The Second Great War No. 42

gr- ^£g Kf ,,-¦¦¦:'¦*¦¦->‘ Mm#Z- ¦"'••#**•(P'fC ®<->'AS i J.* ?R5-V '»».-'**•• HABBANIYA, WHERE THE CONFLICT BEGAN IN IRAQ At Habbaniya, 60 miles west of Baghdad, was the Royal Air Force airfield and training school. Towards the end of April Rashid Ali concentrated troops around airport and cantonments, threatening to destroy any British ’plane which took the air. On May 1,1941, the Iraqis opened fire, and later their aircraft tried to raid the airport. Below, under the eye of a British guard, a rebel N.C.O. interprets orders to prisoners taken at Habbaniya by the R.A.F. Photos, British Official: Crown Copyright: C.E. Drown question of the oilfields and the pipeline. Both sides, therefore, were play­ing for high stakes. After Rashid Ali seized power on April 3 his government at first adopted an apparently conciliatory attitude. It proclaimed that its policy would be to uphold the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. But it soon became evident that the new Premier was only playing for time. He wanted in the first place to secure recognition of his government second­ly, he wanted to lull the British into a false state of insecurity order that he might have time to bring his Nazi friends to his assistance. During the short period of conciliation the new British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, was able to negotiate the peaceful landing of British troops—as was provided by treaty—at Basra 011 April 17-18. But Rashid Ali’s “friend­liness ”very soon changed to open hostility. He timed his change of attitude to coincide with our troubles in the Greek campaign. Without warn­ing, while three more British troop transports were arriving off Basra, the Iraqi army marched by night across the Tigris and Euphrates to our airfield in the west. They ranged themselves 011 the low escarpments round Hab- Iraqi Raid on Habbaniya baniya and threatened to destroy any British aeroplane which took off. On April 28 Rashid Ali demanded that moreno British troops should be landed at Basra until the first contingent had passed through the country, and at the same time he appealed to Germany for help against the British. By this time British and Iraqi troops had clashed. On May 2 the British Embassy asked for the withdrawal of the Iraqi troops round Habbaniya. Instead, they were reinforced. The Iraqi air force then attempted to raid the British airfield, but without effect. Rashid Ali accused the British of having broken the treaty, and pro­claimed a “holy struggle for the in­dependence of Iraq.” On May 3 the R.A.F. bombed the Iraqi forces round Habbaniya and silenced artillery. Then the Regent, Emir Abdul Hah, who had been obliged to leave the country at the time of the Rashid Ali coup and had gone to Palestine, issued on May 4 a proclamation saying that he would be returning “to restore the tarnished honour ”of his country, and calling upon all true sons of Iraq to “drive out this band of traitors and restore to our beloved country true liberty and independence.” The Emir declared that“ a group of military tyrants, aided and abetted by Rashid Ali and other ill-disposed persons bought by foreign gold, have by force thrust me from my sacred duties as guardian of my nephew, your beloved King.” The next day the R.A.F. bombed the Moascar Rashid aerodrome, outside Baghdad, and putout of action nearly half the strength of the Iraqi Air 1080
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