First Advisor

Franklin C. West

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Rashīd ʻĀlī Kīlānī (1893-1965), World War (1939-1945) -- Campaigns -- Iraq, World War (1939-1945) -- Germany, World War (1939-1945) -- Great Britain, Iraq -- History -- Hashemite Kingdom (1921-1958)



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 108 p.)


There are few events in the history of humankind which have been more compelling than the Second World War (1939-1945). Unfortunately, most of what transpired during this period of history stands obscured by events such as D-Day, Kursk, and Midway, all happenings which popular history has been more than happy to dwell upon. This study' s intent is to, with the use of primary materials, analyze one of the more "obscured" happenings of the Second World War, the Rashid Ali al-Kilani Revolt of April and May 1941. Central to this work is an assessment of the policy responses of both Great Britain and Germany to the Baghdadbased revolt. It also seeks to answer the following question: why did Great Britain approach the coup with great urgency, while Germany, for the most part, paid it very little attention? In the case of Great Britain, its traditional power position in the Middle East, and possession of both the Suez Canal and extensive oil stocks, was challenged by Axis activity in north Africa, the Balkans and Crete. The Iraqi coup simply exacerbated the British problem. London's fears were valid and its successful response reflected as much. For Germany and its leader Adolf Hitler, ideological concerns took precedence over a Middle Eastern campaign. A Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, an event which, by design, would destroy Slavism, Bolshevism, and much of world Jewry, plus gain greater Germany "living space," was primary to Hitler's thinking in the spring of 1941. Furthermore, the Fuehrer's desire for an Anglo-German "understanding" seems to have influenced his attitude in regards to the coup. Conclusions are also drawn that the policy paths chosen by each European player during the coup were met with dissension. In Great Britain's case, Middle Eastern Commander-in-Chief Archibald Wavell felt that aggressive British action in Iraq might antagonize Arab nationalism. For Germany, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was a major advocate of an antiBritish strategy and corresponding Nazi activity in Iraq. The Rashid Ali coup represented the last opportunity for Ribbentrop, prior to "Barbarossa," to expose the great vulnerability of the British Empire. From this, proffered is the theory that Ribbentrop, through an exploitation of the Iraq coup, was perhaps attempting to dissuade Hitler from an invasion of the Soviet Union.


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