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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: January 2010

6 - Kurdish nationalist challenges to the Iraqi state


The creation of Iraq and early Kurdish revolts

Following the Treaty of Lausanne, Britain and the League of Nations in 1925 attached the Mosul Vilayet and the rest of today's Iraqi Kurdistan to the British-occupied Mesopotamian vilayets of Basra and Baghdad. Out of these holdings Iraq was created. The British installed Hashemite Emir Faysal, a prince from the Arabian peninsula, as King of the new Iraq, and Britain's mandate over Iraq was supposed to last twenty-five years. Some Kurdish leaders who had been friendly towards Britain, in the hope that they would be helped to establish a Kurdish state in the area, were gravely disappointed. The opportunity structure of foreign support for their Kurdish nationalist aims was not as favorable as they had imagined. The British had decided that creating and controlling a single Iraq, including the Kurdish areas in question, would be the best way to exploit the oil fields around Kirkuk and Mosul, as well as to protect their colonial holdings elsewhere.

Sporadic Kurdish unrest and agitation against being included within the new Iraq had begun even before the Treaty of Sèvres. Lacking sufficient troops to quell the unrest, as early as 1919 the British deployed the RAF to aerially bombard Kurdish rebels and civilian areas in rebellion, setting an enduring precedent for both the region and the world.