Amer (Abdel Qader)

Abdel Qader Amer, “Political and Administrative Decision-Making Processes Under Colonization: The National Governance Experiment During the British Mandate Over Iraq 1920-1932”

Many historical studies on colonialism have given attention to its effects and legacies, especially the long-term political and economic repercussions. Still, on the other hand, recent studies work on shedding light on the internal dynamics of colonial administration and colonial state-building processes. Such studies can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of contemporary state-building[1], especially that the state and regime aroused during the colonial era has continued for decades in many countries, such as in Iraq, or has continued until now, such as in Jordan. This research falls within this trend; it studies Iraq’s political and administrative decision-making processes during the Mandate period and how to distribute power between a national authority established during the Mandate era and the Mandate authority ruling with de facto control.

On 11/11/1920, Sir Percy Cox, the British High Commissioner in Iraq, issued a statement announcing to the public the formation of the government of Abdul Rahman Al-Naqeeb Al-Kilani. Since the beginning of the British colonization and the end of Ottoman rule, this government was the first national government in Iraq. Thus, it began a new era in Iraq’s modern history that lasted until 1932. It is generally labelled as “Indirect Colonial Rule”.

The first thing that the national government did in its first meeting was discussing the relationship of the Iraqi ministers with their British advisors. After that, the High Commissioner drew up a “list of instructions for the Iraqi administration body” regulating the relationship between them, or rather between the mandatory authority and the national authority.

The first national government continued to exert its functions since its formation on October 25, 1920, until the coronation of King Faisal as King of Iraq on August 23, 1921, then it submitted its resignation two days later. Another phase began after King Faisal became the head of political authority in its national aspect, whereas the British High Commissioner’s power has continued beside many British officials and advisers working in the Iraqi government. This situation continued until the issuance of the Organic Law and the election of the first Iraqi Parliament in 1925, where the Parliament received the power to cast confidence in the government. That is, we can say that the national authority has become distributed, albeit in an unbalanced way, over more than one decision-making circle.

The study focuses on the political and administrative decision-making process in Iraq during that period and the extent of the overlap between the national government and the Mandate authority, and tracks the scope of the actual powers that the Iraqi National Authority was able to exert since its establishment.

The study examines the National Authority circles’ deliberations and the Mandate Authority. It will focus on the deliberations of the most significant political and administrative decision-making processes in that period. The study seeks to draw a picture of the relationship between these two authorities and understand the limits of the role played by colonial authorities in managing and influencing Iraq through the discussions and deliberations of the decision-makers themselves.

Research Questions

  • What is the fundamental transformation that took place on the ground due to the shift of colonial rule in Iraq from direct to indirect or mandate form since 1920, especially in terms of the political and administrative decision-making mechanisms?
  • How did the different levels of decision-making and their distribution among national and colonial departments affect the decision-making process in Iraq during the British Mandate period?
  • To what extent were the Iraqi national authorities able to exert their powers on the ground with colonial officials who share decision-making power?
  • To what extent were the British colonial authorities interested in imposing their visions and orientations in the political and administrative on Iraqi decision-makers during the Mandate period? And to what extent did this actually affect the decisions taken in the core and sensitive issues? What are the mechanisms that it followed in establishing its orientations and opinions on the ground?
  • Were the Mandate administration’s interventions limited to issues with a political dimension, or did they go beyond them to administrative matters?

Research sources

The research seeks to answer these questions by referring to many primary and secondary sources that dealt with the subject, and its greater reliance will be on the following primary sources:

  • Minutes of the Iraqi Constituent Assembly’s sessions (1924-1925).
  • Minutes of the sessions of the three Iraqi parliaments and notables (1925-1928, 1928-1930, 1930-1932).
  • Minutes of the Iraqi Council of Ministers’ sessions (1920-1932).
  • Correspondence of the British Colonial Administration.
  • Iraqi newspapers and periodicals.

[1] Alexander De Juan & Jan Henryk Pierskalla, “The Comparative Politics of Colonialism and Its Legacies: An Introduction,” Politics & Society, vol. 45, no. 2 (2017), pp. 159-172.

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