The Evolution of the Iraqi Jewish Community in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Until World War I, Baghdad, Basra and Mosul were three administrative districts (vilayets) on the eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire. The region was considered remote and backward, but it began to change in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Ottoman authorities strengthened their hold on it and took steps to improve administration, increase centralization, and bolster relations between Baghdad and Constantinople. The changes came in response to involvement by the European powers in the Middle East, and particularly in the Persian Gulf, using local allies and agents to acquire strongholds in the region and to prevent their rivals from achieving positions of dominance. Britain in particular regarded the Persian Gulf area as a strategic asset because it was located on the way to the British Empire in India. News of oil fields in northern Iraq further increased the interest of the European powers.