Mamlakah al-Iraqiyyah al-Hashimiyyah/Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq


6,000,000 (mixed Arabs and Kurds)



Head of State

King Faisal II of Iraq (from 1939)

Ruling Party

Government of National Defence, dominated by the military and the Hizb al-Ikha al-Watani/National Brotherhood Party (from 1941)

Head of Government

Sayyad Rashid Ali al-Gailani (1933, 1940 and lastly from 1941 to 1965), Naji Shawkat (1965-1967), Abd al Karim Qasim (1967-1968), Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (from 1968)


The 'Golden Square Coup' of the 1st April 1941 overthrew the regency of Prince Abd'al-Ilah and Prime Minister Nuri as-Said and installed the anti-British Rashid Ali al-Gailani as premier.

Axis support arrived almost immediately, with Italian and German troops and materiale entering the country via Italian-occupied Cyprus, Franco-Italian occupied Syria and Lebanon and ultimately from Turkey.

By the end of May, Iraq was securely tied to the Axis, with German and Italian forces present in large numbers in the country, alongside Arab volunteers from Lebanon and especially Syria. The presence of a large Axis army on the borders of Transjordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran forced the British to the negotiating table with Germany. In combination with Rudolf Hess' 10th May peace mission to Britain, the fall of Iraq to the Axis was key in securing Britain's withdrawal from the war with Germany.

Britain's position in the Near East had been rendered untenable by the loss of Cypress the previous year, and the installation of a pro-Axis government in Cairo earlier in 1941. British control of Aden had also been challenged when the Mutawakillite Kingdom of Yemen had activated the 1937 Italo-Yemeni Treaty of San'a, invading Britain's South Arabian territories in concert with Italian forces from East Africa. British territory in the Near East was reduced to a single stretch of territory from the Canal Zone of Egypt to the Iraqi-Transjordanian border, as well as a scattering of tiny emirates under British protection.

The defection of Iraq to the Axis camp also persuaded Turkey and Iran to throw in their lot with the Germans and Italians. Axis troops stationed in these countries took part in the invasion of the USSR in June 1941.

The government of Iraq formed in 1941 was a military-civilian coalition led by the so-called Golden Square group of army officers, supported by the cadres of the Party of National Brotherhood and of Saib and Naji Shawkat's Nadi al-Muthanna and al-Futuwwa youth movement. Out of the Golden Square, itself a sub-group within the Circle of Seven, the half-Lebanese former infantry commander Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh was the outstanding figure.

An attempt to unite the two Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Transjordan in 1967 provoked a coup by the Iraqi nationalist Abd al Karim Qasim, who pursued a more narrowly nationalistic policy, drawing on Iraq's Babylonian history. He was ousted by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who, while retaining an element of this Iraqi nationalism, reintroduced the idea of Sunni Arab dominance, in alliance with the royal family.