Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991

By Kenneth M. Pollack | Go to book overview

2

IRAQ

The modern Iraqi military was established by the British during their mandate over Iraq after World War I. Initially, the British created a formation known as the Iraq Levies, comprising several battalions of troops whose primary responsibility was to garrison the Royal Air Force (RAF) bases with which the British controlled Iraq. Although the Levies were adequate for the defense of the airfields, the threat of war with Turkey forced the British to expand Iraq's indigenous military forces. The Turks claimed the former Ottoman vilayet of Mosul as a part of their country. This province consisted of what is today the northern third of Iraq, mainly Iraqi Kurdistan, including the vast Kirkuk oilfields. In 1920, Turkish troops crept into Iraqi Kurdistan, forcing the small British garrisons out of as-Sulaymaniyyah and Rawanduz in eastern Kurdistan. To help deal with this threat, the British founded the Iraqi army in 1921 and six years later added an air force. The British recruited former Ottoman officers to man the junior and middle ranks of the new Iraqi officer corps; however, British officers occupied the senior commands and most of the training positions. In addition, the British provided the new army with weapons and training to defeat the anticipated Turkish invasion of northern Iraq.

By the late 1920s, the threat of a Turkish attack had abated, but there were still potential missions for the Iraqi army. The Iraqis, and their British masters, continued to fret over Turkish or Persian encroachment on their territory. Both of these states were considerably more cohesive than Iraq, possessed superior armies, and had dynamic leaders and territorial claims. There were also frequent internal threats to the integrity of the state from separatist revolts, not only by the Kurds but also by the powerful Arab tribes of western and southern Iraq. However, the British even

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