HC Deb 04 November 1936 vol 317 cc77-9

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any in- formation as to affairs in Iraq, particularly as to the safety of Jews, Assyrians and British interests generally; and what steps His Majesty's Government are taking to assure them?


As hon. Members will be aware from reports which have appeared in the Press, certain leaders of the Iraqi army delivered an ultimatum to the King of Iraq on the morning of 29th October calling upon His Majesty to dismiss the Government of General Yasin Pasha immediately, and to appoint a new administration under Saiyid Hikmat Sulaiman, a former Cabinet Minister. The ultimatum added that failing this the army, which was concentrated near-by for manoeuvres, would march upon Bagdad. Shortly afterwards, apparently in order to hasten compliance with these demands, four small bombs were dropped in the neighbourhood of the Government offices in Bagdad. In the early afternoon the Government resigned and, at the request of King Ghazi, Saiyid Hikmat Sulaiman at once formed an administration. Previous to the change of Government an attempt was made to persuade the military leaders not to enter Bagdad and the Minister of Defence, General Jafar Pasha, was sent to meet them with a letter from King Ghazi. This attempt failed and His Majesty's Government have been shocked to learn that General Jafar Pasha, who was formerly Iraqi Minister in London and was a valued friend of this country, was murdered. The circumstances are not yet clear. Apart from this incident and a few casualties which occurred from the bombs dropped on Bagdad, there do not appear to have been any further outrages, and General Yasin Pasha and other prominent politicians have been able to leave the country unharmed. The latest information available indicates that the country is quiet, and there is nothing to show at present that the safety of the Iraqi Jews, the Assyrians or any other Iraqi minority is in jeopardy.

The resignation of the constitutionally appointed government of Iraq as the result of violent action by the army leaders is a development which naturally causes His Majesty's Government concern. It is difficult to forecast future political developments, but His Majesty's Ambassador at Bagdad has received from the new Prime Minister assurances of his belief in the necessity for Iraq of maintaining close and friendly relations with His Majesty's Government, and of his intention to govern in conformity with the Constitution. On learning of the events of 29th October, I sent instructions to His Majesty's Ambassador to warn the new Prime Minister of the deplorable effect which would be caused by any further outrages like the murder of General Jafar Pasha, and to emphasise that one of the principal criteria by which the new Government would be judged outside Iraq would be the humanity of their treatment of minorities.


May I, in the first place, thank the right hon. Gentleman for the steps he is taking to protect the minorities in Iraq, and then ask one further question—whether, in view of the excellent relations which obtain at the present time between His Majesty's Government and the Government of Turkey, he would consider the possibility of revising that Treaty which involves us in defending Iraq by our Air Force at our expense, and whether it would not be possible that our interests and our friends would be better protected by the Turkish Government rather than by what may come in Iraq?


The House will appreciate that the position in respect of Iraq is governed by the Anglo-Iraq Treaty, which I have no power to vary or modify at this time. The House will appreciate, moreover, that Iraq is, by the terms of that Treaty, an entirely independent country.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his Department has any information in its possession which would tend to suggest that this militarist coup d'état was inspired by some foreign country?


No, Sir, we have no information of that kind at all.

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