes of the
Iraq and Transjordan mandates were vastly different, with the Iraqi mandate ending in a
military coup and the area of Transjordan remaining relatively peaceful.
i. Iraq was originally three separate regions: Mosul, a mountainous northern
province economically linked to Anatolia and Syria, Baghdad, supported by
agriculture and trade with Iran, and Basra to the south, which traded with India
and the Persian Gulf.
1. When linked under a British mandate in 1920, these regions had
nothing in common politically and very little in common socially.
2. The differences in these three regions made political synergy difficult.
ii. In the new countryside of Iraq, tribal confederations were harboring resentment
towards the new centralized government.
1. This dissent reached a head in June 1920, when a huge uprising broke
out among the tribes of the Euphrates. This revolt is often seen by Arabs
as a symbolic Arab rejection of foreign intervention. It was also a turning
point of British policymaking in Iraq.
iii. After the rebellion, the British sought Amir Faysel in 1921.
1. The British wished to somewhat honor the promises made to the
Hussein family during the Arab Revolt and also believed that Faysel
would be moderate and his reputation as a prominent Arab figure
would culminate popularity for the new government.
2. The British were very careful to portray Faysel as a legitimate leader of
Iraq, rather than a puppet ruler. Through a series of treaties, Great
Britain allowed Iraq an increased degree of autonomy.
iv. The Organic Law of 1925
1. Defined Iraq as a hereditary constitutional monarchy with an elected
bicameral legislature. Islam was proclaimed the state religion and
separate courts were established for Sunnis and Shi’ia.
a. The two-chamber parliament, however, was approved only
under pressure from the British. Iraqi nationalists would have
much preferred an entirely independent system of government.
2. An Iraqi army was formed and expanded to slightly over 26,000 men by
3. An Iraqi school system was also established under the Organic Law,
promoting patriotism and national culture.
v. In 1932, Iraq received formal independence and was admitted into the League
of Nations. This proclamation was much delayed, due to arguments that the
country was not yet ready for independence. France, especially, was afraid of
the precedent this would set for its own colonies.
1. Britain still maintained some sponsorship in the workings of Iraq,
including the use of certain air bases and maintaining a means of
communication. The Iraq Petroleum Company, too, was closely
supervised by the British.
vi. Faysal, generally regarded as an capable ruler, died in 1933, ceding rule to his 21
year old sun Ghazi.
1. Ghazi , though a loyal Arab Nationalist, provided little in the way of
leadership, allowing a narrow clique of individuals to run the country.
2. This group of Sunni ex-Ottoman officers was constantly changing: some
individuals held the Prime Minister position five separate times. The
consolidation of power in the hands of these particular elite
represented a significant sectarian trend in Iraqi politics and power
degenerated into a series of power struggles.
3. No political parties formed and elections were largely controlled. What
arose was a series of tribe-based political uprisings that occurred in
vii. The military took over the political realm in 1936. This initiated a round of
military coups inspired by Kemal Ataturk that continued for decades.
1. This emphasis on military led to the Anglo-Iraqi War in 1941.
i. In the new state of Iraq, religion sharply divided the populace.
1. More than half of the Arab inhabitants of Iraq were Shi’ite Muslims. The
rest were Sunnis. Though a numerical minority, the British politically
backed the Sunni Muslims.
2. Religious minorities, such as the large Kurdish population (making up
roughly 20% of the total population) to the north, Assyrian Christians,
and a handful of Jewish communities in Baghdad, increased friction. The
Kurds, especially, felt they had been cheated out of their self-
ii. The newly formed Iraqi army, in an attempt to gain legitimacy in the Middle
East, began in 1933 to “protect the national interest” by massacring the
Assyrian Christian population to the north.
1. These genocidal actions were applauded by most Iraqis and the soldiers
were never berated for their actions. Many Christians fled to Syria as
2. This newfound power led to a military coup d’etat in 1936.
i. Early on, the British limited Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf. With only 36 miles
of coastline, surrounding areas with more geographically favorable coastlines
left much to be desired in Iraq. Kuwait, especially, was coveted by Iraq.
1. The border between Kuwait and Iraq became a constant source of
friction until 1990, when the tiny country was annexed.
ii. The presence of oil fields in Iraq fostered a contradiction in the British’s
influence in the region. While Great Britain wanted to mostly stay out of the
affairs of the new state, the presence of oil forced some intervention. The
British eventually signed a seventy-five year concession with the Iraq Petroleum
Company allowing Britain huge access to the oil in the region.
iii. Iraq’s borders were often disputed, causing conflict with nearby Persia and the
Turkish Republic. With the help of British mediation, these disputes were
i. Transjordan, the area excluded from the Palestine Mandate, was created as an
artificial state to accommodate the interests of a Great Britain and a potential
ruler, Abdullah Hussein, looking for a throne.
ii. Before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Transjordan was comprised of various
Bedouin tribes inhabiting the desert regions in the neglected part of Syria. These
tribes, unused to political interference in their workings, moved freely between
Transjordan and Syria, often conducting raids.
iii. Britain’s main goal in Transjordan was to honor the Anglo-French postwar
settlement in the Middle East and to stop the raids of the Bedouins on the
iv. To facilitate this end, an agreement was signed in 1928 to clarify the place of
Abdullah and the British in this territory. The British would indirectly rule the
region. A council was established, but retained little power, allowing Abdullah to
control its members and rule as a monarch would.
v. A bureaucracy was formed from various individuals without tribe affiliation who
were not likely to engage in oppositional political activities. For this reason, no
political parties formed and Abdullah kept peace by aligning with the various
vi. In 1946, Transjordan received its independence, elevating Abdullah from prince
to king. This was propelled by a British preoccupation with the problems of
i. An armed service received special emphasis from the British for the purpose of
bringing stability to the decentralized tribal region. While the Arab Legion
patrolled the frontiers of Transjordan, a special desert patrol was responsible
for subduing the tribes and halting raids. These services were built from the
population and controlled by British officers.
1. The Arab Legion played a large role in WWII fighting for the British.
i. The country began poor and underdeveloped, but gradually made slow and
steady progress towards economic harmony.
1. Transjordan was smaller and poorer than Palestine and Syria.
ii. Roads and schools were built. However, it was fifteen years before the country
had the need for more than one secondary school