Anglo-Iraqi Treaty

Anglo-Iraqi Treaty

In the aftermath of World War I, the possessions of the Ottoman Empire were split mainly between France and Britain, with the remainder becoming the country of Turkey. The former Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra became a League of Nations Class A mandate under direct British rule, known as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. The idea of being a “mandate” was seen with serious skepticism among many Iraqis as a thinly veiled attempt at colonization.

Concurrently, Iraq was going through a period of political turmoil. Nationalists who believed that the expulsion of the Ottomans would lead to greater independence were disappointed with the system of government formed by the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. Short of the Iraqis gaining a new sense of national identity through self-governing, the British imported civil servants from India who had previous knowledge and experience on how the government of a colony is supposed to run.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement

During the First World War, an agreement was struck between the foreign ministers of Great Britain and France on behave of their respective governments on a vision of a post war division of the Ottoman Empire in which the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire (south and west of Anatolia) would be split into spheres of influence for the French and British.

That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab states or a confederation of Arab states (a) and (b) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of Arab states.


The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty was signed due mostly to the revolutionary efforts of the citizens of Iraq, a coalition of both Sunni and Shia Arabs. Major centres of insurgency during the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920 included Mosul, Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala. The insurgency effort in Karbala was inflamed by a fatwa issued by the grand mujtahid Imam Shirazi. The fatwa made the observation that it was unislamic to be ruled by the British, who did not practice Islam. The fatwa ordered a jihad against the British occupation.

The Kurds of northern Iraq also waged war on the British in the years of the signing and ratification of the treaty. The Kurds sought to cede from Iraq and form a homeland for their people. The revolutionary efforts were tempered by the British in large part due to air to ground attacks conducted by the Royal Air Force, but the aid of other Kurds to defeat the revolt were of significant consequence. This would be the first revolt by the Kurds attempting to create a homeland against the British and later the government of Iraq.

The Cairo Conference

The Cairo Conference of 1921 would set the stage for greater Iraqi autonomy. A Hashemite (or king, put simply) was chosen to lead the country. Faisal ibn Husayn was chosen as the first King of Iraq. King Faisal was seen as a compromise between British interests in the country, and the revolutionary nationalists; he could trace his family lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad, as well as having participated in the 1916 Arab revolt against the Ottomans. However, the British still saw Faisal as dependent enough of their support to bend him under pressure.

The Signing

The treaty was signed on behalf of the British by Sir Percy Cox on October 10, 1922. The treaty was not ratified by the Iraqi government until 1924. It was not until the British high commissioner threatened to wield his authority to scrap the constitution, drafted by the Iraqi constituent assembly, was the treaty ratified. It was seen with disdain by many Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia. However, it was still the first step towards a more independent Iraq.


The Treaty was eventually suspended upon the signing of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930.

References and Sources

"The History Guy" [] accessed on 13 April 2008.

"Encyclopaedia of the Orient" [] accessed on 9 August 2007.

"Chronological Table of Middle East History" [] accessed on 9 September 2007.

"Encyclopædia Britannica" []

This article contains material from the Library of Congress Country Studies, which are United States government publications in the public domain.

This article uses an image reproduced from with permission (Mahmoud Abu Rumieleh, Webmaster).

See also

* Anglo-Iraqi Treaty (1930)
* Baghdad
* British-Iraqi relations
* British Mandate of Mesopotamia
* Faisal I of Iraq
* Iraq
* Mesopotamia
* Ottoman Empire
* Sykes-Picot Agreement

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