Iraq was initially under Britain’s rule. Britain’s colonial efforts begun in the year 1921. It forged a monarchy with which to rule over Iraq. This monarchy was headed by King Faisal I. He belonged to the Hashemite family. During the first period, Britain established a monarchy in Iraq under King Faisal I, a leading member of the prestigious Hashemite family (Sanford, pg. 7.). Iraq eventually attained independence in the year 1932.This did not mean that the British evacuated the country. Its military forces continued to occupy the country. Britain saw it necessary to have its military presence in Iraq in order to protect it from German and American invasion. (Ezeibe & Ogbodo, pg. 2).
The reasons that fuelled Britain’s needs were self-serving. The tactics used by the colonial government were misconstrued. This led to the division of Iraq. This division also resulted in violence as the country was divided along ethnic lines. Britain had not considered the political and ethnical differences when they were drawing territorial boundaries in order to assign to the Hashemite monarch. It was spreading itself thin as a result of its own greed for more colonial land to rule. It had expanded its rule and established dominance in various Asian and Arab countries. These included: Egypt, Persia, Palestine, Transjordania, the Rhine, Constantinople, Mesopotamia, Mosul, and Ireland. Its resources were quickly being depleted. Economic times became hard and it became a lot more difficult to effectively rule all its military regimes. There lacked enough military soldiers to send to newly acquired colonial territories.
Following the end of the First World War, Britain’s rule was affected further. The war led to Britain’s economic decline. Britain had ruled the trading market for a long time. It was one of the greatest sea trading country and produced some of the most famous inventors. This however changed as it began sinking into debt. Nevertheless, Britain had embarked on a mission to unite Iraq’s tribes and empires into one. This was not going to prove an easy fete.
A conference dubbed “The Cairo Conference” was held among British authoritative officers. They needed to decide on who was going to rule Iraq on their behalf. It was proposed that a single individual is appointed to act as Britain’s authority in Iraq. For this to be effective, it had to be an Iraqi Arab who would be accepted by the people. Faisal was largely suggested. This was the birth of Faisal’s instrumental efforts in helping the British succeed in ruling Iraq. It should be pointed out that prior to this decision, Faisal had been very supportive of the British in the First World War. This contributed to his appointment.
Although he sided with the British, Faisal was deeply rooted in Arab nationalism. He sought after independence. He was a visionary in pursuit of uniting the Arab territories. He realized that his role would cause him great dilemma. He was, muddled between appealing to the British authority and assuring the Iraqi subjects under his rule of their eventual independence. He needed to win the trust and respect of his subjects. In his quest to unite Arabs he would need to protect the interests of his superiors while at the same time seek their material support. He understood the challenges Arabs faced and made it a mission to find solutions for his subjects. The only way he would accomplish that was if he accepted Britain’s appointment.
Another agenda for the Cairo Conference was the reorganization of the military forces set up in Iraq. Britain had already begun facing hard economic times due to the First World War and expansion of their colonies. Running fully equipped colonial empires was becoming a costly affair. On the other hand, this would present the risk of violence in Iraq. Revolts would be more rampant as the number of military forces used to contain any unrest would reduce. However, this was a risk Britain was willing to take in order to prevent economic loss.
The British authorities came to a conclusive decision that a collaboration between Iraq and British forces would be formed. This combination of troops would be tasked with the responsibility of Iraq’s internal security. The responsibility of protecting Iraq from outside forces would solely rest upon British military forces. Additionally, Britain would be in charge of protecting the route to India and Persia. Britain then had Iraq train and establish an army of soldiers. As for Britain’s role of protecting the country from outside invasion, it was unanimously agreed that the colonial empire puts in place air support to monitor boundaries and air space. These measures went a long way in helping Britain reduce their military expenditure. They were also effective in helping Britain run a successful colonial empire (Sharp, 2008 pg. 19-23).
The Arabs did not take it kindly having the British in the country ruling over them. Even as Britain prepared to exit Iraq, it still wanted to maintain hold over the country. It continued to use the Faisal monarch to puppeteer Iraq and its resources. King Faisal died. This was when things started going south for Iraq. Faisal’s successor was not viewed as fitting to take over. He was somewhat weak and lacked proper authority. It is from this point that struggle for power begun.
In the advent of Britain’s departure from Iraq however, the colonial regime had attempted to unite three territories into one country. This led to violence as these territories had economic as well as ethnic differences. Iraq was richly endowed with oil resources. Socialism reigned over the economic state of Iraq for some time. This economy was characterized by a planned economy, reduction of foreign trade and influence especially on their oil sector. Planning was a significant element. The change from the colonial rule also began with eliminating the systems and processes that had been put together by the old regime (Sanford, pg. 7).
Iraq’s initial independent rule is characterized with a series of military takeovers. Coup d’état was a popular tactic amongst military commanders seeking power. Each ruler brought on board new political and financial reforms. To begin with, General Abd al-Karim Qasim who took over shortly after the Faisal monarchy was overthrown, immediately cut off Iraq from West ties. He withdrew Iraq from all foreign pacts with the West. He then established cordial relations with other Middle- Eastern Arab countries. He was largely rooted in Socialist principles. He promoted the public sector and its role in the economy (Sanford, pg. 9).
Following Qasim’s rule, a more stable government system was established with a National Assembly consisting of two hundred and fifty members. The Baathist regime reigned with Saddam Hussein as its leader. He championed for the one-party rule. His era was characterized by rebuilt relations with the West. He encourage trade relations with the United States and promoted foreign investments in Iraq. He sought to diverge from Qasim’s economic system of Socialism (Sanford, p.g 10).
Nevertheless, political instability was a key factor that impeded economic growth in Iraq. Power was secured through military coups which had to overthrow the sitting regime in order to take over. This violence would result in stagnating if not deteriorating the country’s economy. Despite this, Iraq was among the leading countries in the Arabian Peninsula. This was aided by the increased revenue gained from the Oil business. (Iraq’s Economy, Sanford, pg. 9). The Oil fields were a rich source of revenue for the Iraq government. The revenue however started trickling down following the war with Iran in 1980 (Economic Policy and Prospects in Iraq Gray & Forte, pg. 49-50). It mad it difficult for Iran to obtain raw materials, inputs spare parts or even establish proper infrastructure. The war additionally, made it even harder for Iraq to export its oil. It became expensive.
Regrettably, Britain had not ceased its influence on Iraq. It had maintained a hold of Iraq due to its Oil revenue. Following the Second World War, Britain’s economic position was wanting. It saw it fit to seek the help of America in order to protect her economic interest. United States intervened for Britain in the Gulf War and as per the agreement, Britain shared its oil fields with the US. This formed the US invasion into Iraq. The United States has continued to occupy Iraq in the name of its oil supply fields (Ezeibe & Ogbodo, pg. 6)
Despite all these, Iraq’s success was characterized by the thoughtful planning and reasonable expenditure budgets. Saddam for instance, during his reign, employed strategic economic planning. This entailed a government operations budget, an investment budget, and an annual import budget. Iraq thrived economically. All the economic reforms effected have served to stabilize consumption and the prices of goods. The government nationalized many privately owned institutions and companies. This move was made in a bid to cripple opposition powers. The government even reduced the barriers that had earlier been imposed on foreign investors. It offered attractive incentives for foreign financiers to come and invest in the country’s resources. It made assets on sale available to local investors through Baghdad Stock Exchange and long-term leases. This regime pioneered the privatization of public entities.
In light of these facts, it is important to note that the British rule had significant economic and political effects on today’s Iraq government systems. The ensuing end of the British rule did not mean that its influenced ceased to be seen. The ripple effects of the territorial boundaries set by Britain are still felt. Many ethnical and religious wars have been fought by Iraq as a result of the colonial decisions. The political environment of Iraq continues to be unstable. However, the instability in Iraq recently and in the last few decades has been attributed to its constant wars with neighboring countries, ethnic clashes and religious wars. This is not to say that the US invasion does not play a role in this up to date.
Ezeibe, Christian Chuwuebuka, and Stephen Ogbodo. “Political Economy of US Invasion of Iraq.” JL Pol’y & Globalization 40 (2015): 144.
Foote, Christopher, William Block, Keith Crane, and Simon Gray. “Economic policy and prospects in Iraq.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 18, no. 3 (2004): 47-70.
Sanford, Jonathan E. “Iraq’s economy: past, present, future.” Library Of Congress Washington Dc Congressional Research Service, 2003.
Sharp, Brian P. British Colonization of Iraq, 1918-1932. Marine Corps Command and Staff Coll Quantico Va, 2008.