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Mosul Question

English and Ottoman ocials meet in northern Iraq during

November 1918

The vilayet of Mosul in 1914, with modern borders superimposed

British right to Mosul and how it was taken illegally, post-
Mudros. Even when the Lausanne Treaty was signed be-
The Mosul Question was a territorial dispute in the early
tween Turkey and Britain in 1923, Turkey still maintained
20th century between Turkey and the United Kingdom
that Britain was controlling the Mosul Vilayet illegally.[2]
(later Iraq) over the possession of the former Ottoman
British ocials in London and Baghdad continued to be-
Mosul Vilayet.
lieve that Mosul was imperative to the survival of Iraq be-
The Mosul Vilayet was part of the Ottoman Empire until cause of its resources and the security of its mountainous
the end of World War I, when it was occupied by Britain. border.[3] Turkish leaders were also afraid that Kurdish
After the Turkish War of Independence, the new Turk- nationalism would thrive under British Mandate and start
ish Republic considered Mosul one of the crucial issues trouble with the Kurdish population in Turkey.[4]
determined in the National Pact. Despite constant resis-
In order to reach a resolution on the conicting claims
tance, Britain managed to bring the issue into the interna-
over Mosul, the League of Nations was called on to send
tional arena, scaling it down to a frontier problem between
a fact-nding commission in order to determine the right-
Turkey and Iraq.
ful owner. The commission investigated the region and
The League of Nations Council appointed an investiga- then reported that Turkey had no claim to Mosul and it
tive commission that recommended that Iraq should re- belonged to the British and no one else had any rightful
tain Mosul, and Turkey reluctantly assented to the deci- claim to the area.[2]
sion by signing the Frontier Treaty with the Iraqi govern-
Because of the amount of inuence wielded by Britain
ment in 1926. Iraq agreed to give a 10 percent royalty on
in the League of Nations, the decision of the fact-
Mosuls oil deposits to Turkey for 25 years.
nding commission was not surprising. Another aspect
of Britains inuence on the League of Nations was that
the Secretary of the War Cabinet, Maurice Hankey, de-
1 History cided that Britain needed to have control over the whole
area because of their oil concerns for the Royal Navy be-
Near the end of World War I, the debilitated Ottoman fore the commission was completed.
Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros, calling for a Because Britain also wanted to soothe Turkish anger over
ceasere with the United Kingdom, on October 30, 1918. the League of Nations decision, they gave them a portion
Three days later, on November 2, Lt. Gen. Sir William of the oil prots. By having control over the oil and the
Marshall invaded the Mosul Vilayet until November 15, IPC, the British stayed in control of the resources of Mo-
1918 when he was nally successful in defeating the Ot- sul even though they had given political control back to
toman forces and causing them to surrender.[1] Faysal.
In August 1920, the Treaty of Svres was signed to Another area of contention between Britain and Turkey
end the war, however the Ottomans still contested the was the actual boundary line. There was a Brussels Line


which had been decided by the League of Nations as the to keep a stranglehold over him, and later Iran used the
true border of Iraq, and a British line which was the di- Kurds and their repower in order to keep unrest in Iraq
vision line the Britain had used as reference in the past. during the reign of Khomeini. The Kurds did not want
When this was brought up to British leaders, both Percy to be integrated into Iraq; however they did support the
Cox, the British High Commissioner of Iraq, and Arnold continuance of the British mandate in the area.[4]
Wilson, the British civil commissioner in Baghdad, urged
Lloyd George, who was the Prime Minister, to use the
Brussels line because they did not think there was that 3 Demographics
large of a dierence between the two line boundaries.[5]
The vilayet had a Kurdish speaking population, a large
Assyrian Syriac speaking population[6] and an Arabic
2 Other claimants speaking population, and in contrast to Mosuls neigh-
bors, it was much more directly integrated into the
Ottoman Empire.[7] With regards to the religious com-
2.1 Kingdom of Iraq munities, it was predominately Sunni with notable com-
munities of Turkmen, Kurds, Assyrian Christians and
The Mosul Vilayet was not just contested by external Jews with a total population of about 800,000 people in
powers, i.e. Britain and Turkey; Faysal ibn Husayn, the the early 20th century.[4] These communities and their re-
Hashemite ruler who had become the king of the newly spective leaders were heavily inuenced by the political
created state of Iraq by the British in 1921, also wanted hierarchy, trading networks, and the judicial system of
to claim the Mosul Vilayet as his. The British liked, and the Ottoman Empire, even though they considered them-
respected Faysal because of all of the assistance he had selves on their own and not completely controlled by the
given to them; the British also felt that they could trust empire.[7]
him to do what they wanted. In this belief, Britain was
both right and wrong. Faysal was a brilliant diplomat who
was able to balance what the British wanted and the true
needs of his people into a very complex system. How-
4 Economic resources
ever, one of the things he wanted most was the unication
and strong status of Iraq and he did not believe that was
possible without having control of the Mosul Vilayet.
Prior to the League of Nations decision, Faysal had con-
tinually petitioned the British government to give con-
trol of Mosul to him so that he could succeed in his aim
of unication. Finally, after the League of Nations de-
cision, the British agree to let Faysal have control over
Mosul in return for important resource concessions. The
British founded the Turkish Petroleum Company which
they later named the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).

An 1876 sketch of Mosul

2.2 Kurds
During the period of Ottoman rule, Mosul was involved
in the production of ne cotton goods. Oil was a known
Another internal group that wanted control over Mosul
commodity in the region and it became critically impor-
was the Kurds. The Kurds were the natural inhabitants
tant during World War I and continuing until today. Mo-
of some parts of the Vilayet and did not want to be-
sul was considered a trading capital of the Ottoman Em-
long to any other government other than their own. They
pire because of its location along the trade routes to India
had long fought against being integrated into Iraq because
and the Mediterranean; also it was considered a political
they wanted independence. Most Kurds did not consider
themselves as a part of the new country of Iraq. Vari-
ous Kurdish leaders rallied Kurdish groups who already
had their own repower and had been helped by dierent
imperial powers on occasions when it suited their needs. 5 Local politics
Furthermore, many Kurds felt betrayed by promises the
British had made to them in earlier times and subse- The leadership was constantly plagued with accusations
quently not kept. Faysal wanted to integrate them be- of corruption and incompetence, and leaders were re-
cause, as by a majority Sunnis, he needed them to balance placed with an alarming regularity.[8] Also, because of
out the Shiite population. Britain used both the Kurdish these problems, the administration of Mosul was en-
repower and Faysals desire for a united Iraq in order trusted to Palace and notable favorites, where the high

ocials careers were usually determined by tribal issues

within their states.[8]

6 References
[1] Mesopotamia in British War Aims The Historical Jour-
nal by V.H. Rothwell

[2] The Geography of the Mosul Boundary The Geographic

Journal by H.I. Lloyd 1926

[3] The Creation of Iraq: 1914-1921 by Reeva Spector Si-

mon and Eleanor H. Tejirian, New York: Columbia Uni-
versity Press 2004

[4] The Mosul Dispute The American Journal of Interna-

tional Law by Quincy Wright

[5] The Geography of the Mosul Boundary: Discussion The

Geographical Journal 1926

[6] Assyrians, Kurds, and Ottomans: Intercommunal Relations

on the Periphery of the Ottoman Empire, p. 171, at Google

[7] A History of Iraq by Charles Tripp, New York: Cam-

bridge Press 2007

[8] Ottoman Administration of Iraq 1890-1908 by Gokhan

Cetinsaya New York: Routledge, 2006

7 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

7.1 Text
Mosul Question Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosul_Question?oldid=750440659 Contributors: Bender235, Pharos, PanchoS,
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Foleo and Anonymous: 2

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