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Iraq: Then And Now

July 22, 2014

In school I learned about the Fertile Crescent as being the seat of the origins of human civilization. The first writings by the Sumerians, the use of the wheel and an irrigation system were started here. The Sumerians cataloged the history of ancient civilization on clay tablets later translated by Zechariah Sitchin, one of the worlds few scholars to translate these ancient texts.

One region of the Fertile Crescent in particular was known as Mesopotamia. What we are not consciously aware of when we are passively watching CNN or any of the other mouthpieces for White House policies is that Iraq, the country we have been invading and destroying since the 1990s is that same land of ancient Mesopotamia, the land of the Sumerians, the cradle of civilization.

We never asked ourselves how did this land go from something revered in our textbooks to a land of evil Muslims that we must kill?

For an understanding of this, we have to look across the pond to Great Britain and its war with the Ottoman Empire.


For the purposes of this article, lets fast forward to the period you see in the map above which is 1837 to 1871. Here you see the Ottoman Empire which ruled much of the Middle East with the exception of Egypt which was under the British Empire’s rule by 1914 via Lord Horatio Kitchener and his lieutenants.


As you see in the map above the Ottoman Empire was beginning to shrink and collapse by 1914 and believe it or not the Young Turks did attempt to obtain assistance from Britain and other European nations to maintain their power. Little did Britain realize that they were shooting themselves in the foot when they decided to take the policy of going to war with the Ottoman Empire and divide up the area and this is where all the problems of modern day Middle East begin.

At the same time you have the bankers of North America in the form of J.P. Morgan and others consolidating their power and control over the United States government and global finance with the passing of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Around this period of the early twentieth century you had the Titanic sinking, Europe going into a World War where France, Britain and Russia are up against Germany and the Ottoman Empire. During this time and even before then whenever European countries went into debt via their wars they would have to ask wealthy bankers for money. As a result a lot of wealthy banker families such as the Rothschilds and the Morgans became super wealthy and more powerful. So the idea of the banker class and Wall Street financing World War I before the United States was even officially involved was pretty much how that story went. What the creation of the Federal Reserve did was to institutionalize what the Morgans, Rockefellers, Rothschilds and other wealthy families were already doing, which was serving to prop up Wall Street banks and fund government wars. This is what the Federal Reserve does today and it is what it has been doing since its inception.

The British were successfully diminishing the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East and they set out to install a British administration in the region to maintain security while the war with the Young Turks continued. They began engaging in the old game of divide and conquer by offering a measure of self-government to the Arabs of Baghdad. What is important to note here and will probably shock you the reader is that during this time period of the early twentieth century the City of Baghdad was also full of Jews, in fact, Baghdad, along with Jerusalem, was one of the two great Jewish cities of Asia, and a thousand years before had become the seat of the exilarch–the head of the Jewish religion on the eastern diaspora–and thus the capital of oriental Judaism.

On 16th of March 1917, the London War Cabinet created a Mesopotamian Administration Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Curzon to determine what form of government should be installed in the captured provinces. So when you consider this history you realize that the modern day Iraqi people really have a history of being destabilized by empires all throughout history from Ottoman to British and now the United States. You also realize that as a nation Iraq is really not that old. It was created by the Brits in the early twentieth century and its now being destroyed by the United States government.

The discussion among the British officials turned to who will be the leader of the Baghdad? Around this time, London either had not been aware or not given any thought to populationĀ make up of the Mesopotamian provinces. It was an area that was majority Shi’ite, minority Sunni and the commercial predominance of the Jewish community as well.

Around this time, the British government was also discussing providing a homeland to the Jews of Europe, namely that of Palestine.

Keep in mind that during all this there is a World War going on in Europe and by 1918 the United States had also gotten involved because of the North American lives lost aboard European naval ships repeatedly sunk by the German military.

On the first day of the spring of 1918, German troops launched a surprise attack that smashed through Allied lines in northern France and threatened to win the war before North American reinforcements could arrive.


If you look at the map above you see that during World War I and the British war with the Ottoman Empire, Palestine came under British Mandate. The idea of a modern state of Israel was a British invention. In early 1918 British Colonel Sir Mark Sykes as shown below and his colleagues at the Foreign Office took steps to carry their Palestine policy into effect, that is the creation of what today we call Israel. A Zionist Commission had been created and was being sent out to the Middle East.


While a lot of energy was being spent and an inauguration of the work of the Zionist Commission was underway, in Baghdad and Basra, not much more than lip service was paid to the pro-Arab independence policies proclaimed by Sykes and the Foreign Office. Supposedly the idea was independence for these provinces under the rule of King Hussein as seen below who was nothing more than a British puppet. The British originally wanted to make Hussein Caliph but then changed their minds.



Why did the British change their mind about establishing Hussein as the leader of the Arab world? The British saw that King Hussein lacked military might and if they were to leave him the Arab world Hussein would soon be at the mercy of Ibn Saud and the rising wave of Whahhabism.

By the spring of 1918 World War I was coming to a close and Germany imposed crushing armistice terms on the defeated Russians who had also experienced its own internal revolution through the Bolsheviks. As soon as they had signed the armistice with Russia, the Ottoman and German empires began to dispute possession of the provinces that the Russian Empire had ruled adjoining the Turkish frontier. Christian Georgia and Armenia, and Moslem Azerbaijan–the three states collectively called Transcaucasia–were now independent.

Also, by 1918 the military importance of oil began to be generally recognized. Prior to the use of oil, coal was the fuel source of the military across all nations. The British, the French and the U.S. Department of the Navy both came to recognize that oil had become of cardinal importance. Germany had the captured territories of Georgia to obtain its oil resources.

So by 1920 the British government nation building policies in the Middle East begins to blow up with Arabs rioting against Jews in western Palestine and Iraq blowing up into a revolt. The London policies in Arabia were in disarray by the end of the first World War with Hussein, King of the Hejaz and Ibn Saud, warlord of Nejd at each others throats. These were two Arabian warlords subsidized by the British government.


You can see above Ibn Saud to the right breaking bread with what I imagine is one of his British handlers. Ibn Saud is known as the hereditary champion of the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, an eighteenth-century religious leader whose alliance with the House of Saud in 1745 had been strengthened by frequent intermarriage between the two families. The Wahhabis were severely puritanical reformers who were seen by their adversaries as fanatics.

More Arabs in the region began to gravitate towards the Wahhabi religious life and Ibn Saud quickly put himself as the leader of it. As Saud’s authority grew, that of Hussein, an orthodox Sunni was threatened, seeing Whahhabists as doctrinal and political enemies. One by one Ibn Saud and his Brotherhood of Wahhabists went around taking over more and more of the Arabian peninsula.

Perhaps what I am about to share could lend a glimpse as to why Iraq is such a hotbed of conflict today. Iraq as the Mesopotamian province of 1920 was composed of old faithful Ottoman Empire military personnel who remained loyal to the Sultan and the Young Turks until the very end of the war.

The term Iraq is what the Arab world has always called Mesopotamia with its origins laying in the ancient city of Sumer known as Uruk. This area has an extremely ancient history and diverse population group and in 1920 was known as not having any concept of nationhood.

The Hashemite Solution to Mesopotamia (Iraq)

Lets go back a bit to Hussein ibn Ali, ruler of the Hejaz on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan and styled the Sherif of Mecca and its Emir. To be a sherif, or notable, was to be a descendant of Mohammed; and Hussein, like Mohammed himself, was a member of the House of Hashem. Hussein referred to himself and his family as Hashemites. The son of Hussein, Feisal was being prepared by the British officials to be selected as the monarch of the about-to-be created state of Iraq, but making it appear as if Feisal had been freely and spontaneously chosen by the people of Iraq.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan when Sir Percy Cox received a disquieting message from the officer he had left in charge of Baghdad. Things had changed since the British departed home with Sayyid Talib, the dominant political leader of Basra reached an agreement with the Naqib, the elderly leading notable of Baghdad where the former would support the ascendancy to leadership of the region by the latter for a chance at succession.The two put forward the claim that Iraq is for Iraqis. They would not accept Feisal as leader for he was not Iraqi but a Hashemite.

Sayyid Talib was tricked into accepting an invitation to take tea with Sir Percy Cox at the Residency in Baghdad.

Nonetheless resistance to Feisal’s candidacy persisted, through it took other forms. Proposals were made in favor of a republic, in favor of a Turkish ruler, in favor of leaving the province of Basra separate from the province of Baghdad, and in favor of leaving matters as they were, under the administration of Sir Percy Cox as High Commissioner.

Indeed, Britain was called upon immediately to shield Iraq from the growing power of the warlord sweeping the peninsula, Ibn Saud. The Arabian monarch, a dynastic enemy of the Hashemites, threatened Feisal as well as his brother Abdullah; and the British government felt obliged to protect them both. At the end of 1922, in a meeting at a port called ‘Uqair, Sir Percy Cox imposed upon Ibn Saud an agreement defining the Saudi kingdom’s frontiers with Kuwait and Iraq.

Despite their need for British protection, Iraqi politicians moved to assert themselves. The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1922, like the Allenby Declaration of formal independence for Egypt the same year, marked a change in the political atmosphere of the Arab East. Neither Iraq nor Egypt was granted more than limited autonomy, yet both had been recognized as entities possessing the attributes of statehood. In both countries, political leaders agitated for independence, while British-appointed monarch could only maintain their positions by doing the same.

The Arabic-speaking section of the Ottoman Empire had now been politically redesigned. The Turks no longer ruled it. In the east, Kurdish, Sunni, Shi’ite, and Jewish populations had been combined into a new Mesopotamian country named Iraq, under the rule of an Arabian prince; it looked like an independent country, but Britain regarded it as a British protectorate.

Where the United States starts to get involved in the story is in the oil issue raised for the first time on behalf of the Standard Oil Company of New York (the House of Rockefeller), which had been engaged in oil exploration in the Middle East before the first World War and held concessions to explore there, but it did not hold concessions in the region of Iraq. There was a large potential for oil in Iraq and Standard Oil knew it but did nothing until after the war.

Since the 1920s the United States has held a strong presence in Iraq for control of its oil resources relegating Britain to status of consenting junior partner and all the problems that you hear about on the news today have these origins that I have shared with you in this article and it is my hope that it helps you put things into perspective.

From → History

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