1941 Iraqi coup d'état

The 1941 Iraqi coup d'état (Arabic: ثورة رشيد عالي الكيلاني), also called the Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani coup or the Golden Square coup, was a nationalist and pro-Nazi[1] Coup d'état in Iraq on 1 April 1941[2] that overthrew the pro-British regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and his Prime Minister Nuri al-Said and installed Rashid Ali al-Gaylani as Prime Minister.

The coup was led by four Iraqi nationalist army generals, known as "the Golden Square", who intended to use the war to press for full Iraqi independence following the limited independence granted in 1932. To that end, they worked with German intelligence and accepted military assistance from Germany and Italy. The change in government led to a British invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation until 1947.

1941 Iraqi coup d'état
Part of World War II
Date1 April 1941
Result Overthrow of government of 'Abd al-Ilah
Formation of National Defence Government
British intervention in Iraq

Iraq Kingdom of Iraq Supported by:

 United Kingdom

Iraq Golden Square Supported by:

Commanders and leaders

Iraq 'Abd al-Ilah
Regent of Iraq

Iraq Taha al-Hashimi
Prime Minister of Iraq

Iraq Rashid Ali al-Gaylani
Iraq Col. Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh
3rd Division Commander
Iraq Col. Kamil Shabib
1st Division Commander
Iraq Col. Fahmi Said
Independent Mechanized Brigade Commander

Iraq Col. Mahmud Salman
Chief of the Air Force
Units involved
Royal Guard 3rd Infantry Division
1st Infantry Division
Independent Mechanized Brigade

The coup

From 1939 to 1941 a pro-British government headed by the Regent 'Abd al-Ilah and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said ruled Iraq. Iraq severed relations with Germany on 5 September 1939, following the outbreak of World War II in Europe. However, Nuri had to tread carefully between his close relationship with Britain and dependence on pro-German Army officers and cabinet members.[2] By that time, Iraq became a refuge to Arab leaders who fled Mandatory Palestine as a result of the failed Palestinian Arab revolt against the British. Among the key figures to arrive was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian Arab nationalist leader of the failed revolt.

The Golden Square coup was launched on 1 April 1941,[2] overthrowing the Regent and installing Rashid Ali al-Gaylani as Prime Minister. Haj Amin al-Husseini was one of the orchestrators of Rashid Ali's coup d'état, with Nazi support and funding.[3]

British response

Empire forces sent to quell the revolt

On 18 April, Britain reacted by landing the Indian 20th Infantry Brigade at Basra, the first elements of Iraqforce. Britain claimed it was entitled to do this under its defence treaty with Iraq. This treaty was essentially dictated by the British without negotiation or agreement before independence was granted to Iraq. It gave Britain unlimited rights to station and transit troops through Iraq without consulting the Iraqi government.

Siege of Habbaniya

In the following days, the new Iraqi government moved substantial ground forces, including an infantry brigade, an artillery brigade, and 12 armored cars as well as tanks[4] to the plateau overlooking RAF Habbaniya, the large British Royal Air Force (RAF) base beside the River Euphrates 50 miles (80 km) west of Baghdad. Upon arrival, the Iraqis demanded that the British not move any troops nor aircraft in or out of the base. The British responded by first demanding that the Iraqis leave the area and then, following the expiry of an ultimatum given in the early hours of 2 May, launched an attack. The base had a force of 96 lightly-armed aircraft, most of which were either purpose-built trainers or obsolete combat aircraft converted to training use. They also had an understrength battalion from the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), six companies of Assyrian Levies (troops raised by the British), 18 armored cars and a company of RAF personnel, giving a total strength of 2,200 troops to defend the base.[5] The Royal Iraqi Air Force, despite having aircraft that included numerous modern British-, Italian- and US-built machines, failed to defeat the RAF. By the second day of fighting (3 May), four Blenheim fighter bombers arrived.[6]

With British forces having air superiority, the Iraqi army was forced back to Fallujah and the RAF attacked the Iraqi Air Force bases at Mosul and Rashid. Habbaniya had essentially lifted the siege with its own resources.

Reinforcements, officially called "Iraqforce", came from two directions. British and Arab Legion forces arrived in two columns (Habforce and Kingcol) across the desert from Palestine and Transjordan. Additional Indian forces continued to arrive in Basra.[5]

The Iraqi army was driven out of Fallujah and pursued to Baghdad, which fell within a week. This cleared the way for the nominal restoration of the Regent and the pro-British government. British military occupation of Iraq continued until late 1947.

German and Italian support for the nationalists

Heinkel He 111 in Syria 1941
Tailplane of a downed Heinkel He 111 bomber with German and Iraqi markings

In the course of the Iraq war, minor reinforcements for the nationalists were received from first Germany and then Italy. Arriving aircraft were crudely painted with Iraqi colours. Small numbers of Luftwaffe (German air force) bombers and heavy fighters, followed a few days later by obsolescent Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) biplane fighters, flew sorties from Mosul against both RAF Habbaniya and the relieving Empire forces moving across from Transjordan. This was done to little effect.

The Vichy French authorities in the Syria and Lebanon had helped both the pro-Axis Iraqi nationalists and the German and Italian air forces, providing airfields for staging and refuelling. Even before the end of the Iraq campaign, this had led to RAF attacks on airbases in Syria. Within weeks these events led to British and Empire forces invading of Vichy-administered Syria and Lebanon in the Syria–Lebanon Campaign.

See also


  1. ^ Ehrlich, Sarah (1 June 2011). "Farhud memories: Baghdad's 1941 slaughter of the Jews". BBC.
  2. ^ a b c Scott, James C (9 August 2001). "The Coup". Iraqi Coup. California State University, Sacramento. Archived from the original on 24 October 2007.
  3. ^ Patterson, David (2010). A Genealogy of Evil: Anti-Semitism from Nazism to Islamic Jihad. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-521-13261-9.
  4. ^ Kiwarkis, Gabriel. "The Battle for Habbaniya 1941". Assyrian RAF Levies.
  5. ^ a b "The Battle for Habbaniya – The forgotten war RAF". History (Campaign Histories). Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on June 7, 2008.
  6. ^ "History Section". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on March 30, 2008.


External links

'Abd al-Ilah

'Abd al-Ilah of Hejaz, (Arabic: عبد الإله; also written Abdul Ilah or Abdullah; 14 November 1913 – 14 July 1958), was a first cousin and brother-in-law of King Ghazi of Iraq. 'Abd al-Ilah served as regent for King Faisal II from 4 April 1939 to 23 May 1953, when Faisal came of age. He also held the title of Crown Prince of Iraq from 1943.'Abd al-Ilah was killed along with the rest of the Royal Family in the 14 July Revolution in 1958 that ended the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq. His body was mutilated, dragged across the streets of Baghdad, and eventually burnt.

Al-Wathbah uprising

Al-Wathbah uprising (Arabic: انتفاضة الوثبة‎) or simply Al-Wathbah (Arabic: الوثبة‎), which means The Leap in Arabic, was the term that came to be used for the urban unrest in Baghdad in January 1948. The protests were sparked by the monarchy’s plans to renew the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty that effectively made Iraq a British protectorate. Nuri al-Said, the Prime Minister of Iraq, was planning on renewing, albeit in a revised form, this 1930 treaty that tied Iraq to British interests, allowed for the unrestricted movement of British troops on Iraqi soil, and provided significant protection to the British-installed Iraqi monarchy.

Battle of Baghdad

Battle, Capture, Fall, or Siege of Baghdad may refer to:

Siege of Baghdad (812–813), Fourth Fitna (Islamic Civil War)

Siege of Baghdad (865), Fifth Fitna

Battle of Baghdad (946), Buyid–Hamdanid War

Siege of Baghdad (1157), Abbasid–Seljuq Wars

Siege of Baghdad (1258), Mongol conquest of Baghdad

Siege of Baghdad (1401), by Tamerlane

Capture of Baghdad (1534), Ottoman–Safavid Wars

Capture of Baghdad (1624), Ottoman–Safavid Wars

Siege of Baghdad (1625), Ottoman–Safavid Wars

Capture of Baghdad (1638), Ottoman–Safavid Wars

Siege of Baghdad (1733), Ottoman-Persian Wars

Fall of Baghdad (1917), World War I

1941 Iraqi coup d'état, World War II

Battle of Baghdad (2003), United States invasion of Iraq

Golden Square (disambiguation)

Golden Square may refer to:

Golden Square, London

Golden Square, Victoria, a suburb of Bendigo (Australia)

Golden Square Football Club, an Australian rules football club which competes in the Bendigo Football League

Golden Square railway station, a closed station on the Melbourne-Bendigo railway

Golden Square Secondary College

Golden Square Mile, former (1875–1930) luxurious neighbourhood in Montreal, Canada

Golden Square Shopping Centre in Warrington, Cheshire, England

Golden Square (Iraq) - the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état, also known as the Golden Square coup, was a pro-Nazi military coup in Iraq on April 1, 1941 that overthrew the British-backed regime of Regent 'Abd al-Ilah. It was led by four Iraqi nationalist army generals, known as "the Golden Square."

Two squares whose size is related by the golden ratio

H-1 Air Base

H-1 Air Base (code-named 202A) is a former Iraqi Air Force base in the Al-Anbar Governorate of Iraq. It was captured by Coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Since then it has remained abandoned.

H-2 Air Base

H-2 Air Base (code-named 202B) is a former Iraqi Air Force base in the Al-Anbar Governorate of Iraq. It was captured by Coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It is currently abandoned.

Hamdi al-Pachachi

Hamdi al-Pachachi (Arabic: حمدي الباجه جي; l886 – March 28, 1948), Iraqi politician born to a prominent family in Baghdad. He studied law at the Royal School in Istanbul, graduating in 1909. He taught at the Baghdad Law School from 1913 to 1916. While in Istanbul, he joined the Covenant Society and became active in the Arab nationalist movement. Upon his return to Baghdad, he joined with the nationalists, who were demanding the decentralization of the Ottoman Empire. As a result of his political activities in support of the Iraqi revolt against the British in 1920, al-Pachachi was arrested and exiled to Hanja, an island in the Persian Gulf. After his release, he continued to take part in anti-British activities.

In 1925, he began cooperating with Abd al-Muhsin as-Sa'dun. Al-Pachachi served as minister of waqf in one of as-Sa'dun's cabinets (1925–26). He then retired from politics for many years. A large landowner, he concentrated on business matters and agriculture.

In 1935, he was elected deputy to Parliament, but did not play a major role. He was minister of social welfare in 1941 and was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1943.

Al-Pachachi served as Prime Minister of Iraq between 1944 and 1946. He was brought in to succeed Nuri as-Said after increasing tensions between himself and the regent. The difference in policy was not dramatic, as al-Pachachi included members of Nuri’s inner circle and advisors close to the regent in his cabinet. Small changes to government policy included a relaxation of the censorship on the press and the introduction of the 1945 Miri Sirf Law. This law was intended to be the beginning of a land reform on a larger scale, and distributed state land to a number of landless peasants.

Contrary to Nuri as-Said, his primary foreign focus was on the strengthening of the Arab League and the integration of Iraq into that organization. Hamdi emphasized co-operation among the Arab countries in the spirit of Arab nationalism, unlike Nuri, who focused on increasing the political power of Iraq within the League. He succeeded in maintaining excellent ties with the Egyptian and Syrian politicians, despite significant protest against their dominance in the League and region. As Prime Minister, Hamdi al-Pachachi released many of the nationalists who had been detained after the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état, having been a supporter of it himself, but he had to face the growing Kurdish rebellion led by Mulla Mustafa. Al-Pachachi rejected their terms, and they revolted in mid-1945 but had to flee to Iran in October. Al-Pachachi’s victory over the Kurds made him more popular with others, and in December he called for greater political freedom for political parties with free elections. On May 29, 1945, France bombed Damascus and tried to arrest its democratically elected leaders who were demanding their full independence from French occupation. When Hamdi al-Pachachi returned to Baghdad from the Arab League conference in Cairo on June 15, he stated "We will soon be rid of the nightmare of French imperialism in the Levant. The Arab states will enjoy their legitimate rights and international status thanks to united Arab effort."

On October 4th 1945 Al-Pachachi in his capacity as Prime Minister of Iraq addressed a letter to the United States government, stating in reaction to President Truman's calls to open Palestine for Jewish immigration "The Iraq government regards it as its duty to inform the American Government that it deems any support of Zionism as contrary to the interests of the Iraqi State and the Arab peoples generally. In view of the friendship that Iraq feels towards the Americans it is hoped that America will avoid causing injury to the Arabs in their homelands by such intervention. Zionism is an aggressive move towards the heart of the Arab nation. The Arabs intend to use all means at their disposal to defend existence and the safety and security of their home."

Ties between the British-backed regent 'Abd al-Ilah and al-Pachachi were gradually weakened as the Regent argued for more involvement in the political party system. Under intense pressure from 'Abd al-Ilah, al-Pachachi was forced to resign from his post as Prime Minister in February 1946. On May 2, 1946, he said the Arabs must "take decisive action, which is now the only available course" regarding the issue of Palestine.

In 1948, the year of the Arab-Israeli war, Pachachi was appointed Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Sayyid Muhammad as-Sadr. On February 18, 1948, he announced that the Arab-Israeli war was the fault of then US President Harry Truman stating "Mr. Truman set fire to Palestine." On March 9, 1948, Pachachi announced that "the Arabs will take action to prevent the continued bloodshed in Palestine" and that the Arab and Muslim world must reject the establishment of Israel "at any price." He died of a heart attack while in that office at the age of 65, on March 28, 1948.

Iraqi State Railways PC class

The PC class was a type of standard gauge passenger steam locomotive on Iraqi State Railways. In 1940 the ISR completed the Baghdad Railway between Baghdad and Tel Kotchek on the border with Syria, enabling the Taurus Express to start running between Istanbul and Baghdad. In 1941 Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns built four Pacific locomotives for ISR to haul the new through service on the Iraqi section of its route.RSH streamlined the PC class to resemble British passenger express Pacifics, with a nose rounded like the LMS Coronation Class and valancing styled like the LNER Class A4. However, whereas the LMS and LNER classes had 6-foot-8-inch (2,032 mm) or 6-foot-9-inch (2,057 mm) driving wheels, the PC class had 5-foot-9-inch (1,753 mm) driving wheels: a size akin to those on mixed traffic locomotives in Great Britain.

The tender was mounted on bogie trucks for smooth riding: a refinement that the tenders of LMS and LNER streamliners lacked. The PC class tender was equipped with a tender cab in case the locomotive needed to run tender-first.

The PC class were named after Iraq's four principal cities: Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Kirkuk. 502 El Mosul was the first to be delivered, in March 1941. Thereafter the April 1941 Iraqi coup d'état installed a government allied to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and delivery of the remaining members of the class was delayed until after the British invasion of Iraq in May 1941 and invasion of Vichy-ruled Syria and Lebanon in June and July. 501 Bagdad was delivered in October 1941 and 503 El Basra in December. 504 Kirkuk was lost en route and did not enter service. Early in 1948 Iraqi State Railways renumbered its locomotive fleet and 501–503 became 1501–1503.

From 1961 onwards diesel locomotives were introduced on standard gauge lines in Iraq and steam locomotives including the PC class were withdrawn. In March 1967 locomotives 1501, 1502 and 1503 were disused, stored at Shalchiyah railway works and awaiting disposal. 1501 Bagdad and 1502 El Mosul were intact and 1503 El Basrah was partly dismantled.

Iraqi coup d'état

Iraqi coup d'état may refer to:

1936 Iraqi coup d'état, Baqr Sidki took power by a military coup in Iraq

1941 Iraqi coup d'état, anti-British military coup in Iraq

1958 Iraqi coup d'état, or 14 July Revolution, marking the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy established by King Faisal I

February 1963 Iraqi coup d'état, or Ramadan Revolution, Ba'athist coup against Abd al-Karim Qasim

November 1963 Iraqi coup d'état, Bloodless pro-Nasserist coup against Ba'athists

1968 Iraqi coup d'état, or 17 July Revolution, bloodless coup led by General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr

Iraq–Italy relations

Iraqi–Italian relations are the interstate ties relations between Iraq and Italy. Iraq has an embassy in Rome and Italy has an embassy in Baghdad and a consulate-general in Basra.

Mahmud Salman

Colonel Mahmud Salman (Arabic: محمود سلمان) was the Commanding Officer in the Royal Iraqi Air Force in the late 1930s and as a member of the Golden Square, was one of the four principal instigators of the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état.

Salman was born in Baghdad in 1889 and as a young man served as an officer in the Ottoman, Syrian and Iraqi armies, the latter which he joined in 1925.In 1937, following the 1936 Iraqi coup d'état when Bakr Sidqi became the de facto rule of Iraq and Commander of the Armed Forces, Salman was one of the small group of officers who planned the execution of Sidqi.

No. 1 Armoured Car Company RAF

The No.1 Armoured Car Company RAF was a military unit of Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) based in Iraq and which played a role in the defence of RAF Habbaniya during World War II.

No. 2 Armoured Car Company RAF

The Number 2 Armoured Car Company RAF was a military unit of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) which was based at Amman in what was then called the Transjordan. It was the counterpart of No.1 Armoured Car Company RAF, which performed a similar role in Iraq.

RAF Habbaniya

Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya, more commonly known as RAF Habbaniya, (originally RAF Dhibban), was a Royal Air Force station at Habbaniyah, about 55 miles (89 km) west of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, on the banks of the Euphrates near Lake Habbaniyah. It was operational from October 1936 until 31 May 1959 when the British were finally withdrawn following the July 1958 Revolution. It was the scene of fierce fighting in May 1941 when it was besieged by the Iraqi Military following the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état.

It remained a major Iraqi military airbase.

RAF Hinaidi

Royal Air Force Station Hinaidi was a Royal Air Force station near Baghdad in the Kingdom of Iraq.

It was established as the main British airfield in Iraq after World War I, initially under British Army command until the Royal Air Force took over in 1922. There were extensive barracks, recreational facilities, a large hospital, Air Headquarters (AHQ), communication facilities, maintenance units, aeroplane squadron hangars, RAF Armoured Car Company lines and a civil cantonment. Many British personnel still lie buried in the RAF Cemetery (the Peace Cemetery, now derelict) at Hinaidi. The register of those buried is held by the RAF Habbaniya Association.

In Clause 1 of the "Annexure to Treaty of Alliance" section of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930, maintaining a force at Hinaidi was indicated to be permitted for a period of "five years after the entry into force of this Treaty." This time was provided "in order to enable His Majesty the King of 'Iraq to organise the necessary forces to replace them."

RAF Dhibban (renamed RAF Habbaniya in 1938) was built to replace Hinaidi and the RAF began to move there in 1936, and Hinaidi was handed over to the Iraqi Government in 1938.By April 1941, during the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état, the airfield had been vacated by the British and was renamed "Rashid Airfield" by the Iraqis. The name was in honour of Rashid Ali, former Iraqi Prime Minister and the leader of the coup. During the Anglo-Iraqi War in May 1941, the station was used by the Royal Iraqi Air Force in the fighting against the RAF.

Rashid Ali al-Gaylani

Rashid Ali al-Gaylani (Arabic: رشيد عالي الكيلاني‎, Arabic pronunciation: [raʃiːd ʕaːliː al.keːlaːniː]) (1892 – August 28, 1965) was an Iraqi politician who served as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Iraq on three occasions: from March to November 1933, from March 1940 to February 1941 and from April to May 1941. He is chiefly remembered as an Arab nationalist who attempted to remove the British influence from Iraq. During his brief tenures as Prime Minister in 1940 and 1941, he attempted to negotiate settlements with the Axis powers during World War II in order to counter British influence in Iraq.


Sabbagh (صباغ) is an Arabic surname that means to dye color.

Ali Sabbagh, a Lebanese football referee who has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2008

Dale Sabbagh, a South African rugby union player, currently playing with Border Super League side Old Selbornians

Dan Sabbagh, a British journalist who is the National News Editor of The Guardian

Georges Hanna Sabbagh, an Egyptian and French artist

Hasib Sabbagh, a Palestinian businessman, activist, and philanthropist

Karl Sabbagh, a Palestinian-British writer, journalist and television producer

Mahmoud Sabbagh, a Saudi filmmaker, producer, and writer

Mustafa Sabbagh, Secretary-General of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces

Pierre Sabbagh, a major personality in French television, as a journalist, producer and director

Sabrina Sabbagh, a professional broadcaster for Fox News

Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh, an Iraqi Army officer and Arab nationalist that led the Golden Square Nazis in the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état

Samir Sabbagh, founder of the Nasserist Unionists Movement, a minor Lebanese political party

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a 32-year-old woman whose death on camera perpetuated the post-coup unrest in Egypt (2013–2014)

Scouting and Guiding in Iraq

The Scout and Guide movement in Iraq is served by

Iraq Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Council

Assyrian Scouting and Guiding

Syria–Lebanon Campaign

The Syria–Lebanon campaign, also known as Operation Exporter, was the British invasion of Vichy French Syria and Lebanon from June–July 1941, during the Second World War. The French had ceded autonomy to Syria in September 1936, with the right to maintain armed forces and two airfields in the territory.

On 1 April 1941, the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état had taken place and Iraq had come under the control of Iraqi nationalists led by Rashid Ali, who appealed for German support. The Anglo-Iraqi War (2–31 May 1941) led to the overthrow of the Ali regime and the installation of a British puppet government. The British invaded Syria and Lebanon in June, to prevent Nazi Germany from using the Vichy French-controlled Syrian Republic and French Lebanon as bases for attacks on the Kingdom of Egypt, during an invasion scare in the aftermath of the German victories in the Battle of Greece (6–30 April 1941) and the Battle of Crete (20 May – 1 June). In the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) in North Africa, the British were preparing Operation Battleaxe to relieve the Siege of Tobruk and were fighting the East African Campaign (10 June 1940 – 27 November 1941) in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Vichy French made a vigorous defence of Syria; but, on 10 July, as the 21st Australian Brigade was on the verge of entering Beirut, the French sought an armistice. At one minute past midnight on 12 July, a ceasefire came into effect and ended the campaign. The Armistice of Saint Jean d'Acre (Convention of Acre) was signed on 14 July at the Sidney Smith Barracks on the outskirts of the city. Time magazine referred to the fighting as a "mixed show" while it was taking place and the campaign remains little known, even in the countries that took part. There is evidence that the British censored reportage of the fighting because politicians believed that hostilities against French forces could have a negative effect on public opinion in English-speaking countries.

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