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Authors: Ian Rutledge

Enemy on the Euphrates

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ENEMY ON THE EUPHRATES

 

 

ENEMY

ON THE

EUPHRATES

The British Occupation of Iraq
and the Great Arab Revolt 1914–1921

Ian Rutledge

SAQI

 

 

 

Published 2014 by Saqi Books

Copyright © Ian Rutledge 2014

ISBN 978 0 86356 762 9
eISBN 978 0 86356 767 4

Ian Rutledge has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Every effort has been made to obtain necessary permission with reference to copyright material. The publishers apologise if inadvertently any sources remain unacknowledged and will be happy to correct this in any future editions.

First published 2014 in Great Britain by

Saqi Books
26 Westbourne Grove
London W2 5RH

www.saqibooks.co.uk

A full
CIP
record for this book is available from the British Library.

Printed and bound by Bookwell in Finland

 

 

 

For Diana, as always.

And for my beloved children,
Joanna, Daniel, Zoe and Emilie

 

 

 

What we want is some kind of modicum of Arab institutions which we can safely leave while pulling the strings ourselves, something which won’t cost very much … but in which our influence and political and economic interests will be secure.

Sir Arthur Hirtzel, February 1920

Whereas most westerners have no knowledge of the 1920 uprising, generations of Iraqi schoolchildren have grown up learning how nationalist heroes stood up against foreign armies and imperialism in towns like Falluja, Baquba and Najaf – the Iraqi equivalents of Lexington and Concord.

Eugene Rogan,
The Arabs: A History

Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Maps

Note on Arabic Transliteration

Glossary

Abbreviations

Preface

The Principal Actors

PART ONE: INVASION, JIHAD AND OCCUPATION

1    Indications of Oil

2    Lieutenant Wilson’s First Mission

3    ‘Protect the oil refineries’

4    Arab Mobilisation on the Euphrates

5    The Jihad Defeated

6    Pacifying Arabistan

7    Imperial Objectives in the East

8    The Menace of Jihad and How to Deal with It

9    The Lieutenant from Mosul

10  The Peculiar Origins of an Infamous Agreement

11  Two British Defeats but a New Ally

12  Colonel Leachman and Captain Lawrence

13  Mosul and Oil

14  ‘Complete liberation’

15  Najaf 1918:First Uprising on the Euphrates

16  Britain’s New Colony

17  The Oil Agreements

18  The Independence Movement in Baghdad

19  General Haldane’s Difficult Posting

20  Trouble on the Frontiers

PART TWO: REVOLUTION AND SUPPRESSION

21  The Drift to Violence

22  The Revolution Begins

23  Discord and Disputation

24  General Haldane’s Indian Army

25  ‘The situation has come to a head’

26  The Destruction of the Manchester Column

27  ‘Further unfavourable developments’

28  The Structures of Insurgent Power

29  Trouble on the Home Front

30  The Siege of Samawa

31  Defeat

32  A Death on the Baghdad Road

33  The Punishment

34  A ‘friendly native state’

Afterword

Appendix: Some Biographical Notes

Acknowledgements

Notes

Bibliography

Image Credits

Index

List of Illustrations

Sir Mark Sykes, 1913

Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, 1912

Lord Kitchener, War Minister 1914–1916

Captain Arnold Wilson, 1916

Colonel Gerard Leachman,
c
.1912

T. E. Lawrence, 1918

Gertrude Bell, 1921

Ja‘far Abu al-Timman,
c
.1920

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Wahid al-Sikar, 1918

General Aylmer Haldane, 1921

Indian cavalry on patrol,
c
.1918

A Rolls Royce armoured car, used in Iraq in the 1920s

A DH9A aircraft

The gunboat HMS
Firefly

Sayyid Muhsin Abu Tabikh,
c
.1924

List of Maps

The Ottoman Empire
c
.1900

Iraq, within Its Postwar Mandate Borders, and Neighbouring Regions of Syria, Turkey and Persia

Sykes’s 1915 Proposed Scheme for the ‘Decentralisation’ of the Ottoman Empire’s Eastern Possessions

The Division of the Ottoman Empire’s Eastern Possessions According to the Sykes-Picot Agreement 1916

The Division of the Ottoman Empire’s Eastern Possessions into the British and French Mandates 1920

The Middle Euphrates Region, Epicentre of the 1920 Revolution

The Scene of the Manchester Column Disaster, July 1920: the Camp on the Rustumiyya Canal

Note on Arabic Transliteration

This has been kept as simple as possible. The symbol ‘has been used for the letter ‘ayn and ’ for the glottal stop hamza. The feminine ending
taa marbuta
has simply been rendered as a final a (not ‘ah’ or ‘at’). No subscript or superscript marks have been used. When an Arabic word or name which has entered the English lexicon appears, its customary English spelling has been retained (e.g. sheikh, not
shaykh
).

Glossary
agha
Turkish title equivalent to Arabic ‘sheikh’.
al-‘Ahd
The Pledge. Secret organisation of Ottoman army officers opposed to Turkish domination, formed shortly before outbreak of the First World War.
al-‘Ahd al-‘Iraqi
Branch of al-‘Ahd formed after the end of the First World War and dedicated to some form of Independence in Iraq; generally more moderate than Haras al-Istiqlal and willing to seek accommodation with British interests.
ayalet
Name for a region of the Ottoman Empire. The system of ayalets was abolished in 1864 and replaced by a greater number of smaller vilayets. The term was resurrected in Mark Sykes’s proposals for the De Bunsen Committee in 1915.
bellum
Small, double-bowed, flat-bottomed Iraqi river vessel with a draught of less than eighteen inches, paddled, or powered by punt-pole; similar to but usually larger than the mashuf.
bey
Ottoman (Turkish) honorific title, in its military usage meaning a high-ranking officer, but subordinate to a pasha.
budoo
British Army slang for Bedouin. Generally, a term of abuse for all Iraqi tribal Arabs.
caliph
Successor to the leadership of the Islamic community. (
See also
Shi‘i and Sunni.)
Dar al-Hujja
Conference hall of the Grand Mujtahid in Karbela’. Literally, ‘House of Religious Debate’.
division (1)
Administrative region in British-occupied Iraq of which there were sixteen in 1920.
division (2)
Unit of the British Army usually comprising three brigades and commanded by a major general.
fatwa
In shari‘a law, a decision made by a qualified person e.g. a mujtahid; it may constitute a legal precedent.
faylaq
A corps in the Ottoman army.
Haras al-Istiqlal
The Independence Guards – a nationalist organisation based in Baghdad.
havildar
Rank assigned to Indian soldiers in the British Imperial Indian Army, equivalent to sergeant.
Hejaz
The western part of the present-day state of Saudi Arabia, bordering the Red Sea.
heliograph
A means of military communication using a wireless solar telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight (generally using Morse code) reflected by a mirror.
Istanbul
Capital of the Ottoman Empire on the European side of the Bosphorus. In 1920 the British still referred to it by its Christian name – Constantinople.
Jam‘iyya al-Arabiyya al-Fatat
The Young Arab Society – a secret organisation for the promotion of Arab interests within the Ottoman Empire, established before the First World War. Some of its members desired an independent Arab state.
Jam‘iyya al-‘Iraqiyya al-‘Arabiyya
A nationalist organisation based in the mid-Euphrates region which favoured an alliance with Mustafa Kemal and the Bolsheviks.
Jam‘iyya al-Nahda al-Islamiyya
The Islamic Renaissance Movement – a small, secret organisation formed in Najaf in 1918, dedicated to the expulsion of the British from Iraq.
Jam‘iyya al-Takhlis al-Sharq al-Islami
Organisation for the Liberation of the Muslim East. Bolshevik Organisation set up under the aegis of the Eastern Department of Narkomindel (People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs) whose function was to encourage the resistance of the Muslim peoples against European domination.
jemadar
Rank assigned to Indian soldiers in the British Imperial Indian Army, equivalent to second lieutenant.
jihad
A war or campaign in defence of Islam.
khan
Guest house for Muslim pilgrims or other travellers.
Khedivate
An autonomous tributary state of the Ottoman Empire. The British retained the name after they had effectively taken control of Egypt in 1882.
kufiyya
Typical headdress of tribal Arabs.
levies
British-officered Arab or Kurdish auxiliary troops.
madhbata
In this context, a set of demands or petition.
madrasa
An Islamic school, either religious or secular.
mahalla
A city quarter or district. Each of Najaf’s mahallas had its own headman and legal code.
mahayla
Iraqi river boat with lateen sail, between fifty and eighty feet in length and with a draught of between three and four feet; also known as a safina.
mandate
The right of control over a defeated enemy territory but with the assumption that the mandatory power will prepare it for eventual independence. In practice, a mandated territory was little more than a protectorate.
mashuf
Very small canoe-like Iraqi river vessel typical of the marsh lands, similar to but usually smaller than the bellum.
maulud
Celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
memsahib
‘Respectable lady’; term used by Indians to denote European wives.
mirza
Honorific title of Persian origin, literally ‘prince’ but, more generally, ‘sir’.
monitor
A shallow-draught warship with heavy guns for coastal bombardment.
mujahid(in)
Person(s) fighting on behalf of Islam.
mujtahid(in)
Senior Shi‘i cleric(s), qualified to make independent decisions based on Islamic jurisprudence and theology.
mukarrama
Meaning ‘venerated’, ‘revered’, an epithet customarily used for the holy city of Mecca.
mulazim
Second lieutenant in the Ottoman army.
mulazim awwal
First lieutenant in the Ottoman army.
mutasarrif
Senior Ottoman official, usually translated as ‘governor’.
mutasarriflik
Administrative region of Ottoman Empire which (unlike the vilayet) was directly under control of Ottoman Ministry of the Interior. (Also known as a sanjak.)
Noperforce
North Persia Force – the contingent of British troops stationed in North Persia to defend the Persian Government against Bolshevik and nationalist forces.
pasha
Ottoman (Turkish) honorific military title meaning ‘general’.
qadi
Muslim judge administering shari‘a law.
qahwaji
A tribal sheikh's coffee maker, but also, often, his advisor and assistant
qishla
Turkish word for fort.
Qur’an
Islam’s holy book.
risaldar
Indian cavalry officer in British Imperial Indian Army equivalent to captain
safina
See
mahayla.
sanjak
See
mutasarriflik.
sayyid (pl. sada)
Lineal descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson Husayn ibn ‘Ali (Shi‘i usage). The authenticity of such claims may be questionable.
See also
sharif.
Sayyid al-Shuhada’
‘The Prince of Martyrs’, one of the Shi‘i titles for the Imam Husayn (
see
sayyid).
Senussi
A Muslim political and religious order in Libya and the Sudan. Fought against the Italian occupation in 1911 and against the British between 1915 and 1917.
sepoy
Indian infantryman in British Imperial Indian Army.
serai
Turkish word for palace. In this context meaning local administrative headquarters of the government.
shabana
Arab police in British service.
shamal
The prevalent north wind in Iraq which brings hot dry air in the summer and cool moist air during the winter.
shari‘a (law)
Islamic jurisprudence, of which there are four Sunni schools and three Shi‘i schools.
Sharif (of Mecca)
Senior Ottoman official responsible for the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; appointed directly by the Ottoman sultan from among high noble (sharif) families.
sharif (pl. ashraf)
Lineal descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through his grandson Hasan ibn ‘Ali (Sunni usage). The authenticity of such claims may be questionable.
See also
sayyid.
Shi‘i
The minority and second largest sect of Islam. Also the name for an adherent of the Shi‘i sect of Islam. Shi‘i Muslims believe that God (through his Prophet Muhammad) chose Muhammad’s closest living male relative, his cousin and son-in-law, ‘Ali ibn ‘Abu Talib, to be his rightful successor and subsequently through the family line of ‘Ali’s son, Husayn.
sirdab
An undergound living room whose cooler atmosphere provides relief from excessive summer heat.
sowar
Indian cavalryman in the British Imperial Indian Army.
Sunni
The majority and largest sect of Islam. Also the name for an adherent of the Sunni sect of Islam. Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad decreed that his rightful successor was to be chosen from among the Prophet’s companions (regardless of family relationship). Although Sunnis recognise ‘Ali as one of the four ‘rightfully guided’ caliphs, he is the fourth one, rather than the first (as in Shi‘i Islam).
‘ulema’
Generic term for Islamic clergy whether Sunni or Shi‘i.
vali
Ottoman governor of a vilayet.
vilayet
Administrative region of Ottoman Empire, ruled by a vali; originally derived from Arabic
wilaya
. In the case of Iraq, there were three vilayets: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul.
Wahhabi
Puritanical sect of Sunni Islam founded by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab in the eighteenth century and revived under the aegis of the Emir ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Sa‘ud in the early twentieth century; fiercely anti-Shi‘i.
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