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Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia - now the modern state of Iraq - an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-a Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia - now the modern state of Iraq - an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-armed British gunboats were sunk or captured. The quest for oil was central to Britain's Middle East policy during the First World War and was one of the principal reasons for its continuing occupation of Iraq. However, with around 131,000 Arabs in arms at one stage of the conflict, the British were very nearly driven out. Only a massive infusion of Indian troops and the widespread use of aircraft prevented a total rout. Enemy on the Euphrates is the definitive account of the first British occupation of Iraq and the revolt against it in 1920. Using a wealth of primary sources, Ian Rutledge brings central players such as Winston Churchill, Arnold Wilson, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Sir Mark Sykes vividly to life in this gripping account.


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Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia - now the modern state of Iraq - an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-a Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia - now the modern state of Iraq - an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-armed British gunboats were sunk or captured. The quest for oil was central to Britain's Middle East policy during the First World War and was one of the principal reasons for its continuing occupation of Iraq. However, with around 131,000 Arabs in arms at one stage of the conflict, the British were very nearly driven out. Only a massive infusion of Indian troops and the widespread use of aircraft prevented a total rout. Enemy on the Euphrates is the definitive account of the first British occupation of Iraq and the revolt against it in 1920. Using a wealth of primary sources, Ian Rutledge brings central players such as Winston Churchill, Arnold Wilson, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Sir Mark Sykes vividly to life in this gripping account.

30 review for Enemy on the Euphrates: The British Occupation of Iraq and the Great Arab Revolt 1914-1921

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chris Ziesler

    I chanced upon mention of this book while I was reading an article by Robert Fisk in The Independent discussing the situation in Syria and Iraq in early June 2014. Fisk observed: "Rutledge has researched Britain’s concern about Shia power in southern Iraq – where Basra’s oil lies – material with acute relevance to the crisis now tearing Iraq to pieces." As the activities of ISIS have escalated and their rule has spread throughout Syria and Iraq a thorough understanding of the background to the sit I chanced upon mention of this book while I was reading an article by Robert Fisk in The Independent discussing the situation in Syria and Iraq in early June 2014. Fisk observed: "Rutledge has researched Britain’s concern about Shia power in southern Iraq – where Basra’s oil lies – material with acute relevance to the crisis now tearing Iraq to pieces." As the activities of ISIS have escalated and their rule has spread throughout Syria and Iraq a thorough understanding of the background to the situation in the region sheds vital light on current events. Rutledge's book provides an excellent history of the region in the aftermath of the Sykes-Picot agreement at two levels: first of all he gives a thorough narrative of the causes and the course of the Arab Revolt against the British rule in Iraq in 1920. As he points out: "Indeed, the insurrection in Iraq of 1920, measured in enemy combatant numbers, was the most serious armed uprising against British rule in the twentieth century. At the height of the rebellion the British estimated that around 131,000 Arabs were in arms against them." Secondly, he provides a great deal of detail about the patchwork of tribal and religious groupings and loyalties that covered the region at the time, many of which persist to this day. He spends considerable effort explaining the motivations and aims of the insurrection, and makes it clear that it was well-organized and well-led and its successes were a deep cause of embarrassment to Britain, the world superpower of the day. Rutledge's style is accessible and incisive without ever stooping to sensationalism. His grasp and analysis of the complexities of the situation is excellent. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the Middle East or simply in the limits and dangers of applying overwhelming military power to situations that call for a political solution.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul baker

    The Empire expands In many ways the book is shocking. It shows the arrogance and plain cruelty of the British elite in pursuing territorial gain using military methods that were common in Medieval times. That involved ‘creating ‘scorched earth’ whereby whole villages were burnt down, their inhabitants including women and children killed together with their livestock while crops were burnt. In order to take control of Iraq the British carried out those same policies only using modern equipment and The Empire expands In many ways the book is shocking. It shows the arrogance and plain cruelty of the British elite in pursuing territorial gain using military methods that were common in Medieval times. That involved ‘creating ‘scorched earth’ whereby whole villages were burnt down, their inhabitants including women and children killed together with their livestock while crops were burnt. In order to take control of Iraq the British carried out those same policies only using modern equipment and in particular airplanes that could, unopposed, bomb villages and tribesman. There was complete disregard of innocent lives being wasted. Officers had a# much sympathy for the Natives as the SS had for Poles or Russians in WW2 and like them some Commanders literally revelled in the success of what they were doing. At first the war was aimed at the Turks but once the World War finished the Government had realised that the enormous oil deposits near Mosul were worth hanging on to, damn the offer to Arabs of Independence if they helped defeat the Turks. The result was the Rebellion of 1920-1 which was viciously suppressed just as the French were doing in Syria, their own prize for winning the war. No surprise that when the British again occupied Basra in 2003 onwards the local feeling against them was so strong; 1921 was still remembered and they were shifted by the Americans to Afghanistan. The age old tactic of ‘burn and destroy’ still continues in places like Afghanistan where troops arrive at night in remote villages by helicopter and create mayhem that includes shooting young men and boys indiscriminately - then flying off. It’s designed to show them who is Boss but there’s little doubt the troops on the ground enjoy it knowing the State will always protect them against accusations of war crimes. They no longer call it ‘Punitive’ action designed to punish rebellious indigenous but the result is the same. The Iraq war of 1914-21 is not well known in Britain and rarely if ever appears on a School curriculum and those involved are still awarded medals and honours just as they have always done. This is a measured and detailed account that avoids comment but it doesn’t have to. Nothing much changes in the UK.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Les

    I must confess to having read this book in error.I bought it, unseen, to further my knowledge about the First World War Mesopotamian campaign. It does cover it, but only in passing. Instead, it tells an equally compelling story; one of British military and diplomatic bungling and duplicity in modern-day Iraq. As an example of how not to win the hearts and minds of host communities, it would be hard to beat and all in the quest for oilfelds that never returned on their early potential. Read it an I must confess to having read this book in error.I bought it, unseen, to further my knowledge about the First World War Mesopotamian campaign. It does cover it, but only in passing. Instead, it tells an equally compelling story; one of British military and diplomatic bungling and duplicity in modern-day Iraq. As an example of how not to win the hearts and minds of host communities, it would be hard to beat and all in the quest for oilfelds that never returned on their early potential. Read it and weep.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kay Saxon

    Iraq's struggle for independence The modern revisions of history shed new light on those orthodox and usually whitewashed texts included in the general curricula. Truth is difficult to pin down when only personal or political, 'acceptable' viewpoints are available. Rutledge has used many sources and written a more believable account of this, mainly ignored period in Iraqi history. Very readable, interesting and enlightening. Rutledge can be very proud of his creation.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Kaczynski

    A good survey that contextualizes events in the Near East and British-Arab relations from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the First World War.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This book prides itself on being the definitive account of the Iraqi uprising, and from what I've seen, it does a good job of presenting an equal and neutral account of the events. It does not appear to judge any side harsher than the other, nor does it allow any side to get off easy. So far so good, and I recommend it to anyone who would like a better understanding of these events - but it must also be said that it is clear that the writer is far more comfortable writing for academia than for t This book prides itself on being the definitive account of the Iraqi uprising, and from what I've seen, it does a good job of presenting an equal and neutral account of the events. It does not appear to judge any side harsher than the other, nor does it allow any side to get off easy. So far so good, and I recommend it to anyone who would like a better understanding of these events - but it must also be said that it is clear that the writer is far more comfortable writing for academia than for the average layman. All the relevant facts are there, but are presented in such a dry style that I sometimes found my eyes glazing over as I read. Exact numbers are certainly relevant to know, but at times it felt as though entire chapters were nothing more than a list of troop-numbers and regimental names, or the names of sheiks and their tribal affiliation. Again, important stuff, but it's easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of numbers and names. By the time I reached the end of the book, I *still* wasn't sure I could keep track of all the sheiks and rebel-leaders on the Iraqi side.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jaqui Lane

    As the blurb on the back of the book says: It is the definitive account of the most serious uprising against British rule in the 20th century. Great book that brings multiple sources and accounts to a mostly forgotten part of WW1. The race for oil was on..this I knew. But the haphazzard an dysfunctional way the race was undertaken by the British is eye-opening. The flight within the British Government...well the India office and Middle East 'department' cost thousands of lives, needlessly. That said, As the blurb on the back of the book says: It is the definitive account of the most serious uprising against British rule in the 20th century. Great book that brings multiple sources and accounts to a mostly forgotten part of WW1. The race for oil was on..this I knew. But the haphazzard an dysfunctional way the race was undertaken by the British is eye-opening. The flight within the British Government...well the India office and Middle East 'department' cost thousands of lives, needlessly. That said, they were in a part of the world of which they knew little, though they could paraphrase their colonial 'expertise' and didn't listen to the one woman who actually knew the area the most, Gertrude Bell. My favourite area of the world, all the key players and my hero-Gertrude. Mind you, the book has caused me to take pause and rethink about Gertrude. While I am not that happy about this. . . I am determined to find out more. Nothing like finding out your hero is something more like a human.

  8. 4 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS KOBOBOOKS

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Cohen

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hans Luiten

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Buermann

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Lesurf

  13. 5 out of 5

    Edgar Raines

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam Boussada

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jordi

  16. 5 out of 5

    Judith

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Clark

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles R. Kaczynski

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lizan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark Heber

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  22. 5 out of 5

    JoHnny Haddo

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Sabin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Stephenson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mr P.W.Martin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Martin Gibson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rob Dewey

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe Black

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aram Shabanian

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cbsd library

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