Correspondence

The British Empire and the Muslims

Last year in England, we marked the 60th anniversary of the voluntary granting of independence to India and Pakistan; it was also the year in which our military began to leave Iraq.  Soon, the last of the British troops will march out of Basra with their band dolefully playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”

Iraq has bad associations for the British.  We were badly defeated at Kut-al-Amara, halfway between Basra and Baghdad, during World War I, and the Turkish victors treated their British and Indian prisoners abominably.  Any Christian Armenian will tell you exactly how the Muslim Turks behaved when they held the upper hand.  After World War I, Britain ruled Mesopotamia under a League of Nations mandate until the early 1930’s.  Sunnis and Shiites united against the British in the rebellion of 1920.  In World War II, a coup in Iraq put pro-Nazi elements in charge, and there were pogroms against the Jews.  The British had to drive them out by force for fear that Nazi reinforcements would arrive through Germany’s French ally, Vichy-controlled Syria.  Later, the British had to use Kurdish troops to protect the Jews in Baghdad from mob violence.  After the failure of the Franco-British military intervention in Suez in 1956 (resulting from American opposition), similar nationalist elements in the Iraqi military staged another coup in 1958 and killed the king and the pro-British...

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