World War II
In accordance with its treaty of alliance with Britain, Iraq broke off diplomatic relations with Germany early in September 1939 and during the first few months of World War II had a pro-British government under Premier General Nuri as-Said. In March 1940, however, Said was replaced by Rashid Ali al-Gailani, an extreme Arab nationalist, who embarked at once on a policy of non-cooperation with the British.
British pressure for the implementation of the Anglo-Iraqi alliance precipitated a military revolt on April 30, 1941, and a new pro-Axis government headed by Premier Gailani was formed. Alarmed at this development, the British invaded Iraq. Declaring this action a violation of the treaty between Britain and Iraq, Gailani mobilized the Iraqi army, and war between the two countries began in May.
Later that month the government of Iraq conceded defeat. The armistice terms provided for the reestablishment of British control over Iraq's transport, a provision of the 1930 treaty of alliance. Shortly afterward a pro-British government was formed, later superseded by a cabinet headed by Nouri Al-Said.
In 1942 Iraq became an important supply center for British and American forces operating in the Middle East. On January 17, 1943, Iraq declared war on the Axis powers, the first independent Muslim state to do so. Meanwhile, Iraq's continuing assistance to the Allied war effort made possible a stronger stand by Arab leaders on behalf of a federation of Arab states.
The Israeli Connection
The British, fearing Soviet encroachment on the Iraqi oil fields, moved troops into Iraq. In 1947 Said began to advocate a new proposal for a federated Arab state. This time he suggested that Transjordan and Iraq be united, and he began negotiations with the king of Transjordan regarding the effectuation of his proposal. In April 1947 a treaty of kinship and alliance was signed by the two kingdoms, providing for mutual military and diplomatic aid.
Immediately following the declaration of independence by the Israelis in May 1948, the armies of Iraq and Transjordan invaded the new state. Throughout the rest of the year Iraqi armed forces continued to fight the Israelis and the nation continued to work politically with the kingdom of Transjordan.
In September Iraq joined Abdullah ibn Husein, king of Transjordan, in denouncing the establishment of an Arab government in Palestine as being "tantamount to recognizing the partition of Palestine," which Iraq had consistently opposed. With the general defeat of the Arab forces attacking Israel, however, the government of Iraq prepared to negotiate an armistice, represented by Transjordan.
On May 11, 1949, a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Transjordan was signed, but Iraqi units continued to fight Israelis in an Arab-occupied area in north-central Palestine. Transjordanian troops replaced the Iraqi units in this area under the terms of the armistice agreement, signed on April 3, 1949.
In April 1954 the U.S. government agreed to extend military aid to Iraq. A series of political crises during the first half of the year led to parliamentary elections in June. Political groups hostile to the U.S. arms agreement triumphed in the voting.
In January 1957 Iraq endorsed the recently promulgated Eisenhower Doctrine. This doctrine stated that the United States would supply military assistance to any Middle Eastern government whose stability was threatened by Communist aggression.
On July 14, 1958, in a sudden coup d'état led by the Iraqi general 'Abd al-Karim Kassem, the country was proclaimed a republic. King Faisal, the crown prince, and Nouri Said were among those killed in the uprising. However, Kassem made attempts to gain the confidence of the West by maintaining the flow of oil.
In March 1959 Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact, which was then renamed the Central Treaty Organization; in June 1959 Iraq withdrew from the sterling bloc (a group of countries whose currencies are tied to the British pound sterling).
Blood for Oil
Western domination tended to benefit the nations of Europe at the expense of the Arab world. Europe's worldwide nineteenth-century search for raw materials, markets, military bases, and colonies eventually touched most of what had been the Arab world. In 1925 a concession was granted to a Western owned oil company to develop the Iraqi oil reserves of the Baghdad and Mosul regions.
The exploitation of the oil reserves in Iraq was further advanced by an agreement signed by the Iraqi government and the Iraq Petroleum Company, an internationally owned organization composed of Royal-Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, French oil companies, and the Standard Oil companies of New York and New Jersey.
The agreement granted the Iraq Petroleum Company the sole right to develop the oil fields of the Mosul region, in return for which the company guaranteed to pay the Iraqi government annual royalties. In 1934 the company opened an oil pipeline from Mosul to Tripoli, Lebanon, and a second one to Haifa, in what is now Israel, was completed in 1936. In 1953 the 911-km (566-mi) Kirkûk-Bâniyâs pipeline of the Iraq Petroleum Company was formally opened.
Petroleum is the most important natural resource of Iraq, which attracted the invaders. The modern Iraqi economy is largely based on petroleum, and most of the few large manufacturing industries have to do with oil.
Some Muslims see Baghdad's downfall - and the broader humiliation of the Arabs and Muslims at the hands of the latter-day Mongols - as righteous punishment for them. Since the 13th century, Islamic theologians have argued that military defeat at the hands of unbelievers results when Muslims gave up the pure faith, abandoned its application and became overwhelmed by their worldly affairs.
The Abbasid and Ottoman Caliphates fell because the rulers and their people had gone soft and abandoned their religion. The Western invasion of secular Iraq is the ultimate vindication of this view, the capstone of a series of modern Muslim defeats.
However, these cataclysmic events are seen as opportunities to purify Muslim souls and to prepare for an ideological battle with all those who attack Islam and Muslims. Every defeat of the Muslims is a step for Islam's eventual supremacy in the world.