The last Mamluk governor ruled in the 19th
century as Europe was increasingly asked for advice, military weapons, and
for help to promote trade. The British were the most influential in this
regard which indicates an economic viability to Iraq that the Ottomans were
either unable or uninterested in pursuing. The Ottomans, as a European
Empire, were unable to maintain influence over its own province. After
floods and plagues in 1831, the Ottoman's sent a new governor to Iraq that
meant "A new era" for Iraq (Iraq History Page). While this was an attempt
to regain influence on the area, many tribal competitions and allegiances
remained, including the Kurdish problem in the region. The Mamluks had
grown increasingly autonomous and the Ottoman's reasserted their authority,
but this authority was not inherently stable. IN 1690, Midhat Pasha was
appointed governor of Iraq and he attempted to modernize according to a
Western model which helped Iraqis to gain power within their own
government, but this not enforce the Ottoman Land Law of 1858 which meant
that Iraq was now closely tied to the Ottoman central government. The
implications of Ottoman re-asserted control were that Sunnis would hold
influence on important political positions that would remain until after
Ottoman control ended. This means that the Ottomans encouraged the
religious divisions not only between the Sunnis and the Shiites, but the
Kurds as well that would remain as the religious cleavages were not
addressed properly in Ottoman Iraq.
As the British had been allowed increasing influence in Iraq, it
would remain that way after the Ottoman's lost control in the First World
War. Ottoman ties to Germany meant a threat to British interests in the
area as the Ottoman's allowed for a German railway. The British, who
became aware that there may be oil interests in Iraq, were now fearful of a
military threat in the area as the German influence was a competition.
Ultimately, the British won out in the ensuing military conflict and thus
Iraq's domination by the Ottoman's came to a close, largely because of
their ineffective political influence and allowing for British economic
interests in the region. But as the Ottoman's lost the war, they also lost
their territory to the victors and the future of Iraq would play out in the
hands of the Western European colonizers, in this case the British.
Thus Ottoman policies ultimately led Iraq into the hands of the
British and the British did little to address the underlying issues in
Iraq. For example, in 1920 there was a "large-scale Shiite insurgency"
meaning that the Shiite and Sunni religious problems existed and would
exist through the 20th century and they do exist today in the 21st century
(Rayburn 2006). The British were ineffective in fixing Iraqi political
problems or granting the Arabs political sovereignty, and it was admitted
that by the end of the 1920s, "the Iraqi government had become the
exclusive domain of the royal Hashemite family and a few hundred Sunni Arab
politicians" (Rayburn 2006). Iraq faced incredible political dilemmas and
religious differences that were not addressed in the years following
Ottoman rule as colonization re-enforced as the British only pursued their
own personal interests in Iraq and, like in the Ottoman years, Iraq was
merely a pawn in the much bigger political and economic landscape and its
own political and religious concerns were not addressed.
According to one study on Iraq, modern day Iraq "as a result of
repeatedly being conquered and occupied by foreign powers, did not progress
in the four centuries" since the original Ottoman invasion (Shagoury 2003).
The Ottoman legacy thus must be seen one as exploitation and failure which
led to British colonization and even more failure and ultimately a system
that could only be dominated by despotism. The results were despotism
after the British left, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and politician and
religious repression and stunted economic growth, and eventually the United
States invasion which has opened the doors to renewed ethnic and religious
conflict and political squabbles. Even the possibility of democracy has
not made possible a change in Iraq as traditional problems now have had
room to become. Since the U.S. led invasion, "without a strongman holding
Iraq together, rising sectarian violence has brought the country to the
brink of civil war" (Roberts 2007). This is an indication of the problems
that have existed in Iraq since its inception as a province conquered by
the Ottomans. The Ottoman's used Iraq for what it was- a buffer state- and
Iraq was only important for the economic and political security it afforded
the Empire. The religious divisions in Iraq, for example, were only
maintained by the Ottoman Emperor and perhaps encouraged as the Ottomans
were interested in the Sunnis and not the Shiites. This is just one of the
many conflicts within Iraq that have existed to this day as Iraq has
continually been an area of foreign domination and internal disputes that
have not helped Iraq, but have only led to problems that have existed
throughout Iraq's history until the modern day.
"Iraq's History Page." 22 Apr. 2007 .
Rayburn, Joel. "The Last Exit From Iraq." Foreign Affairs 85 (2006): 29.
22 Apr. 2007
Roberts, Sam. "How the Middle East Got That Way." New York Times Upfront
139 (2007): 24. 22 Apr. 2007
Shagoury, Michael. "Four Centuries of Modern Iraq." The Middle East Journal
57 (2003): 700. 22 Apr. 2007
"The Ottoman Period, 1534-1918." Iraq: Historical Setting. Library of
Congress Country Study. 22 Apr. 2007 .