(PALSTINE, SYRIA, LEBANON and IRAQ, to 1930 – continued)
In 1922 in Mesopotamia, rebellion against British domination erupted among the Kurds. The British were low on the number of troops they could afford to send against the rebellion, and they were low in the amount money it could spend on the war. For the British, air power was an economical response. Aircraft bombed and machine-gunned the Iraqis. Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia urged the use of gas, and mustard gas is said to have been used on occasion, and this is denied. Delayed action bombs are also said to have been used. Britain Air Commodore, Lionel Charlton, resigned his commission in disgust in 1924. A squadron leader in Mesopotamia, Arthur Harris, supported the bombing strategy, saying that, "The only thing the Arab understands is the heavy hand." The rebellion was defeated and British rule restored. The British lost about 500 troops and the Kurds perhaps 6,000 combatants. Arthur Harris would become commander of British air power during World War II, while believing in bombing German civilian targets.
In Iraq, Faisal would always be looked upon as a foreigner and his rule a British creation. Meanwhile, Iraqi military officers would remain largely secular, influenced by the same attraction to modernization that Turkish military intellectuals had been, and they were interested in a unification of all the Arabic countries. Among them the Sunnis dominated. Shiites were accepted only if they endorsed the unity of all Arabic countries. Shiites would tend to perceive the Iraqi state as an enemy because it was Sunni and gave them no voice in politics. And the Kurds in the north would continue to seek to extend their autonomy to real independence.
By 1924, the Turks were claiming Mosul should be under their control. The British were interested in oil in the area around the city of Mosul. So too was Turkey. Turkey and the U.S. discussed Turkey giving support to an American share in the oil around Mosul in exchange for support for Turkey's claim to the area. That was superceded by the British making a deal with Turkey, the U.S. and others. Beginning in 1925 oil concessions were granted, the Turks, the U.S., the French and Dutch to receive ten percent share in royalty payments from what came to be called Iraq Petroleum.
The year 1925 saw another revolt by the Syrians. The French were not as slick as the British in handling the Arabs. They lacked the experience that the British had gained in recent years. The Syrians, moreover, had remained most nationalistic. The French struck back with artillery, tanks and the firepower of military aircraft. Despite this the latest rebellion lasted into 1928.
In 1926 a constitution was created for Lebanon that required Lebanon's president to be a Christian (in practice, a Maronite) and the prime minister a Sunni – a bit of self-government while remaining under French domination. Lebanon was not to be independent until 1943.
Copyright © 1998-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.