Pro-Axis Coup in Iraq 1941

[ 1941 ]

In 1940 Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, regent of Iraq for King Faysal, had a government divided within itself about the war; he himself and his foreign minister, Nuri as-Said, were pro-British, but his prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gailani, had pro-German leanings. Having resigned office in January 1941, Rashid Ali on April 3 seized power in Baghdad with help from some army officers and announced that the temporarily absent regent was deposed. The British, ostensibly exercising their right under the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 to move troops across Iraqi territory, landed troops at Basra on April 19 and rejected Iraqi demands that these troops be sent on into Palestine before any further landings. Iraqi troops were then concentrated around the British air base at Habbaniyah, west of Baghdad; and on May 2 the British commander there opened hostilities, lest the Iraqis should attack first. Having won the upper hand at Habbaniyah and been reinforced from Palestine, the British troops from the air base marched on Baghdad; and on May 30 Rashid Ali and his friends took refuge in Iran. 'Abd al-Ilah was reinstated as regent; Nuri became prime minister; and the British military presence remained to uphold them.

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