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History, World War II

Al Basrah, Rashid Ali, treaty of alliance, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United States forces

In accordance with its treaty of alliance with Britain, Iraq broke off diplomatic relations with Germany early in September 1939, at the start of World War II (1939-1945). During the first few months of the war Iraq had a pro-British government under General Nuri as-Said as prime minister. In March 1940, however, Said was replaced by Rashid Ali al-Gailani, a radical nationalist, who embarked at once on a policy of noncooperation with the British. The British pressured the Iraqis to cooperate with them. This pressure precipitated a military revolt on April 30, 1941, and a new pro-German government headed by Gailani was formed. Alarmed at this development, the British landed troops at Al Basrah. Declaring this action a violation of the treaty between Britain and Iraq, Gailani mobilized the Iraqi army, and war between the two countries began in May. Later that month the government of Iraq conceded defeat. The armistice terms provided for the reestablishment of British control over Iraq’s transport, a provision of the 1930 treaty of alliance. Shortly afterward, a pro-British government headed by Said was formed.

In 1942 Iraq became an important supply center for British and United States forces operating in the Middle East and for the transshipment of arms to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). On January 17, 1943, Iraq declared war on Germany, the first independent Islamic state to do so. Meanwhile, Iraq’s continuing assistance to the Allied war effort made possible a stronger stand by Arab leaders on behalf of a federation of Arab states. After the war ended, Iraq joined with other Arab states in forming the Arab League, a regional association of sovereign states.

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