The past, present and future of Mosul

Published 18.07.2014 23:17

Ninety six years ago, on July 29, 1918, rear-admiral Edmond Slade, the prominent naval officer of the British Army got very enthusiastic when he finished the report on which he had been working for a long time. As well as consisting of some crucial arguments and proposals, this report, which was made a legal document on Jul. 29, had an attachment about the particulars of oil reservoirs in Mosul. For Slade, this attachment was of critical importance as these oil-rich fields in Mosul had been seized by Germans previously.

Slade compiled all this information by resorting to various reports of the German and Anglo-Persian Oil Company's specialists. He came to this conclusion: "There are rich oil spills on both sides of the Tigris; the area which covers the lands that begin from 65 miles northwest of Mosul and extend to al-Fatha, which is 50 miles south of Geyera district. This information was previously detected by the German and Anglo-Persian Oil companiesthat made onsite explorations in the region."

Sir Henry Wilson, the chief of staff of the British Army, read these lines over and over again. He stood up immediately and opened a Middle East map on the table. He looked at the map in a covetous manner and said, "It is too late, what do we have to do in the West? As the West is already ours, we have to occupy Mosul soon." These words constituted the starting point of the Mosul question for Turkey. For Wilson, the British invasion was necessary precisely to control the oil reservoirs and other natural resources in the region. The British Kingdom and then the whole West kept these resources under precise control in two ways: Firstly, they drilled these resources in small amounts that were sufficient for their own usage and for trading. Secondly, they never took out oil in big quantities that could create local wealth, which may leave their hands. The enrichment of the region meant a new middle stratum that would not be so easily controlled by Britain and the rest of the West. This posed a great danger; that is why Iraqi resources have so far been extracted by the West at will. Soon after Slade's report, the British Army entered Mosul on Oct. 30, 1918 by depending on the Armistice of Mudros. What came after this is a long story that encapsulates the treaties of Lausanne and Ankara that concerned Turkey's future status in the face of the Iraqi oil revenues.

I must say that although Britain offered to put the Mosul question and the border issue between Turkey and Iraq on the table during the Lausanne Treaty on Nov. 27, 1922, İsmet İnönü offered to exclude them from bilaterally discussing it at a later time.

During the Lausanne, İnönü asked Ankara's final decision on the matter. Ankara said that they were ready to hold a referendum without any oppression and were open to talks about managing oil trade. Ankara stipulated that if their offer was not responded to, Turkish delegates would return to Ankara. İnönü took into consideration that Russia would not take Turkey's side in the case of a potential war and the Entente Powers offered to exclude Mosul from the conference. He said to Ankara that they needed to come to terms with Britain on Mosul in order to reach peace. Ankara's approach changed accordingly and Mosul was kept of the conference agenda. Lord Curzon and İnönü came together in 1923 and they ultimately decided that if they could not find a solution within a year, the Mosul question would be assigned to the League of Nations.

Turkey gave what Britain wanted both in Lausanne and at later times. Succumbing to the stipulations of Britain, Ankara gave up the National Pact and undertook Baghdad province's debts. However, Turkey will not repeat the same mistake today. Today we have come to the same phase which was offered to İnönü in Lausanne, only to be given up later on. Along with the Kurds, the people of Mosul and Kirkuk are likely to hold a referendum to exercise their rights of secession. Thus, they will steer their own destiny and use their resources as they wish. Turkey supports this just demand. This, without any doubt, is a new period that came after a century. Middle Eastern societies look out for this wealth and everybody should respect this.

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