The Iraqi Monarchy and the Mandate

The Iraqi Monarchy and the Mandate (1920–1932)

After the 1920 revolt, the British and the Iraqi governing elite realized that a new arrangement had to be worked out between the two countries to placate independence activists as well as to give Britain a patina of legitimacy in the country. The treaty signed by the new Iraqi government and Great Britain on October 10, 1922, in essence restated the mandate.

The “obligations” of each country tilted heavily in Britain’s favor. Iraq agreed to respect the rights of foreigners, including foreign missionaries, and to cooperate with the League of Nations. Britain agreed to respect Iraqi sovereignty while at the same time acting as adviser on military matters, foreign and domestic, including judicial policies, and, of course, the economy.

It provided for Iraqi control of defense matters but tacked on a military clause that required that Britain would continue to train and equip the Iraqi military and retain its military bases throughout the country. Britain was also to prepare Iraq for entry into the League of Nations. The terms of the treaty were to last for a period of 20 years, though they were open for revision.

The treaty was met with hostility by the Iraqi press, which after the uprising was anything but acquiescent, and this temporarily hindered ratifi cation by Iraq’s Constituent Assembly, as it did not want to appear to be simply a “rubber stamp” for the British. On April 30, 1923, an amendment to the as-yet unratifi ed treaty was signed by both parties that reduced the period of the treaty’s enforcement from 20 years to four.

Nevertheless, the Constituent Assembly only ratifi ed the treaty on June 11, 1924, after Great Britain threatened to put the matter before the League of Nations, of which Iraq was not yet a member and which had mandated British sovereignty over Iraq in the first place.The Constituent Assembly needed only one month to discuss the draft of Iraq’s constitution, known as the Organic Law. It was approved in July 1924 and signed by King Faisal I on March 21, 1925.

The Organic Law went into effect the day after the king signed it. It created a constitutional monarchy (meaning in one sense that it added itself to the status quo) with a parliamentary form of national government. The national legislature was to be bicameral: The Senate was made up of members appointed by King Faisal, while members of the House of Representatives were elected to four-year terms. Suffrage was strictly reserved for men.

In the aftermath of the 1920 uprising, three political parties came into being in Iraq. One of these represented those essentially Sunni Iraqis in power, and the other two—the Watani (Patriotic) and Nahda (Awakening) Parties, both formed by lay Shiis—were opposition parties. All three, however, were nationalistic and devoted to Iraqi independence. When independence was achieved in 1932, the parties disbanded as members transferred their allegiance to other parties and blocs that had formed around social and economic questions.