THE Mesopotamian campaign had the humblest origin of all the great 'side-shows' of the war, yet finally it yielded to scarcely any in magnitude,1 and to none in calamities and horrors. The little expedition of a brigade originally dispatched by the Indian Government at the instance of the British Cabinet aimed simply at securing the Shatt-al-Arab, the name given to the united streams of the Tigris and Euphrates flowing into the Persian Gulf below Basra. We had for some years exercised a protectorate over the local rulers, the Sultans of Kuwait and Mohammerah. This influence it became the more vital to maintain when the Anglo-Persian oil pipe-line ran down to the river some thirty miles above its mouth. Our navy depended for its supplies on this great company, in which the Government had secured a controlling interest just before the war--an investment rivalling, for the enormous subsequent profit realized by its holder, our shares in the Suez Canal Company.
Adequately to protect the line through its long and wild journey into the Persian mountains would have been far beyond the military capacity of India in 1914. But it was believed that if the Turks could be driven out of Basra, where they were visibly planning an offensive against the head of the Gulf, the Arabs would be disposed in our favour, or at least be turned aside from any enterprise against us. They were in many cases restive under the cruel and inefficient government of the Turk, and might be expected, in accordance with their tradition of shifty time-serving, to incline towards the victors. Now British policy was not free from an unpleasing Machiavellism,____________________