Behind the War on Iraq: Research Unit for Political Economy

Monthly Review, May 2003 | Go to article overview

Behind the War on Iraq: Research Unit for Political Economy


Three themes stand out in Iraq's history over the last century, in the light of the present U.S. plans to invade and occupy that country.

First, the attempt by imperialist powers to dominate Iraq in order to grab its vast oil wealth. in this regard there is hardly a dividing line between oil corporations and their home governments, with the governments undertaking to promote, secure, and militarily protect their oil corporations.

Second, the attempt by each imperialist power to exclude others from the prize.

Third, the vibrancy of nationalist opposition among the people of Iraq and indeed the entire region to these designs of imperialism. This is manifested at times in mass upsurges and at other times in popular pressure on whomever is in power to demand better terms from the oil companies or even to expropriate them.

The following account is limited to Iraq, and it provides only the barest sketch.

FROM COLONY TO SEMI-COLONY

Entry of Imperialism

Iraq, the easternmost country of the Arab world, was home to perhaps the world's first great civilization. It was known in classical times as Mesopotamia ("Land between the Rivers"--the Tigris and the Euphrates), and became known as Iraq in the seventh century. For centuries Baghdad was a rich and vibrant city, the intellectual center of the Arab world. From the sixteenth century to 1918, Iraq was a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, divided into three vilayets (provinces): Mosul in the north, Baghdad in the center, and Basra in the south. The first was predominantly Kurdish, the second predominantly Sunni Arab, and the third predominantly Shiite Arab.

As the Ottoman Empire fell into decline, Britain and France began extending their influence into its territories, constructing massive projects such as railroads and the Suez Canal and keeping the Arab countries deep in debt to British and French banks.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain directly ruled Egypt, Sudan, and the Persian Gulf, while France was the dominant power in Lebanon and Syria. Iran was divided between British and Russian spheres of influence. The carving up of the Ottoman territories (from Turkey to the Arabian peninsula) was on the agenda of the imperialist powers.

When Germany, a relative latecomer to the imperialist dining table, attempted to extend its influence in the region by obtaining a "concession" to build a railway from Europe to Baghdad, Britain was alarmed. By this time the British government--in particular its navy-had realized the strategic importance of oil, and it was thought that the region might be rich in oil. Britain invested [pounds sterling]2.2 million in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (a fully British firm operating in Iran) to obtain a 51 percent stake in the company. Gulbenkian, an adventurous Armenian entrepreneur, argued that there must be oil in Iraq as well. At his initiative the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) was formed: 50 percent British, 25 percent German, and 25 percent Royal Dutch-Shell (Dutch- and British-owned).

The First World War (1914-1918) underlined for the imperialists the importance of control of oil for military purposes, and hence the urgency of controlling the sources of oil. As soon as war was declared with the Ottomans, Britain landed a force (composed largely of Indian soldiers) in southern Iraq, and eventually took Baghdad in 1917. It took Mosul in November 1918, in violation of the armistice with the Turks a week earlier.

During the war, the British carried on two contradictory sets of secret negotiations. The first was with Sharif Husayn of Mecca. In exchange for Arab revolt against Turkey, the British promised support for Arab independence after the war. However, the British insisted that Baghdad and Basra would be special zones of British interest where "special administrative arrangements" would be necessary to "safeguard our mutual economic interests.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Behind the War on Iraq: Research Unit for Political Economy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.