Damascus, Jerusalem and Baghdad in the Autumn 1936.

By Michael Provence
Submitted to Session P4883 (The Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-39): Internal and External Factors, 2017 Annual Meeting
Arab States;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The 1936 coup d’etat in Iraq is usually considered the first coup in modern Arab history. The narrative of events is familiar, but historians have rarely looked outside Iraq for historical traces of the coup and its circumstances. Acting Chief-of Staff of the Iraqi army Bakr Sidqi overthrew the government of Yasin al-Hashimi in October 1936 during a time of regional and international tumult and crisis. While Iraq was no longer a British mandate, and had received quasi independence a few years earlier, both Transjordan and Palestine were still under mandate control. Palestine was in a state of armed revolt. Transjordan, the link between Iraq and Palestine, was destabilized by disorder in both. Syria had only recently ended a prolonged general strike leading to treaty negotiations, and presumably the end of the French mandate.

Iraq’s popular Prime Minister was widely considered the most formidable Arab leader and was known publicly and covertly to be a supporter of the Palestinian cause. British intelligence documents hinted darkly at covert shipments of weapons and money
from Iraq to Palestinian rebels. French officials believed the Iraqi government had promised support for and armed uprising in Syria if treaty negotiations failed.

Both British and French diplomatic officials were in a state of rising panic over the crisis in central Europe with the rise of Hitler. A series of consular studies from major Arab cities predicted the likely end to the British and French presence in the Middle East without drastic changes. A mood of impending doom took hold in summer 1936. By contrast, the mood in the Arab press was upbeat, as France agreed to discuss independence of Syria, Yasin al-Hashimi asserted Iraqi independence, and Palestine rose in revolt.

This paper will re-evoke the atmosphere of hope and crisis and ask what do these events, often separated in the recreations of historians, have to do with one another?

The paper is based on extensive research in British and French mandate archives, the League of Nations at Geneva, memoirs of leading Arab political figures, and the Arabic and international press.