Contemporary National Flag: Flag of Iraq used between 1924 and 1959.
Population: 3 700 000 (1938), ~ 4 500 000 (1945).
Borders with (in 1945) Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran (Persia), and has a narrow access to the Persian Gulf.
Area: 444 442 squared kilometers.
Capital City: Bagdad
Overview: In 1932 U.K. formally recognized Iraq's independence, and a constitutional monarchy was established. However, the British political and economic influence remained paramount; the former League of Nations administrators were permitted lucrative oil extraction concessions as well as the unlimited use of military airfields at Habbaniya and Shuayba. On 03/04/1941, influenced by pan-Arab nationalism and resentment of continuous British control, elements of the Iraqi army staged an initially successful coup d'etat. The arrival of the Afrika Korps in Libya might have had an accelerating impact on the decision to start this revolt but it was of little use to the Axis, since British Commonwealth and Free French forces entered and occupied the country by 08/06/1941. Thus ultimately the Allies managed quickly to reassert and even increase their employment of Iraqi territory as a staging point for further redeployment, and as a valuable supply base. A few of the coup's key instigators were captured and promptly executed, and a new Allied-friendly government was appointed. In 1943 Iraq officially declared war on the Axis; however, Iraqi armed forces never participated in any operations against them. In 1945 Iraq was admitted to the U.N.; it is also a co-founding member of the League of Arab Countries.
Armed Forces: In the early 1930's the Iraqi armed forces were established and began to expand steadily thereafter (the first army division was raised in 1932). In June of 1935, the national parliament ratified a compulsory military service for all males capable of bearing arms, for a period of ten years (including 18-24 months of basic service). At the beginning the army was composed of two infantry divisions, one independent cavalry brigade, and one independent frontier guards brigade. In June of 1938 the two army divisions included the following units: three cavalry regiments, nine batteries of field artillery, six batteries of mountain artillery, one mechanized battery, 28 infantry battalions, one motorized machine-gun company, two signal battalions, one armoured car section, one light tank company, one engineer battalion, and a small coastal-river flotilla (one royal yacht and a tug on the Persian Gulf, and four motor patrol boats on Euphrates and Tigris). In 1939 the number of infantry divisions was doubled to four (the total number of army personnel increased to 20 000 soldiers and officers). By 1941 the armoured and motorized units were expanded while the army personnel reached the number of 41 000. The birth of the Iraqi air force took place already in 1931, when under the guidance and leadership of the British the very first Iraqi air force wing was created from equipment supplied by the U.K., a second one followed in 1934. In order to reduce the reliance on Britain, Iraqi government formed a third air wing in 1937 composed of Italian-manufactured aircraft. In 1939 the air force was made up of two army-air cooperation squadrons, one bomber-transport squadron, one fighter squadron, one communications squadron, one flying training school, one apprentices training school, and one aeroplane depot. By 1940 the Iraqi air force contained six air wings (planes were primarily of British and U.S. origin). In 1941, following the pro-Axis coup, the Iraqi armed forces faced an Allied intervention by predominantly British Commonwealth troops (mainly East Indians and Transjordanians); despite heavy numerical superiority and some meager assistance from the Vichy French in Syria as well as from a few German transport planes that supplied Iraq with some badly needed war materiel, the Iraqi armed forces were quickly routed. The Iraqi air force lost about 20 aircraft in the course of the brief struggle (out of a total of 56 that Iraq possessed at that time). A peace treaty very favourable to the Allies was immediately signed in the aftermath, granting the Allies many extensive concessions (such as the right to garrison the Iraqi territory, and transport troops across it, as well as to use many additional airfields). Subsequently, the entire country was occupied by British Commonwealth units (mostly East Indian, some from India's autonomous princely states). The size of the Iraqi armed forces was also drastically reduced.
Main article: History of Iraq
Further information: Anglo-Iraqi War
Iraq was important to Britain through its position on a route to India and the strategic oil supplies that it provided. After the ejection of the Ottoman Turks at the end of the First World War, these were protected by a significant Royal Air Force base at Habbaniya and the maintenance of sympathetic governments. Because of the United Kingdom's weakness early in the war, Iraq backed away from its Anglo-Iraqi Alliance with the country. When the British High Command requested to send reinforcements to Iraq, the country's Prime Minister, Nuri-es Said, allowed a small British force to land. Consequently, he was forced to resign after a pro-Axis coup under Rashid Ali in April 1941. Later British requests to reinforce Iraq were denied by the new leadership.
The new regime secretly began negotiations with the Axis Powers. The Nazis responded quickly and sent military aid by Luftwaffe aircraft to Baghdad via Syria. Indian troops consequently invaded in late April 1941 and reached Baghdad and RAF Habbaniyah in May. The Iraqi army attacked Habbaniyah but quickly capitulated and Rashid Ali fled the country. The United Kingdom urged Iraq to declare war on the Axis in 1942. British forces remained to protect the vital oil supplies. Yet Iraq declared war on the Axis powers in 1943 after cutting diplomatic ties. Germany initially refused to accept the declaration, as they still recognised Rashad Ali as the legitimate government. The Iraqi army played a role in protecting the logistic routes of the Allies, especially the military aids to the Soviet Union which used to arrive from Basra, Baghdad and Kirkuk. British and Indian operations in Iraq should be viewed in conjunction with events in neighbouring Syria and Persia.