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Britain invades Mesopotamia

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Outbreak of War

October 1914

Outbreak of war between Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. Shortly thereafter, the British landed the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Forces (MEF) at the head of the Persian Gulf near Basra.

British Capture Basra

November 1914

By the end of November, Basra was in British hands. This was a pre-emptive move by the British government of India to protect British interests in the Persian Gulf.

British Take Basra

April 1915

Defeat of Ottoman forces at Shu'aiba empowers the British to seize all of Basra in a realization of the value of territorial gain.

British Setback in Kut

November 1915

British forces reach within fifty miles of Baghdad. However, a powerful Ottoman counter-attack drives these forces back to Kut where the forces are besieged for four months before eventually surrendering in April 1916.

Arab Revolt in Hijaz


Arab Revolt against Britain in the Hijaz. Led by Hashemite Sharif Husain of Mecca and his sons.

British Take Baghdad

March 1917

Baghdad falls to British forces.

Society of Islamic Revival

Early 1918

Shortly after the British establish control over Najaf and Karbala, the Society of Islamic Revival (Jam'iyya al-Nahda al-Islamiyya) was founded in Najaf, bringing together notables, clerics and tribal shaikhs. A British official was eventually assassinated, leading to swift reassertion of British hegemony.

British Capture Kirkuk

May 1918

British capture of Kirkuk.

Kurdish Ally Britain

May 1918

A meeting of Kurdish tribal leaders in Sulaimaniyya offered the rule of their country to Great Britain. British had already established contact with one of them, Shaikh Mahmud Barzinki.

British Take Kirkuk

September 1918

British forces take Kirkuk and effectively destroy the Ottoman 6th Army.

Armistice of Mudros

October 1918

The Ottoman government pursues peace, leading to the Armistice of Mudros. The terms of the Armistice of Mudros were that Ottoman garrisons in Mesopotamia surrendered to the British.

British Capture Mosul

November 1918

The British commander then went on to Mosul, demanding its surrender. The Ottoman governor protested that Mosul was not part of Mesopotamia, but nevertheless was forced to comply and Ottoman forces withdrew. This established the line of the Armistice of Mudros as the northern border of the Mosul province.

Shaikh Mahmud Ascends

December 1918

Shaikh Mahmud Barzinki was appointed governor of Lower Kurdistan, causing him to fall out with some other Kurdish chiefs. The British were harassed by Kurdish resistance, and upon realizing Shaikh Mahmud Barzinki's desire for greater control moved to restrain him.

British Occupy All of Iraq

End of 1918

British occupation of the three provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul.

Shaikh Mahmud Quashed

May 1919

Shaikh Mahmud Barzinki defiantly announces an independent Kurdistan. This strengthened British officers' proclamations from Baghdad that direct rule was needed in Kurdistan. A British military expedition is dispatched. Shaikh Mahmud Barzinki is captured and British administration is re-established in Sulaimaniyya. Outbursts of revolt and defiance continue.

Sykes-Picot Agreement

Anglo-French Declaration

November 1918

Promised self-government in the three provinces.

TCCD Regulation

The Tribal Civil and Criminal Disputes Regulation was based on the Government of India Act of the same name. It gave tribal shaikhs, designated by British authorities, the power to settle all disputes with an between members of their tribe. Also, it charged tribal shaikhs with collecting taxes on behalf of the government. The TCCD Regulation was encoded into Iraqi later in 1924. This was based on the premise that tribal hierarchies and units constituted the natural order of the society.

Arnold Wilson's Plebiscite

Early 1919

Misleadingly labeling it a plebiscite, Arnold Wilson surveyed notables of the three provinces. Opinions were inconsistent regarding the shape and constitution of the state, but there was agreement outside the Kurdish areas that the state should comprise all three Ottoman provinces under an Arab government. Wilson greatly exaggerated the degree to which notables would acquiesce to continued British control.

Versailles Peace Conf


The British prevented a delegation from going, leading to the formation of the Independence Guard. Like al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi, the Independence Guard called for an independent Iraq (now recognized as the three provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul) under one of Sharif Husain's sons. The Independence Guard was composed of more civillians than military officers than did al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi.

French Occupy Syria


The French came to occupy all of Syria via a Mandate by the League of Nations.

Al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi Congress

March 1920

Al-'Ahd al-'Iraqi held a congress in Damascus and declared the independence of Iraq under the kingship of Amir 'Abdallah, brother of Amir Faisal and one of the sons of Sharif Husain. Few recognized the authority of the congress and 'Abdallah himself was notably cool towards it. Regardless, this was a distinct shift of al-'Ahd's activities and a number of officers moved to Dair al-Zur in eastern Syria in hopes of establishing a base of operations.

Student Reader  |  FD7R75BS4T

Marr, Phoebe. The Modern History of Iraq, 2nd Edition. 2004. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado.

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1915 May 2nd

Await Expulsion of Kurds

Thousands of Christians Want to Return to Persia

TIFLIS, Transcaucasia. Saturday, March 27. (Correspondence of The Associated Press.) — Many thousands of the Assyrian inhabitants of the country west of Lake Urumiah have had to flee before the coming of the raiding Kurds. Some 45,000 or 50,000 of these people a few months go occupied the smiling gardens on the lake shores. Now 12,000 are refugees in Russia and some 15,000 or 17,000 took refuge under the protection of Dr. Harry P. Packard of the American Presbytarian Mission at Urumiah. His successful efforts in their behalf already have been told by cable. His name will survive in Assyrian traditions.

The members of the Central Committee of the Assyrian or Chaldean Christians are awaiting only one thing, the return of the Russians, to endeavor to reconstruct into a safe community the remnant of this ancient empire of Nineveh. The committeemen fled with their families. They can only hope today that some of their relatives will be returned to them from Kurdish enslavement. Those who did not escape, or were made slaves, perished.

The committeemen speak English fluently, and were at one time prosperous merchants. This was before their little tribe was gripped by the cogs of the great war.

Until American missions were established in the Urumiah country the Assyrians maintained their religious traditions by semi-annual reading from half a dozen cherished parchment New Testaments, taking he additional precaution of requiring the more gifted youth to memorize the whole of their sacred literature. With mission schools and hospitals, enlightenment and prosperity increased. The Assyrian villages were as famous for neatness and comfort as their gardens were for fertility. Further encouragements and protection were brought by the Russians, who came into the country about nine years ago.

"The Assyrians took sides with the Russians in this war, while the Mohammedans turned to the Turks and Germany. Organized and drilled by Russian officers, the Assyrians rendered valuable sacrifices by fortifying some of their villages and guarding the caravan roads to Urumiah. About 250 were regularly enlisted, the Central Committee supplying the funds. Later, 2,000 or 3,000 volunteers were under arms and had some training.

Toward the end of December the Russians and Assyrians defeated a large body of Kurds, inflicting a loss estimated at 500.

Fleeing before impending massacre, 3,000 of the Assyrians gathered at a strong village, Geogtapa, and held their ground five days with a loss of seventy men.

NY Times, 1915 May 02

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1919 January 26th

For Aid To Assyrians.

American Bishops Urge Their Claims Be Heard.

Fifty-four Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country and fourteen in Canada have cabled to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York a petition to use their influence to obtain recognition by the Peace Conference of an Assyrian delegation to present the claims of the Christians of Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, and Persia for protection and rehabilitation. Professor W. W. Rockwell of the Union Theological Seminary stated that the project had the approval also of the American Committee for Relief in the Near East, and financial assistance to the extent of $1,000 was set aside by Theodore Roosevelt, just before his death, from the Nobel Peace Prize of 1905.

Professor Rockwell also made public a cablegram on behalf of 70,000 Assyrian Christian refugees from Persia begging that the Peace Conference grant their demands for repatriation, protection, indemnity, and the return of prisoners of war. They have designated as delegates to Versailles the Rev. Isaac Ronan of Urumia, with Paul Shimmon of New York as alternate.

NY Times, 1919 Jan 26

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2007 September 18th

Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq: New Edition.