Ottoman Turkey’s First World War alliance with Germany provoked the first British invasion of Mesopotamia (Iraq), from India, in November 1914. A year later, General Townshend had to withdraw from Ctesiphon to Kut al-‘Amarah, there to be besieged. Premature attempts were vainly made with great bloodshed to relieve him (including one involving bribery by T.E.Lawrence) until, after the longest ever imperial siege, more than a third of the garrison became casualties during a forced march to an exile of hard labour in Turkey. After Baghdad was finally taken in March 1917, Chief Political Officer Arnold Wilson, wrangling with Gertrude Bell, settled the country’s boundaries and – following a costly uprising epitomising ‘the immense failure’ -- proposed Faysal, expelled from Syria by France, as King. Sir Percy Cox and his successor High Commissioners, constructing institutions, gained for the UK control of the communication sinews of the country via one-sided treaties. Striving with Faysal and inexperienced politicians, they finally secured its ‘independence’ in October 1932. The following year, Faysal died after a massacre of Assyrians by the army of Iraq, whose armed forces were too weak to resist in May 1941 when Britain invaded again to overthrow a pro-German government before being finally expelled from the country in 1958.
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Table of Contents
Introduction, 1 Requiem for the Indian Army: the Indo-British Invasion of Turkish Arabia, 2 Sir Percy Cox, King of the Gulf , 3 ‘That Mountebank Townshend’: the Siege of Kut al-‘Amarah and the Death March to Turkey, 4 ‘A Hopeless and Unworthy Attempt’: Lawrence of Kut, 5 The End of Ottoman Mesopotamia, 6 Cox and the Unworkable General, 7 ‘You and your Amir!’: the sad case of Gertrude Bell, 8 A T Wilson, Creator of modern Iraq, 9 ‘If any man has deserved a knighthood it is you’: Wilson and the uprising of 1920, 10 Cox, Kingmaker in Iraq, 11 Dobbs and the Decade of Treaties, 12 Climacteric: The Twilight of The High Commissioners and the ‘Independence’ of Iraq, Appendices: A Sayyid Talib, B The early career and character of Wilson, C The later career of Townshend, D The later career of Wilson, E Cox in Tehran, Envoi, Notes, Bibliography.