chapter  1
22 Pages

Relations between the Jews, British and Arabs in Iraq in the 1940s

In the spring of 1941, Britain was going through one of its roughest times in World War II. Most of Europe had fallen to the Axis forces, British cities were being bombed in the Blitz, and British ships were being attacked by the German fleet. The Afrika Korps under Rommel controlled most of North Africa and was stopped at the Egyptian border. The British had taken a severe beating in Greece and Crete, and their chances of winning the war appeared slim. Britain was also doing poorly in its sphere of control and influence in the Middle East. The Vichy government had been in control of Syria and Lebanon since June 1940, and in Egypt the pro-Fascist element in the administration was dominant. In Iraq a military coup took place on 2 April 1941,1 led by Rashid Ali al-Gailani, an antiBritish nationalist politician from one of the leading families in Baghdad. He was joined by four high-ranking army officers (the ‘Golden Square’) and the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who, since arriving in Baghdad in October 1939, had been at the forefront of anti-British activity. The supporters of the British, headed by the regent, Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Said, fled to Transjordan, and a pro-German government was formed in Iraq that sought an Axis victory and hoped for national and political achievements that it had been unable to obtain under the British.