Sunday, 12 November 2017

Great Power Conflict over Iraqi Oil: The World War I Era


Sir Maurice Hankey: "Control of these resources becomes a first-class war aim"
During World War I (1914-18), strategists for all the major powers increasingly perceived oil as a key military asset, due to the adoption of oil-powered naval ships, new horseless army vehicles such as trucks and tanks, and even military airplanes. Use of oil during the war increased so rapidly that a severe shortage developed in 1917-18.
The strategists also understood that oil would assume a rapidly-growing importance in the civilian economy, making it a vital element in national and imperial economic strength and a source of untold wealth to those who controlled it. Already in the United States, John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company, was the world's richest person.
The British government, ruling over the largest colonial empire, already controlled newly-discovered oil in Persia (now Iran) through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Since Britain lacked oil in the home islands, British strategists wanted still more reserves to assure the future needs of their empire. An area of the Ottoman Empire called Mesopotamia (now Iraq), shared the same geology as neighboring Persia, so it appeared especially promising.
Just before war broke out in 1914, British and German companies had negotiated joint participation in the newly-founded Turkish Petroleum Company that held prospecting rights in Mesopotamia. The war ended the Anglo-German oil partnership and it exposed the territories of the German-allied Ottoman Empire to direct British attack.

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