chapter  XV
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PROVISIONAL ARAB GOVERNMENT
Pages 13

Sir Percy Cox's plans made no great claim to originality. They were but modifications of the Bonham-Carter Committee proposals, along the lines deemed more feasible by Lord Curzon, Mr. Montagu and the Interdepartmental Committee in the preceding May, but differing from the earlier proposals in the spirit in which they had been formulated and with which they were to be applied. This difference of spirit and Sir Percy

Cox's reputation for dignity, wisdom and equitable dealing, won as Chief Political Officer before and during the war, and as Civil Commissioner before his departure to Persia, were his chief assets among the 'Iraqis. To them, his return, repeatedly requested,l was the augury of better days. His presence was a guarantee of sympathy for Arab aspirations, of consideration for their viewpoint and of a maturity of judgment in initiating the new Government. To these factors as well as to his methods of approach and of action and to the loyal service rendered by the British officials associated with him, many of whom subjected their personal convictions to their sense of duty, rather than to originality of plan or to the chastened spirit of the country, must be attributed the successful inauguration of the provisional Government, in the face of distinctly unfavourable circumstances. To the same factors may be attributed also the continued acceptance of the Government in spite of the fact that it only partially satisfied even the moderate Nationalists who, while appreciating the need for British assistance, sympathized with the strong current of feeling for complete independence, still running high in the country. 2

No formal action was taken until October 21st, when at a council composed of Sir Edgar Bonham-Carter, Colonel Evelyn Howell, Colonel S. H. Slater, Major R. W. Bullard, Mr. H. St. J. B. Philby, and Miss Gertrude Bell, he presented his scheme for a provisional Government: a Council of Arab Ministers, supervised by British Advisers and under the ultimate control of the High Commissioner. After three hours of strenuous discussion in which his proposals were vigorously countered, his scheme was finally carried with

Saiyid 'Abdur Rahman al-Gailani, Naqib al-'Ashraf, Baghdad, who had been repeatedly suggested by local notables, seemed to be a more logical choice. The high public prestige and religious standing of this venerable dignitary had led him to be considered, by H.M. Government, in November, 1918, as a possible Amir of 'Iraq, I on the basis of a recommendation made by Sir Percy Cox as early as April, 1917. The N aqib as the head of the Council of State would guarantee the most favourable reception possible for the new Government and would enable Sir Percy Cox 'to include Talib Pasha without making him President, a course which would have excited opposition in certain quarters.' a

When Sir Percy Cox, therefore, formally asked the N aqib on October 23rd to head the Council of State, urging on him his duty to 'Iraq and hinting of harm that might come from the personal ambitions of others, the Naqib, influenced by his personal regard as much as by Sir Percy's arguments, consented after much hesitation and heart searching. The joy and satisfaction which his consent created has been well described by Miss Bell:

of a President and eight Ministers, each heading a Department of State, advised by the existing British Secretaries, and about ten members without portfolios, the whole to be representative of the former three wilayets and of the various communities.' He had already, by October 14th, drawn up a list of 'Iraqis whom he considered desirable for the first Council but, in order that the new Government might have an 'Iraqi and not a British fa~ade, it seemed important that the invitations, the distribution of posts and all kindred matters should emanate from the Naqib and not from the High Commissioner. In this as well as in all subsequent steps in organizing the provisional Government, however, the essential points were either suggested or approved by the High Commissioner,3 although every precaution was taken to avoid giving such an impression and thereby offending 'Iraqi sensibilities.