On This Date in History: For most Americans, Iraq didn’t become a focus of attention until the latter part of the 20th century. But, the modern history of Iraq really has its roots in the early part of the century. During and prior to World War I, the region was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. At the conclusion of the Great War, the League of Nations was formed as a governing political body in an effort to avoid further global conflicts. As part of the Armistice of World War I, Germany was to pay reparations to her former enemies. Today, October 3, 2010, Germany is scheduled to make its final World War I payment 92 years after the war ended. The League of Nations was weakened from the outset, however, when the United States Senate did not ratify the treaty that would have put the US into the league even though the very concept was the brainchild of President Wilson. There was fear that the US was ceding sovereignty to the league and, specifically, Article 10 raised objections as it seemed to signal that all members would come to the defense of any nation who came under attack. American isolationism was growing. Nevertheless, in 1920, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate for administrative rule over the Basra, Baghdad and Mosul provinces of the former Ottoman Empire.
Now, the Turks were not stupid when it came to running the Ottoman Empire for some 500 or 600 years. They knew how to control locals and so they had purposely kept the three regions seperate. On a map, the three looked very compatable but, in fact, the folks in each region were not too enthused with one another. The most populous region was in the South where the Shiites held a vast majority. In the Central area, Sunni’s ruled the roost while in the North, Kurds were the dominant group. The issues relating to these three areas for the Turks were the same issues that faced the British. But, England thought it had a better plan and it decided to create a kingdom made up of all three regions. On the throne was placed Amir Faisal ibn Hussain, who naturally was allied with the British. He had fought an uprising along side Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) against the Ottomans and had proved his friendliness with the British as he did so. Faisal, though, proved to be a divider more than a uniter as he ruled with an iron fist and was particularly oppressive to the Shiite population. Though the Shiites represented a very large, if not outright majority, of the populous but was given almost no role in the government.
In August 1932, Iraq became part of the League of Nations and shortly thereafter, on this Date in 1932, Britain granted Iraq its independence with roots of dissent already firmly anchored. Stability also was undermined when Faisal died about a year after he took the throne. Almost immediately, two political parties rose to the forefront. The Communist Party had the backing of the Soviet Union while the Baath Party took the form of a Facist organization with great similarity to the growing Nazi Party in Germany. Unlike the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, Baathist ideals have no relation to religion at all but instead is based on political ideology. Despite the unrest, the monarchy managed to hang on through strong military and political ties to Great Britain. In 1941, pro-Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan) sentiments grew so rampant in Iraq that Great Britain intervened and help the Iraqi government to maintain support for the Allies in the war. Following the war, the UK was severely weakened and its influence waned. The dissent in Iraq was allowed to flourish until 1958 when the monarchy was overthrown.
For the next two decades, the state was quite unstable as a series of civilian and military governments came and went until 1979 when Saddam Hussein rose to power. Saddam was born in 1937, or 5 years after Iraq officially gained independence. He first joined the Baath Party two years before the end of the monarchy and even participated in a failed coup attempt in 1956. In 1960, he was involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Iraq but, after it was foiled, he fled the country. The Baath Party took the helm in 1963 and Saddam returned. When they fell out of favor a few months later, Hussein was thrown in jail. When the Bath Party staged a successful coup in 1968, Saddam was out of the clink again and was given a spot on the Revolutionary Command Council. He was more or less the power behind the curtain until he came out of the shadows to take control as President in 1979. As a Baathist, he used repressive and violent means to rule the country and suppress any opposition. Saddam ruled Iraq until 2003 when the United States invaded the country and sent Saddam to rule another world after a visit with the hangman.
While the adage that history repeats itself is rather well known, the truth is that history is not prescriptive. Just because a certain series of events occured in the past does not mean that the same will happen again. The geopolitical climate of the early 20th century is not the same as it is in the early 21st century. Nevertheless, the Kurds in the North, the Sunnis around Baghdad in the Central area and Shiites in the South remain at odds as the United States tries to give Iraq full independence. The history of Iraq is a fairly substantial reason for a skeptical approach to viewing the future of Iraq. However, globalization and more expansive travel and communications such as the internet, cell phones and satellite television could conceivably prove to the be the big difference maker for the independence of Iraq today and the independence of 1932.
Weather Bottom Line: We had a good start today. Then a little vort lobe rotated through. That would be an extended pool of cold air aloft..that ran over warm air from daytime heating. Result: clouds, a little rain and chilly temperatures. Snow White was well prepared for the St. James Art Show on Saturday but I forgot how chilly the 50’s could be the first time out of the shoot and I was not enthused. My feet were cold and I was miserable and that only hastened my foul mood of the late afternoon knowing that the ‘Horns would lose to the dreaded Sooners. OU tried to give it to them and Texas still coughed it up. Anyway, we’ll stay relatively cool for the next 48 hours with perhaps an errant shower on Sunday with another little lobe rotating around. No big deal though. We start a warming trend for the week ahead with a return to the low 80’s by the end of the week.