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Yasin Pa§a Returns to Iraq

Yasin al-Hashimi had gone into hiding after Maysalun. He traveled to northern Syria and Cilicia, and over winter 1921 2 Yasin sought reappointment in the Ottoman army. His request was rejected on the facesaving grounds that too much time had lapsed since the armistice in October 1918. But certainly, Mustafa Kemal was already thinking about eliminating potential political rivals, and had no wish to invite the collaboration of another similarly distinguished Major General.90 Shortly after Faysal’s coronation as king of Iraq in August 1921, Yasin conveyed a request to return to Iraq. Doubtless owing to his criticism of Faysal and his British patrons, Faysal refused Yasin entry.

His younger brother, Taha al-Hashimi, had remained in Ottoman service, ending the war as a colonel in Yemen. Between 1919 and 1920, he traveled from Yemen to Beirut, Damascus, and Istanbul, back to Syria and to Istanbul, and spent 1920 through 1922 in the field between Mosul and Aleppo and to the north in Cilicia.91 Taha served as liaison officer between Mustafa Kemal, Faysal, Yasin al-Hashimi, and Ibrahim Hananu.92 By 1922 he was posted to general staff headquarters in Istanbul.

After his failure to join Kemal, Yasin al-Hashimi again sought permission from King Faysal to enter Iraq.93 This time Faysal, perhaps despairing the lack of administrative talent and expecting Yasin to be sufficiently humbled, agreed. In Baghdad, Yasin spent a few months settling down and avoiding politics. Despite his modest Baghdad childhood, he had not resided in the city since he left for the Harbiye military academy more than two decades earlier. In May 1922, Faysal asked Yasin to serve as governor (mutasarrif) of the newly organized Iraqi desert province of Muntafiq. The post was a significant step down for a man who had ended

Yasin al Hashimi, Civilian Politician c.1920s (Courtesy al Daftari Family)

Figure 3.2. Yasin al Hashimi, Civilian Politician c.1920s (Courtesy al Daftari Family)

the war a major general in command of a division, and who had last been offered (and refused) the office of Prime Minister of Faysal’s doomed Syrian kingdom. Hashimi’s biographer Phebe Marr notes that Rustum Haydar, Faysal’s secretary, came with the king’s request. Hashimi bowed his head and asked, “Is there no one in Iraq but Hashimi for this mission?” Like many ex-Ottoman officers, Yasin al-Hashimi was a man with few options. He agreed to the post.94 (See Figure 3.2.)

Percy Cox had appointed the fist Iraqi prime minister, cAbd al-Rahman al-Kilani, in 1920. Al-Kilani was an 80-year-old religious shaykh and scholar. He had significant popular legitimacy, and Cox was amazed that he agreed to accept. Al-Kilani had initially opposed the nomination of Faysal as king, and he opposed the terms of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty imposed on Iraq also. As Cox called on Faysal to extend his congratulations on a year as king, in late August 1922, a crowd massed outside the palace jeered him. As Peter Sluglett recounts, Faysal immediately publicly apologized to Cox and was hospitalized with appendicitis, at which point Cox assumed the power of government. Al-Kilani tendered his resignation, and signed the treaty as public opposition to the treaty and the Middle East crisis generally came to a head. As cAbd al-Rahman al-Kilani’s government resigned in Baghdad, Lloyd George’s government fell in London.95

In October 1922, King Faysal appointed cAbd al-Muhsin al-Sacdun second Iraqi Prime Minister. Over the next seven years, until his supposed suicide, al-Sacdun would repeatedly serve as prime minister and critic of King Faysal, and opponent of the role of Britain in Iraq. In his new position, al-Sacdun became the leading rival to King Faysal, and principal opponent to the ratification of the treaty. He provoked Faysal’s wrath by refusing to order mosques in Baghdad to say Friday prayers in his name, rather than in the name of the Ottoman sultan and caliph.96 cAbd al-Muhsin al-Sacdun Pasa was born in al-Nasiriyya in 1879. He attended the Tribal School and the Ottoman military academy in Istanbul and graduated an Ottoman officer. Along with his brother, cAbd al-Karim, he served as a military aide-de-camp to Sultan Abdul-Hamid. Between 1908 and 1918, al-Sacdun was an elected Ottoman parliamentary deputy for Iraq.97 In October 1922, he formed a new government, which for the year it lasted, refused to ratify the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. Al-Sacdun, like everyone else, had his eyes on events in Anatolia.

Even before the Anatolian nationalists signed the Mudanya ceasefire in October 1922, French forces in the region of Aleppo had come under renewed attack from rebels. Bands had ambushed several French patrols, killing officers and at least fifty soldiers during August and September. French soldiers and citizens were unable to leave Aleppo without armed escort. To the consternation of British observers, French forces continued to hand over stockpiled Ottoman ammunition to nationalist forces in southern Anatolia. French intelligence insisted on labeling rebels operating in Syria bandits and brigands, though they called themselves nationalists and followers of Mustafa Kemal.98 Rumors persisted that France would cede more territory, including Aleppo, to the nationalists in order to maintain friendly relations. British intelligence claimed this would set a dangerous precedent since there was “no doubt the mass of the Moslems would welcome the return of the Turks.”99

Rapturous celebrations in Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Baghdad greeted the victory in western Anatolia. Shops were festooned with banners and flags and the newspapers were full of glowing reports. French authorities encouraged the widespread rejoicing and believed their support of the Anatolian movement would benefit their local positions. British intelligence reports were full of worry and anger over the anti-British tenor of the celebrations. Reports also claimed that French forces would be unable to hold out against any serious Kemalist offensive in the region of Aleppo. A Beirut newspaper, al-R’ay al-cAmm, reported, “the people are showing their joy at the great victory of the Ottoman army,” and calling for demonstrations. The paper cautioned Beirutis to restrain from firing guns and waving flags, since this would “anger the state [Britain] that is the friend of the Greeks, and the enemy of our friends and brothers, the Turks.”100

In Damascus, the mufti received a telegram from Mustafa Kemal requesting special prayers celebrating and thanking God for the Muslim victory. Many prominent Damascenes sent telegrams of congratulation to Mustafa Kemal. A collection committee received 10,000 gold pounds as presents for Mustafa Kemal Pasa and his soldiers.101 French intelligence reported that Sultan al-Atrash had been sighted at the border with a band of heavily armed horsemen, and Ahmad Muraywid, comrade of recently executed rebel Adham Khanjar, had returned from Mecca with 800 rifles and ammunition, two 77-mm light cannons, and 130 shells.102 General Gouraud informed London that unless Amir Abdallah in Transjordan arrested Sultan al-Atrash, France would begin aerial bombardment of his suspected hideouts in Transjordan.103 Most of rural northern, central, and southern Syria was beyond French government control.

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