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Faisal I of Iraq

Faisal I of Iraq

ALI A. ALLAWI
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 672
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm08f
  • Book Info
    Faisal I of Iraq
    Book Description:

    Born in 1883, King Faisal I of Iraq was a seminal figure not only in the founding of the state of Iraq but also in the making of the modern Middle East. In all the tumult leading to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of new Arab states, Faisal was a central player. His life traversed each of the important political, military, and intellectual developments of his times.

    This comprehensive biography is the first to provide a fully rounded picture of Faisal the man and Faisal the monarch. Ali A. Allawi recounts the dramatic events of his subject's life and provides a reassessment of his crucial role in developments in the pre- and post-World War I Middle East and of his lasting but underappreciated influence in the region even 80 years after his death.

    A battle-hardened military leader who, with the help of Lawrence of Arabia, organized the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire; a leading representative of the Arab cause, alongside Gertrude Bell, at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919; a founding father and king of the first independent state of Syria; the first king of Iraq-in his many roles Faisal overcame innumerable crises and opposing currents while striving to build the structures of a modern state. This book is the first to afford his contributions to Middle East history the attention they deserve.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19936-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. List of Maps
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. KEY PERSONALITIES
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  8. CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
    (pp. xviii-xix)
  9. PROLOGUE SEPTEMBER, 1933: DEATH OF A KING
    (pp. xx-xxxiv)

    By the time Faisal I, King of Iraq, had returned to his interrupted holiday in Switzerland in early September 1933, he was in a dangerously exhausted state. Less than a year before, on 3 October 1932, Iraq had finally gained formal independence by being admitted to the League of Nations as a fully fledged member country. The hated mandate system, which the victorious Allies had decreed for the territories of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920 Treaty of San Remo, was finally terminated. It was a goal for which Faisal had tirelessly worked, ever since he had been crowned the...

  10. Part I An Empire Disintegrates:: The Ottoman Era (1833–1914)

    • CHAPTER 1 FROM THE DESERT TO THE METROPOLIS
      (pp. 3-20)

      The late nineteenth century into which Faisal was born was a world of empires, and none marked it more for him and all Arabs than the Ottoman Empire. By 1883, the year of Faisal’s birth, the empire had shrunk considerably from its peak centuries, when it bestrode three continents. The empire had once included large parts of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, Crimea and the Caucasus, the Near East (the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt) and nearly all of North Africa, but it had retreated under the pressure of stronger, more determined and dynamic adversaries: expansionist European...

    • CHAPTER 2 RETURN TO MECCA
      (pp. 21-30)

      By the beginning of the summer of 1908 Faisal, alongside his family, had settled for an exile of indeterminate length. There were no signs that conditions in the Hijaz would change to their advantage, or that the sultan would relax his control and supervision of their activities. However, in the space of a few weeks in mid-summer of that year, cataclysmic changes would occur in the Ottoman Empire that would pave the way for a return to their homeland. It would also set in train a chain of events that would ultimately end in the break-up and demise of the...

    • CHAPTER 3 PRELUDE TO WAR
      (pp. 31-40)

      In the few years between the 1908 revolution and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the empire was buffeted by enormously powerful currents that would have shaken the resilience and integrity of any state. Historical forces of a profound nature were playing out on the tableau of a shrunken empire, one which had moreover embarked on an untested system of governance. The pressures building up on and within the empire in its last years may not have led to its dissolution without the catalyst of a world war, but they were relentless nevertheless. The loss of most...

  11. Part II Breaking the Bonds:: The First World War and the Arab Revolt (1914–1918)

    • CHAPTER 4 THE ROAD TO THE RISING
      (pp. 43-69)

      From his perch in the Ottoman parliament and his frequent travels to and from the Hijaz, Faisal experienced at first hand the intense and dramatic changes affecting the empire.¹ The lands that he traversed and the people he encountered impressed upon him the changes the empire had undergone since the deposition of ‘Abd al-Hamid. The territories of the empire had been drastically reduced by foreign occupation and losses in warfare; its government was now effectively in the hands of a military junta, albeit with a constitutional camouflage. This came about as a result of bewildering shifts in power in the...

    • CHAPTER 5 THE ARAB REVOLT I: CONSOLIDATING THE REVOLT
      (pp. 70-86)

      The decision to launch the revolt against the Ottoman Empire was taken by one man: Sharif Hussein. Faisal, pushed and pulled in different directions by conflicting sentiments and calculations, had no choice but to agree to his father’s verdict. Unlike ‘Abdullah, who was at times recklessly eager in his enthusiasm to challenge the Ottomans, Faisal had been more deliberative and more aware of the fateful consequences that might accompany such a venture. But events were happening so fast that reflection was almost impossible. The margins for delay and procrastination were rapidly reduced by conflicting pressures from all sides for commitment...

    • CHAPTER 6 THE ARAB REVOLT II: BREAKING OUT
      (pp. 87-105)

      The capture of Wejh effectively positioned Faisal and his army at the gates of southern Syria. Faisal’s forces of combined tribal and regular troops were now designated the Northern Army, to distinguish them from the tribal forces under Ali and ‘Abdullah. These were mainly deployed to continue the loose investment of Medina and to harass the Turkish garrison from time to time. But any move northwards would now push the revolt into an altogether different military, political and diplomatic terrain. It would no longer be confined to the limits of the Hijaz, a territory that did not much feature in...

    • CHAPTER 7 THE ARAB REVOLT III: RAILROAD WAR
      (pp. 107-123)

      The Northern Army’s base in Aqaba had expanded considerably by the end of 1917. The position around Aqaba had been consolidated and an advanced outpost on the Guweira Plain, several miles inland, had been established. The British navy maintained regular supply convoys, and ferried not only troops but also the heavier armoured vehicles that had been previously been at Wejh. The armoured cars were used successfully by Joyce in a number of raids out of Aqaba targeting the Hijaz railroad. The regular formations were also receiving an increasing flow of Arab officers – deserters from the Ottoman army and those recruited...

    • CHAPTER 8 TO DAMASCUS!
      (pp. 124-148)

      The two years that spanned the period between the launch of the Arab Revolt and the preparations for the march on Damascus profoundly affected Faisal’s character and altered his understanding of the world. At the onset of the First World War, Faisal saw the world through the constricted perspectives of an Arab amir from a deeply traditional society, tempered by some exposure to the changes sweeping the world from his perch in the Ottoman parliament and from his contacts with the partly modernised elites of the empire. His relations with Europeans were tangential and could not form the basis for...

  12. Part III A Shattered Dream:: Syria and the Paris Peace Conference (1918–1921)

    • CHAPTER 9 THE RUDIMENTS OF A STATE
      (pp. 151-173)

      The fall of Damascus abruptly shifted the focus of attention from the military aspects of the campaign to the administration of the occupied territories. Faisal now found himself at the heart of the complex tangle of interlocking interests and ambitions, both domestic and foreign, each of which sought to impose its own priorities and control the pace and direction of events in Syria. On the one hand were Faisal and his Syrian and Arab nationalist allies. Faisal had asserted his primacy in Damascus by the appointment of his allies, with Allenby’s essential acquiescence, to the key posts of the evolving...

    • CHAPTER 10 FIRST FOOTSTEPS IN EUROPE
      (pp. 174-191)

      Faisal left for Europe with his status and the purpose of his visit still unclear. He had reluctantly agreed to travel, ostensibly to attend a preliminary conference on Syria and the other occupied Arab lands, but this was rapidly being superseded by events. The venue for the peace conference had been set and Allied leaders were preparing to assemble in Paris within a few weeks. The imminent arrival of President Woodrow Wilson in Europe to launch the peace conference added a significant new dimension to the thorny issues of the Near East. The Eastern Committee, meeting on the day the...

    • CHAPTER 11 AT THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE I
      (pp. 192-209)

      On 9 January 1919 Faisal and his entourage arrived in Paris by the boat train from London. The Paris Peace Conference was scheduled to open formally on 18 January, but the question of the representation of the Hijaz delegation was still unsettled. Faisal had entered an arena that was implacably hostile to Arab claims to independence. The French government petulantly refused to recognise Faisal’s status, and the Quai d’Orsay saw him as nothing more than incorrigibly anti-French and manipulated by the British to further their own interests in the Near East at the expense of France.¹ The French press was...

    • CHAPTER 12 AT THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE II
      (pp. 210-227)

      The heroic efforts by Faisal to convince the Council of Ten, especially the triumvirate of Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Wilson, of the viability and indeed desirability of an independent Arab state or confederation of states was ultimately dependent on achieving the good will of the powers for such an outcome – if not all of them at least Britain and the United States. The lasting personal impression that Faisal had left on the peace conference meant little in practice if it did not establish the conditions under which his, and, by extension, Arab, demands could be satisfied. Wilson’s high principles were...

    • CHAPTER 13 THE STRUGGLE FOR SYRIA
      (pp. 229-257)

      The battleship carrying Faisal docked in Beirut harbour on 30 April 1919. Two French admirals boarded the ship to welcome Faisal before he went ashore. Receiving him on the docks were the British and French commanders in Lebanon, and a large crowd organised by the Beirut representative of the Arab government in Damascus, Jamil al-Alshi. Faisal made his way through the crowds and then by car to the Beirut headquarters of the Arab government at the Daouk Building.¹ After receiving a parade of Syrian and Lebanese notables, foreign dignitaries and well-wishers, Faisal made his first public comments after his prolonged...

    • CHAPTER 14 THE COLLAPSE OF THE KINGDOM OF SYRIA
      (pp. 258-294)

      The situation in Syria during Faisal’s nearly four-month absence in Europe had become ever more confused and turbulent. Zaid, who had deputised for Faisal in the interim, was inexperienced and often overwhelmed by the enormity of developments cascading on the country and its people. His letters to his father and Faisal are ample testimony to that. They carry the hallmark of one who can barely manage to stay afloat in these churning waters. French cynics went so far as to say that Clemenceau had deliberately kept Faisal back so that the Syrians would have their fill of the meandering administration...

    • CHAPTER 15 ADRIFT
      (pp. 295-313)

      Faisal’s immersion in the merciless, cynical world of great power rivalries and interests, and the disastrous end to his kingdom in Syria, would have embittered and even broken other men. The expectations and hopes raised by the Arab Revolt lay in ruins all around him. When it came down to it, the Sykes–Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration, the two emblematic statements of real Allied intentions, had easily prevailed over the calculated vagueness of the McMahon letters and the other declarations by the British and French that seemed to give credence to the idea of Arab independence. Syria and...

    • CHAPTER 16 A KING IN WAITING
      (pp. 314-336)

      Faisal knew that his presence in London, the third such visit since the end of the First World War, would prove critical for his future political life. His ambitions for a commanding role in Iraq were now far more evident, reinforced by the apparent drift of British policy in his direction. The rebellion in Iraq had been put down with considerable loss of life and the issue of how and who would govern the country was now preoccupying Whitehall, as were the other messy outcomes caused by the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire: the boundaries of Palestine; the disposition of...

  13. Part IV A New Beginning:: Iraq (1921–1933)

    • CHAPTER 17 FROM MESOPOTAMIA TO IRAQ
      (pp. 339-360)

      Faisal arrived in a country that had undergone years of warfare and upheaval. The Ottoman years had not welded the three provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul into a coherent political entity. The mixed population of Arabs and Kurds, Shi’as and Sunnis, town dwellers and tribesmen, and the sizable contingent of Jews and Christians and resident Persians, had been mostly detached from even the minimal certainties provided by the Ottomans.¹ Further additions to the country’s mix came from the thousands of Assyrian refugees who, fleeing from their failed uprising in eastern Turkey, were relocated by the British to the northern...

    • CHAPTER 18 KING OF IRAQ
      (pp. 361-381)

      Faisal landed in Iraq precariously poised between the demands of the British and the demands for Iraqi independence. It was a difficult and uncomfortable perch from which to rule, but there was no plausible alternative. If he had been the uncompromising champion of immediate independence, he would have had no chance of achieving power. Britain would simply have vetoed his appointment and that would have been that. If he had turned himself into a British tool, his credibility would have been shattered with the independence party. He had to tread a fine line between these two poles: remaining true to...

    • CHAPTER 19 FAISAL, COX AND THE RISE OF THE OPPOSITION
      (pp. 382-409)

      Faisal was now installed as king of Iraq through an extraordinary set of circumstances. He had experienced revolt against the Ottomans, tenuous rule over Syria, defeat at the hands of the French, with the prospects of a prolonged and impotent exile. He had undergone great changes during this period. At thirty-eight years of age he had become an experienced statesman, schooled by adversity and disappointments, and it was as a mature and astute person that he sat on the throne. The one constant in the past few years had been his alliance with the British. They had provided him with...

    • CHAPTER 20 THE REBELLION OF THE AYATOLLAHS
      (pp. 410-432)

      With the crisis that nearly cost him his throne behind him, Faisal settled into a pattern of dealing with Britain that became the hallmark of his reign in Iraq. He rarely referred to the mandate, treating it in ostrich-like fashion as if it did not exist. As far as he was concerned, it was a stain that would be removed in due course. It was a bitter, but unavoidable, pill to swallow, given that Britain was determined to secure its rights in Iraq in legal form. He had done his utmost to challenge the British plan, often in a clumsy...

    • CHAPTER 21 ASSEMBLIES, TREATIES, CONSTITUTIONS
      (pp. 433-449)

      The resignation of the al-Sa’adoun’s cabinet gave Faisal the opportunity to frame the new government in directions that were more to his liking. The fact that he had brought down al-Sa’adoun and had installed his own candidate to power was a reflection of his growing self-confidence and the strengthening of his power base in Iraq. Dobbs wrote to London regarding the rise in Faisal’s stature. ‘In spite of his disconcerting mutability of temper [Faisal] is easily predominant and the people are growing used to his rule, and his personal charm has gained an increasing number of adherents. He has to...

    • CHAPTER 22 OIL AND THE MOSUL QUESTION
      (pp. 450-469)

      The passing of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, and the organic and election laws set the institutional framework for Faisal’s kingdom, at least as long as the mandate continued in force. But another critical factor now loomed, for it raised the question of the literal form of the Iraqi state. The status of nearly one-third of Faisal’s putative realm was still in dispute. Sovereignty of the entire former Ottoman province of Mosul was contested by the new Turkish state. The area was militarily controlled by British forces, and Iraq had de facto authority over the territory, but Faisal still needed the official...

    • CHAPTER 23 STRUGGLING TO BREAK FREE
      (pp. 471-487)

      Securing the northern frontiers of Iraq and absorbing the province of Mosul was a great boon for Faisal and his rule of Iraq. He was elated over the Turkish treaty and it showed. Bell wrote: ‘Tonight the King comes to dine and play bridge, Ken [Cornwallis] and Rustum Haidar, the head of H.M.’sdiwan, to meet him. The King is radiant over the Turkish treaty. Has it not been a wonderful volte face on their part.’¹ Faisal now turned his attentions to removing the mandate and securing unfettered independence for Iraq. The ratification of the 1926 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty was the...

    • CHAPTER 24 TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE
      (pp. 488-514)

      Faisal returned to Baghdad carrying a pointless new treaty and facing a crumbling government and widespread disaffection with his rule. When the treaty was first presented to Iraq’s parliament, the response was at best tepid. One of the opposition deputies, Muhammad Baqir al-Shibibi, stood up and accused the government of fooling the country and Faisal of going on an extended pleasure trip.¹ A new cabinet had to be formed and Faisal had little option but to acquiesce to the return of the Residency’s favourite, ‘Abdal-Muhsin al-Sa’adoun. In some ways Faisal could also turn the appointment of al-Sa’adoun, his most prominent...

    • CHAPTER 25 VINDICATION AT LAST
      (pp. 515-533)

      The 14 September declaration gave Faisal a clear pathway to independence and to securing his power in Iraq. He pushed ahead vigorously with a prime minister who had not only become his most important support but was also a formidable character in his own right. Nuri was equally determined to negotiate the all-important treaty with Britain as soon as possible and was prepared to ride roughshod if necessary over all domestic opposition. Both Faisal and Nuri were by now sceptical as to whether parliamentary democracy dominated by fractious political prima donnas could provide the scaffolding for Iraq’s consolidation and development....

    • CHAPTER 26 A CALAMITOUS END
      (pp. 534-560)

      The independence that Faisal had sought for so long was seen by the opposition as, at best, flawed and incomplete. True, it had delivered Iraq from the obvious and humiliating tutelage of Britain. But the residual authority and preferences given to the British were still significant, enough, in fact, to give credence to the opposition’s claim that Iraq was still in thrall to the great power. There was some justification to that view. The independence of Iraq was conditional to the extent that Iraq’s strategic direction did not clash with Britain’s vital interests. There was no way of overlooking this...

  14. EPILOGUE: FAISAL THE GREAT
    (pp. 561-562)

    Faisal’s life ended just when he had approached his full political maturity and at a time when independent Iraq, and indeed the broader Arab world, was in dire need of his leadership. The epithet ‘great’ can be fittingly applied to Faisal. His contemporaries instinctively felt the absence of a great leader when news of his demise reached them, and the sense of severe loss permeated their reflections on Faisal in their memoirs and reminiscences. Sati’ al-Husri, neither a sentimentalist nor a man to mince his words, said flat out that Faisal deserved to be called Faisal the Great.¹ He had...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 563-605)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 606-634)