The Iraq War (1941)

ARABS SEIZE BRITISH SUPPLIES, REPORT

Rome, May 9 (UP) –
A Popolo di Roma dispatch from Beirut, Lebanon, reported today that 1,500 Arabs had attacked and captured a British transport column in Central Palestine.

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BRITISH DESTROY IRAQ’S AIR FORCE

Complete occupation of Basra, only port, and occupy plateau overlooking Habbaniya Air Base, German parachute attacks feared

By Frederick Kuh, United Press staff writer

931px-Roundel_of_Iraq
The symbol of the Iraqi Air Force.

London, May 9 –
The pro-Axis air force of Iraq has been virtually destroyed, the Air Ministry said today following disclosure that British Imperials had extended their control of Iraq’s only port, Basra, and occupied the strategic plateau overlooking the Royal Air Force base at Habbaniya.

The Air Ministry said that two bombing attacks had been made on Thursday at the Baqubah and Sharaban landing grounds in Iraq which “probably completed destruction of the Iraqi Air Force.” The landing grounds are north of Baghdad.

Previously, it had been announced that the British forces at Habbaniya had taken over the plateau from which hostile Iraqis had shelled the RAF base and that the British at Basra had occupied the commercial area, including banks and telegraph offices.

Iraqi sniping continues

Sniping against British troops was continuing near Habbaniya, it was said.

Authoritative quarters also said:

The Iraqi situation has not been settled and it is impossible to say how it will develop but it has not flared up as might have been expected. The pro-German clique in the Iraqi Army is not gaining political ground.

Reports that Germany was massing parachute and other troops in the Aegean Islands, Libya and Sicily, tempered enthusiasm over indication that the Rashid Ali al-Gailani regime in Iraq was nearing collapse.

Big battle expected

On the basis of reports from Cairo, British experts warned that at any time there might be a big scale battle for Near Eastern oil fields and for Egypt. British correspondents expressed belief that German parachute troops might soon be showered onto the Egyptian desert, Crete, on Syria and Iraq.

Newspapers gave prominence to Cairo reports that Rashid Ali had fled Baghdad. It was admitted there was no confirmation. Turkey’s Radio Ankara quoted the Baghdad Radio as denying that Rashid Ali had left Baghdad.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 10, 1941)

IRAQI RETREAT TO SAVE BAGHDAD, FLOOD MARSHES
By Frederick Kuh, United Press staff writer

London, May 10 –
Iraqi forces have taken up defensive positions 30 miles west of Baghdad and flooded the marshy countryside to stop an expected British drive toward the Iraqi capital from Habbaniya, dispatches reported today.

It was indicated that the Iraqi forces which had besieged the British at Habbaniya had definitely given up hope of resuming their attacks and sought now only to oppose a British march on Baghdad.

They had retreated about 30 miles from Habbaniya, it was indicated, and were making their stand behind moated positions in the neighborhood of Fallujah.

Iraqis leave equipment

Dispatches from Iraq said that, when the Iraqis were defeated at Habbaniya, they fled in haste, leaving motorcycles, Bren guns and rifles in British hands.

British airplanes were now in complete control of the Iraqi air and remnants of Iraqi forces were reported streaming in increasing numbers on Baghdad. British confidence grew that the Rashid Ali al-Gailani regime would be smashed soon unless Germany went to its aid.

Dispatches from the Near East indicated that Rashid must win some success soon – and there was no indication that he could – or disaffection would spread fast among his followers.

Still fear Syrian threat

Britain was reported to be determined to accept no mediation solution but there was every indication that it would be willing to do business with an alternative Iraqi government even if it were headed by some politician associated with Rashid Ali’s last government.

There was still no confirmation of rumors that the French Vichy government had permitted or intended to permit German airborne troops to use bases in Syria.

The Yorkshire Evening Post had reported yesterday that Marshal Philippe Pétain really went to his Riviera villa early this week because he was seriously ill, most of the time bordering in a state of coma. It has been reported that Marshal Petain, who is 85, was the sole brake on attempts by Admiral Darlan to make radical concessions to the Germans in their demand for French “co-operation.”

Russia withdraws recognition

Diplomatic sources showed increased interest in Russia, a s a potent factor in the West, the Middle East and the Far East, as the result of Russia’s withdrawal of recognition from the Norwegian, Belgian and Yugoslav legations at Moscow.

There were suggestions that Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler might meet soon and that Stalin would carry farther his appeasement of Germany.

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EMIR REPORTED SHOT BY SON OVER IRAQ ROW

emir abdullah

Beirut, Lebanon, May 10 (UP) –
The Emir Abdullah of Transjordan, pro-British Muslim leader, was reported today to have been shot and seriously wounded by his son, Talal, in a dispute over the hostilities in neighboring Iraq.

Details were not available, but it is known that the 69-year-old Emir has been strongly pro-British and has been opposed to the Iraqi uprising led by Rashid Ali al-Gailani.

Talal, 30, is the second son of the Emir who has ruled Transjordan since 1920, when the territory became a British-mandated area.

The Emir has been reported to be organizing a strong expeditionary force to move into Iraq to aid the British. His chief aide is said to be Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, Regent of Iraq and uncle of the boy king, Faisal II. The regent was ousted and driven from the country by Rashid Ali’s April 4 army coup d’état.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 11, 1941)

IRAQI TROOPS REPORTED DRIVEN BACK BY BRITISH
By Walter Collins, United Press staff writer

Cairo, May 10 –
British patrols were reported tonight to have driven Iraqi troops northeast and northwest of Habbaniya Airdrome, forcing them to take up defensive positions in the vicinity of Fallujah, 32 miles west of Baghdad, and Ramadi, just northwest of Habbaniya.

The Iraqi troops at Fallujah were reported to have opened dykes along the Euphrates River, flooding the marshes that cover most of the country between there and Baghdad to impede pursuit by the small British columns operating against them.

However, reports received by the Middle East High Command said British patrols maintained contact with the Iraqis despite these measures.

London was advised that the British ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, is held virtually incommunicado at the embassy in Baghdad. He and other foreign diplomats were said to have been forbidden by Premier Rashid Ali al-Gailani from communicating with their governments by diplomatic code. This obliged him to communicate in guarded fashion in clear language, but for the past two days, he has not been able to send even such messages. The Turkish government was said to have retaliated against this Iraqi restriction by forbidding the Iraqi minister at Ankara from sending code telegrams to Baghdad. This reprisal was said to have resulted in lifting the code ban on the Turkish minister at Baghdad.

The Middle East Command reported the situation both at Habbaniya and Basra quiet. British civilians at Mosul were said to be safe in the British consulate and all British women were said to have been safely evacuated.

However, at both Kirkuk and Mosul – the two big oil centers of Iraq – demonstrations against Rashid Ali were reported to have taken place.

The British were also encouraged by reports that many prominent Iraqis in Baghdad, among them the president of the Iraqi senate, had displayed disapproval of Rashid Ali’s policies by confining themselves to their homes for the past ten days.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 12, 1941)

IRAQI FORCES DRIVEN BACK; IRAN REFUSES TO AID
By Walter Collins, United Press staff writer

Cairo, May 12 –
British planes are striking at Iraqi troops in north and northeast Iraq while ground forces attack the fast weakening Iraqi Army in other areas, it was said officially today.

At least 12 hits were made in the Iraqi Army barracks in the great oil center of Mosul, it was announced.

Armored cars of the Royal Air Force occupied Fort Rutbah, on the oil pipeline in western Iraq, yesterday, it was announced. Rutbah Airdrome, had nearby been occupied by British troops Friday.

Policy disapproved

It was learned semi-officially that the Iranian government, rejecting an appeal by Premier Rashid Ali al-Gailani of Iraq for aid, had replied that it disapproved of his policy in attacking British forces. Talib Mustafa, former Iraqi consul general at Jerusalem, was said to have gone to Tehran on a special mission in a vain attempt to win Iranian support for Rashid Ali.

In their raid on Mosul, British planes reported that they saw no sign of life except for gun flashes.

British planes also raided Sharaban Airport, 55 miles northeast of Baghdad, and started fires, it was asserted.

In raids on southern Iraq, in the area between Baghdad and Basra, British planes bombed barracks at Al Diwaniyah, 105 miles south of Baghdad, Amarah, 100 miles north of Basra, and Nasiriyah, 105 miles northeast of Basra.

The whole of the important pipeline area of Rutbah is now under British control, the RAF asserted.

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PALESTINE MUSLIMS FAIL TO AID IRAQIS

Jerusalem, May 12 (UP) –
Fighting in Iraq is deteriorating into guerilla warfare, it was reported today, and British air forces have intensified their efforts to break up small bands of Iraqi troops.

Muslim tribesmen in Palestine, far from joining the Iraqis, are joining the British forces in some cases while the rest remain discreetly in the background.

Many Palestine Arabs have made pro-British speeches at Nablus, where the German radio had reported an Arab uprising.

A formidable number of American Tomahawk fighters and Glenn Martin bombers have arrived in recent days in the Middle East.

The British forces in Palestine are calmly watching Syria for signs of German activity, and they are ready to defend the approaches of the Suez Canal from this end.

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RUSSIA RECOGNIZES IRAQI REGIME

Moscow, May 12 (UP) –
Russia has accepted a proposal by the government of Iraq for establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries, the official TASS news agency announced today.

The agency said the offer was tendered through the Soviet ambassador in Ankara on May 3.

On May 1, a fresh contingent of British troops landed at Basra. On May 2, the Iraqis were reported to have opened fire on the British garrison at Habbaniya base west of Baghdad.

The TASS statement said:

At the end of 1940, the Iraqi government, through the medium of its minister in Turkey, repeatedly proposed to the government of the USSR the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Iraq.

In so doing, the Iraqi government expressed the wish that simultaneously with the establishment of diplomatic relations the Soviet government should publish a declaration on the recognition of independence of the Arabian countries including Iraq.

The government of the USSR, entertaining a positive attitude toward the proposal on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Iraq, did not consider it possible, however, to make this conditional on the publication of any declaration.

A reply in this sense was given at that time to the Iraqi government, in consequence of which negotiations were interrupted.

On May 3, 1941, the Iraqi government, through the medium of the Soviet ambassador in Ankara, again proposed the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Iraq, without making this time the establishment of diplomatic relations dependent on any condition such as a declaration regarding Arabian countries.

The government of the USSR withdrew its objections and accepted the proposal of the Iraqi government on the establishment of diplomatic relations.

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U.S. Department of State (May 13, 1941)

740.0011 European War 1939/10893: Telegram

The Ambassador in Turkey to the Secretary of State

Ankara, May 13, 1941 — noon.
[Received 10:05 p.m.]

143.

For Secretary and Under Secretary. Iraqi War Minister Naji Shawkat (formerly Minister here) who arrived 5 days ago has evidently sought to obtain this Government’s assistance in formulating acceptable basis of understanding with British.

Turkish Foreign Office officials in course of conversations made plain to him their conviction that Iraq had violated its treaty of alliance with Britain and taken course whose successful outcome could only place it and Muslim world at mercy of power far less indulgent and more oppressive.

  1. Upon being informed by Turks of tenor of Naji’s suggestions for accord British Ambassador asked Foreign Minister to advise him that his Government still intends to respect independence of Iraq to fullest extent compatible with rights under treaty of alliance but cannot accept limitation or qualification of its discretion as to landing or movement of military forces in Iraq under that treaty. Approving this preliminary reply London added it could not trust to any understanding with Rashid Ali known to be not only hostile but in active communication with Germans and that it would advise this Government to discontinue any efforts towards mediation with Nazis [Naji?] since he is known to have intrigued with von Papen on his visits to Turkey last summer.

  2. I understand Iraqis have similarly sent emissary to Ibn Saud despite latter’s previous statement he would not be welcome.

  3. I am also informed thru [that?] Iraqi Legation Kabul asked support of Afghan Government first proposing that it take up case as matter of common interest under Saadabad Pact but receiving reply that questions at issue might better have been taken up by Iraq with its associates in that pact before instead of after starting armed quarrel with British and then making and being rebuffed in the suggestion that Afghanistan take initiative in calling Jihad against Britain.

  4. Minor official of Iraq Legation here (whose Minister is brother of Rashid Ali) has naively requested official Anatolu news agency to publish such call to holy war.

  5. From most confidential source I am informed that Turks (particularly military) have rather bluntly expressed to British their conviction that only way latter can extricate themselves from difficulties into which they have got themselves in Iraq is by quick and drastic military action.

  6. British colleague assures me his Government while of course finding unwelcome implied recognition of Rashid Ali is inclined to regard recent Soviet establishment of relations with Iraq as only casually inopportune and not significant of special Russian attitude towards present situation.

MacMURRAY


The Pittsburgh Press (May 14, 1941)

GERMAN DRIVE INTO SYRIA DUE

Nazi move to come as world watches Hess

By Helen Kirkpatrick

London, May 14 –
While the attention of the entire world is centered on the fantastic flight of Rudolf Hess from Germany, the Germans are preparing to move into Syria for an attack on Iraq.

The most reliable reports indicate that the Germans are preparing to land a considerable force in Syria. Furthermore, they are not likely to be airborne. Since the evacuation of Greece, the Germans have moved progressively into one after another of the strategic Greek islands around the Turkish coast. German ships have passed through the Dardanelles with an unknown number of troops.

Present indications are that the Germans will pass by Turkey, which their occupation of Greece will enable them to do.

The governing considerations are apparently Hitler’s desire for closer relations with Russia and the uneasiness a German offensive against Turkey would cause in Moscow.

The London press reports this morning German pressure on Vichy for:

…permission to send a German army through Syria and Franco-German cooperation around the coasts of Northern and Western Africa.

Vichy is stated to have been offered the return of Paris, four-fifths of France and the release of all French war prisoners.

Informed London quarters believe these reports of demands on Vichy as worthy of little attention. If Hitler wishes to go through Syria, he will do it without Vichy’s permission, they say.

Meanwhile, the British expect the Iraqi revolt to fizzle out by this weekend, but by next week, it is likely that the British forces there will be faced by a larger and more serious menace – German troops.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 15, 1941)

BRITAIN WARNS VICHY REGIME

Eden says France allows Nazis to use Syria

London, May 15 (UP) –
Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden today told the House of Commons that the French are permitting the Germans to use Syrian air bases en route to Iraq.

The British government, Mr. Eden said, has authorized “full action” against German planes on Syrian airdromes.

Mr. Eden said:

The French government cannot escape responsibility for this situation which is a clear breach of the armistice terms.

The statement did not foreshadow a complete rupture with France. He said the United States had been kept fully informed of developments.

Earlier, a spokesman had said that Britain would attack all German planes using Syrian airdromes.

Mr. Eden said:

Detailed information at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government shows that French authorities in Syria are allowing German aircraft to use Syrian airdromes as staging posts for flights to Iraq.

His Majesty’s Government have in consequence given full authority for action to be taken against German aircraft in Syrian airfields.

Replying to a question whether the Vichy government’s action did not indicate further reliance could not be placed in it and appropriate action would have to be taken, Mr. Eden said:

I think, as regards this particular situation, I have made it plain appropriate action is being taken.

Cairo, May 15 (UP) –
The Middle East Command reported today that “a certain number of German aircraft” have now arrived in Iraq.

It said that the planes took into Iraq “propagandists, agitators, and similar specialists.”

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RUSSIA ALLOWS FLIERS TO AID IRAQ
By Harold Peters, United Press staff writer

Beirut, Lebanon, May 15 –
Baghdad Radio reported today that the Soviet government was permitting volunteer Russian pilots to aid the pro-Axis forces fighting Great Britain in Iraq.

The Baghdad Radio broadcast was not confirmed from any source other than the pro-Axis capital of Iraq, nor was there any definite indication of the extent of volunteer pilot aid from Russia.

The broadcast, however, claimed that the Soviets were permitting volunteer pilots to aid in “reprisal” for British help to Finland during the Russo-Finnish war.

In the Russo-Finnish war, British aid went to Finland on a voluntary basis, but the Allied powers officially stated that at one time they had prepared an expeditionary force to aid the Finns and were prevented from sending it because Sweden would not grant transit permission.

The Baghdad report aroused special notice here because of the Soviet’s long standing interest in a route through the Near East to the Indian Ocean, but it was also pointed out the Baghdad Radio broadcasts recently had been denied by other sources frequently.

Moscow granted diplomatic recognition to the pro-Axis government at Baghdad recently after refusing to recognize the right of independence of all of the Arab countries. The action was generally regarded as a pro-Axis move at a time when Britain was fighting to protect the Iraqi oil fields from falling under Nazi control.

Ankara, May 15 (UP) –
Adolf Hitler’s letter to Turkish President İsmet İnönü, delivered yesterday by German Ambassador Franz von Papen, repeated friendly assurances to Turkey, but implied that the time has come for Turkey to abandon her alliance with Britain and line up with the Axis “new order in Europe,” it was learned today.

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AFGHAN WARNING TO BRITAIN ASKS SETTLEMENT WITH IRAQ

Beirut, Lebanon, May 15 (UP) –
Baghdad Radio reported last night that the Afghan government has notified Great Britain that Afghanistan will “take sides” in the British-Iraqi conflict unless Britain seeks a quick settlement with Iraq.

The note was said to point out that Afghanistan had a vital interest in the Iraq conflict under the provisions of the Saadabad Pact.

The Saadabad Pact, to which Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and Iraq are signatories, contains pledges of friendship among the Muslim nations and provides for political consultations in event of menaces to the security of any one of the four nations. It contains no military clauses, however.

Afghanistan, with a population of about 10 million and a rugged territory of 250,000 square miles, has a normal army strength of about 60,000 men, or twice the peacetime armed strength of Iraq. The government is headed by King Mohammed Zahir Shah.

There is compulsory military training for men between 18 and 40 and voluntary enlistment in the army is for life. In event of war, the Afghans probably would be able to muster many warlike and bitterly anti-British tribesmen armed with modern rifles.

Afghanistan has a tiny air force with a personnel of about 100 men, some of them trained in Europe.

Baghdad Radio quoted an official Iraqi Army communiqué as saying that a lone British plane raided Baghdad “with slight damage,” while five other RAF planes carried out an attack south of the capital without inflicting damage.

Baghdad Radio said:

Enemy planes destroyed two ambulances, killing the drivers despite plainly visible red crescents [emblem of the native Red Cross].

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 16, 1941)

GERMANS LAND IN OIL FIELDS

Cairo, May 16 (UP) –
German bombers and troop-carrying planes have arrived in Iraq by way of French air bases in Syria in response to “urgent appeals” from the pro-Axis Iraqi Premier, Rashid Ali al-Gailani, for aid in battling the British, it was announced officially.

At least 30 German planes were reported to have reached Iraq, most of them landing near the oil fields around Mosul and north of Baghdad, after halts at Syrian airdromes en route.

The planes were without German markings and were said to have borne French insignia.

It was understood that Gen. George Catroux, an officer of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s “Free French” movement, had sent an emissary to Syria, apparently with a demand that the still-formidable French forces there capitulate and join the De Gaullists in fighting the Germans.

The Royal Air Force, meanwhile, carried out heavy bombing attacks on Iraqi objectives, including Mosul, Rashid Airdrome, Amara to the south on the Tigris and the railroad line at Baghdad as well as Iraqi military transport, a communiqué said.

The Germans landed by air in Iraq were said to have included Nazi specialists, propagandists and “agitators.”

It was reported that Prince 'Abd al-Ilah, Regent of Iraq who was ousted and driven into exile in Transjordan when Rashid Ali staged his pro-German coup d’état April 4, has returned to Iraq.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 17, 1941)

FRENCH, BRITISH CLASH IN SYRIA

Istanbul, Turkey, May 17 (UP) –
Skirmishing has broken out between British forces and French colonial troops on the frontier of Palestine and Syria, reports in diplomatic circles said today.

Earlier dispatches had indicated fighting was likely to break out at any time.

At the same time, government quarters here announced that Turkey had taken “suitable measures” along the eastern and southern frontiers as the result of the latest developments in the Middle East.

Turkey’s southern and eastern frontiers touch Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia.

There was considerable speculation here whether fighting between the British and French forces would develop into anything more than a “token” defense by the French.

Many back 'Free France’

It was asserted that many among the French forces in Syria were sympathizers of the Free France movement and American travelers arriving from Syria had quoted French officers that only a symbolic resistance might be made.

British forces in the frontier area were said to be formidable and estimates of the French strength went as high as 50,000.

The situation had been an electric one, dispatches indicated, after the arrival of German planes in Syria on the way to Iraq and the bombing of German planes on Syrian airfields by British planes.

British sources here asserted that 20 German planes, marked with the Iraqi insignia, had flown from Greece over the Italian Dodecanese Island of Rhodes and had landed at airports near Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

Diplomatic maneuvers

Others, these sources asserted, were expected to arrive soon at Syria’s three main airports and one in Lebanon: Damascus, Aleppo, Rayak and Beirut.

Considerable significance was seen in some diplomatic quarters in recent visits by the German and Russian ambassadors at Ankara to the Iranian and Afghan ministers. It was said that the Afghan minister had called himself the best friend of Naji Shawkat, the Iraqi Defense Minister, who left Ankara last night for Baghdad and, according to reports there, was going on to Iran to plead for aid for Iraq.

German quarters deny that German Ambassador Franz von Papen saw the Iraqi war minister during his visit to Ankara. Diplomats believe, however, that they might have met secretly.

It was reported that the former German minister to Iraq was on his way to Baghdad to resume relations with the Iraqi government.

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BRITISH WILL FIGHT NAZIS IN SYRIA, FRENCH WARNED
By Walter Collins, United Press staff writer

Cairo, May 17 –
British airplanes, following bombing of German planes at the French Syrian airdromes of Palmyra, Riyaq and Damascus, are dropping leaflets warning Frenchmen that Great Britain will not tolerate use of Syrian airdromes by Germany or the filtration of Germans into Iraq across the Syrian border, it was understood today.

The British warnings emphasized that Britain has no quarrel with the French, but that it is a matter of military necessity to prevent German attacks, with French aid, on the British forces in Iraq.

British attacks on Syrian airdromes were welcomed in Egypt, where it had been felt that forceful measures would be necessary to stop the German infiltration into Syria.

It was indicated that some Frenchmen in Syria welcomed the attacks. A reliable authority asserted that a French plane had flown over Palestine and dropped the message:

The Germans are here. For God’s sake, come and bomb our airdromes.

Unofficial dispatches from Beirut reported that Rashid Ali al-Gailani, Iraqi Premier, had protested to the Transjordanian government against measures it had taken on the Iraqi-Transjordanian frontier, alleging them to be hostile.

Rashid seemed to be getting little or no support from neighboring Arab countries. The Arabic daily Al Mokattam here said that King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia had condemned Rashid’s policy to an Iraqi envoy and told him that the only means of salvation for Arabs was to unite with Britain.

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BOLD MOVE CAN END THREAT IN IRAQ, LONDON BELIEVES
By Frederick Kuh, United Press staff writer

London, May 17 –
British authorities seemed confident today that by prompt and vigorous action, already started with the bombing of German airplanes on Syrian airfields, they could dissipate the threat of German aid to Iraq and the consequent threat to the entire Middle East.

It was apparent the government had abandoned all hope that the French Vichy government would stick to a neutral policy and British commentators showed a belief that both Britain and the United States were fully aware of the possibility that France might re-enter the war as a satellite of Germany.

Newspapers reflected a growing belief that the solution of the Syrian-Iraqi problem lay in quick action.

’We’ve got to be tough’

The Daily Mail, for instance, said:

Syrian authorities with the connivance of Vichy are giving aid to our enemies. We should send them an ultimatum with a short time limit, telling them that, unless they countermand the orders of the Pétain government at once, we shall bomb Aleppo and Beirut… We have got to be tough.

One newspaper commentator said Britain might be compelled to make war on France and that the Royal Air Force might soon bomb Paris and French industrial zones which are aiding Germany’s war effort, if the Vichy regime sides completely with Hitler.

The Daily Herald said:

The inference is clear that Darlan [the French Vice Premier] is preparing to put the whole of French North Africa at the disposal of Hitler.

’Behind the dupes is Hitler’

While we may weep for the French people who are being betrayed, we must harden our hearts against the men who have betrayed them and us, remembering always that behind the dupes, behind the traitors, is the greatest arch-villain, the Nazi beast himself.

President Roosevelt’s vigorous attitude toward the pro-Germanism of some Vichy leaders appeared to be strengthening Britain. The Vichy regime was believed here to offer a double threat, to the Middle East and to the South Atlantic, and the thought was always in mind here that there might yet be an attempt to give Germany the French fleet.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 19, 1941)

SHARP FIGHTING IN IRAQ, TRANSJORDAN REPORTED

Beirut, Lebanon, May 19 (UP) –
Baghdad Radio today reported sharp fighting against the British forces in Western Iraq and claimed that Iraqi forces had stabbed into Transjordan and attacked British on a new front.

The British continued their air offensive against airdromes in Syria (used by Axis planes en route to Iraq) and against the Iraqi troops. A heavy Royal Air Force attack was made on the Syrian airdrome at Riyaq Sunday.

The Baghdad radio said that three British planes had been shot down in a fight over Habbaniya Airdrome in Iraq and that five British planes had been destroyed on the ground. Axis planes were presumably taking part in the fighting.

The Baghdad broadcast claimed that 13 British, including one officer, were killed in fighting in Western Iraq, apparently not far from Rutbah, a station on the oil pipeline running from the Mosul fields to the Palestine coast. The clash occurred between Rutbah and the Transjordan border, the broadcast said.

In connection with the Iraqi thrust into Transjordan, Baghdad Radio said that the attack was directed by Gen. Fauzi Kuakji, commander of a column of volunteers, presumably raised in connection with appeals for all Arabs to united against the British.

Kuakji was a leader of Palestine revolts against the British in recent years, particularly 1936.

The broadcast said that Iraqi troops had cordoned the ghetto at Baghdad, seizing many Jews who were accused of spying for the British.

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DEFENSIVE MEASURES IN SYRIA EXPECTED

Berlin, May 19 (UP) –
Authorized Nazis said today that it was “probable” that the French would take “defensive measures” against British air attacks on Syrian air bases and that a communiqué might be issued tomorrow explaining the new agreement between Germany and France.

The British bombers attacked Syrian air bases on the grounds that they were being used by Axis planes en route to fight the British in Iraq. The French said that the Axis planes were merely “forced down” in Syria and had a right to use emergency bases under the armistice terms.

The Germans said that they had no knowledge of reports that the new agreement between France and Germany would put Paris outside the occupied zone, as had been suggested at Vichy.

It was stated:

There is no reason to believe that a change in the seat of the French government played any part in the agreement.

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BRITISH EYE SUPPLIES FOR NAZIS IN IRAQ

London, May 19 (UP) –
Great Britain is paying the closest attention to the possibility of the passage of German war material from Syria to Iraq “by whatever route,” including Turkey, it was said officially today.

It was learned that Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hugessen, British Ambassador to Turkey, had placed on record with Turkish authorities his government’s concern at the possibility that Axis war materials might reach Iraq from Syria via Turkey.

Reliable informants said that they had confirmed that French war material was now moving from Syria to Iraq, but that there was no evidence that the Turks were allowing German supplies to cross Turkey.

The situation seemed a delicate one as a railroad extends northward from Beirut and Damascus, Syria, then extends eastward along the Turkish frontier, and enters Iraq to reach Mosul, where German planes are based.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 20, 1941)

BRITISH BEGIN DRIVE ON IRAQIS

Land and air forces used in attack

By Frederick Kuh, United Press staff writer

Firing_party_near_Ramadi

London, May 20 –
British Imperial forces opened a battering land and air offensive against the pro-Axis Iraqi Army, it was said authoritatively today, while South African troops from conquered Ethiopia rushed northward to bolster Empire defenses in the Mediterranean area.

Following disclosure that Axis planes had again bombed the Suez Canal area where three of their craft were shot down, a British communiqué said that Imperial forces in Iraq had occupied the town of Fallujah and found an important bridge intact after a “short engagement” with the Iraqis.

Pamphlets dropped

Fallujah is about 35 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, toward which the British were pushing from Habbaniya Airdrome against the Iraqi troops which are supported by German and Italian aerial forces and possibly by air-transported Axis troops.

The Royal Air Force dropped pamphlets over Iraq demanding surrender of the Arab forces. Bombs were also bombed.

The British offensive was obviously designed for a quick knockout of the Iraqis in an effort to regain control of the great Mosul oil fields.

The formal surrender today in Ethiopia of the Duke of Aosta, supreme Fascist commander in Erthipia, released British forces there for participation in the defense of the Middle East.

Duke surrenders

The Duke of Aosta and his staff, who were permitted to surrender formally at Amba Alaji at noon today, were the last Italians to leave that area as prisoners but only minor resistance continued in southern Ethiopia.

About 7,000 men surrendered at Amba Alaji yesterday.

A British staff officer, whose name was not given, said in a radio broadcast summary of the Ethiopian campaign that the captuirre of the Duke’s forces at Amba Alaji virtually meant the end of Italian resistance because the morale of the remaining forces, at Gondar in the northwest and the lake region in the south, would naturally be affected.

The Italians had hoped to hold off the British forces until the rainy season started in June.

The scant news of the situation in Iraq and Syria continued to be disturbing.

Firing reported

The Swiss radio quoted a Vichy report that French anti-aircraft guns had fired on British planes over several areas of Syria Sunday and that British planes had continued to drop leaflets.

Berlin’s radio alleged that British planes had again bombed a Syrian airdrome, causing casualties among French soldiers and civilians, and that British planes had machine gunned civilians in the streets of Damascus.

A United Press Cairo dispatch said it was learned unofficially that 50 German planes had flown to Iraq by way of Syria, instead of 30 as previously reported.

It was forecast that Germany would soon seek to send war materials to Iraq through Turkey.

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