Mosul, Anglo-Turkish Dispute Over

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dispute over oil deposits in iraq, c. 19201928.

Mosul, a province in northern Iraq, is rich in oil deposits and serves as a transit center for trade with Turkey and Syria. Its population consists of Arab Sunni Muslims, a sizable Kurdish minority, and various Christian sects. In 1916, the Sykes-Picot Agreement between England and France designated Mosul as a French zone. In 1920, the San Remo Conference transferred Mosul to the British, with the stipulation that France would have a share in the Turkish Petroleum Company.

Mosul became a point of contention between Turkey and Britain in the early 1920s. Turkey claimed that Mosul was part of its territory because the majority of inhabitants were Ottoman non-Arabs and because Mosul had not been in the hands of Britain when the Mudros armistice pact was signed in 1918. Britain wanted Mosul to be part of Iraq for myriad reasons. It believed Mosul had substantial oil deposits and could be used as a bargaining chip with the newly established government of Iraq to extend Britain's mandated power over that country. Faisal I, the newly crowned king of Iraq, wanted Mosul to be part of his country in order to strengthen his authority and influence over nationalistic elements who opposed Britain's continued interference in Iraq's domestic affairs.

The dispute between Turkey and Britain continued for several years. The two countries failed to resolve their conflict when the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 was signed by the Allies and Turkey, and again at the special conference convened at Istanbul in 1924. They finally agreed to settle the dispute through the League of Nations. The League appointed a fact-finding commission to visit Iraq, survey public opinion in Mosul, and meet with officials on both sides. On 16 July 1924, the commission's report to the League called for the inclusion of Mosul in Iraq, retaining the Brussels line as the border between the two countries. Additional conditions attached to the recommendation included (1) allowing Iraq to remain under the British mandate for twenty-five years; (2) recognizing the rights of the Kurds to use their language in educational institutions and administration of justice, and (3) encouraging the hiring of Kurds as administrators, judges, and teachers. Iraq welcomed the decision. Mosul was one of the few issues that united the full spectrum of public opinion.

Turkey rejected the recommendation of the League of Nations and vowed to use any means necessary, including military action, to stop the implementation of the resolution. On 5 June 1926, however, Turkey signed a tripartite agreement with Britain and Iraq confirming Mosul's inclusion in Iraq. Iraq agreed to give a 10 percent royalty on Mosul's oil deposits to Turkey for twenty-five years. On 19 January 1926, Iraq had signed a new treaty with Britain, despite opposition from nationalist elements, to extend the mandate period for twenty-five years, as stipulated by the League's resolution. This treaty was ratified in January 1928, on the condition that Britain would recommend Iraq for membership in the League of Nations at four-year intervals for the next twenty-five years. If admission was approved, the British mandate would end.

see also san remo conference (1920); sykespicot agreement (1916).


Longrigg, Stephen Hemsley. Iraq, 19001950: A Political, Social and Economic History. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.

Shikara, Ahmad. Iraq Politics, 192141: The Interaction between Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy. London: LAAM, 1987.

ayad al-qazzaz