An “Effortless” Campaign?
Now Supply Lines Over Stretched, Reinforcements Needed.
Special to The Great War Project
(2-4 September) The British campaign in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) is proving, so far, to be one of the few bright spots for the British, at this moment in the war, a century ago.
With little resistance, the British steam up the Persian Gulf, seize Basra, the main city near the Gulf, and push north.
British forces defeat the Ottoman defenders at Nasiriya, and towns south in the lower Euphrates. The British are aided by anti-Turkish uprisings in the Shi-ite cities of Najaf and Karbala.
In response, “the Ottomans formed a new army,” writes historian Michael Neiberg, “to hold the British in lower Mesopotamia.”
The Ottoman ally, Germany “sent an experienced general to command the force.”
But the German has far bigger goals in mind. “He envisioned pushing the British forces out of Mesopotamia, then invading Persia and possibly India.”
Neiberg points out that none of the belligerent powers see Iraq as the primary theater of war. Still “they all saw the advantages of a campaign there. Mesopotamia had a vital geographic location, sitting close to the Persian Gulf, Arabia, Persia and India.”
The British Anglo-Persian Oil Company also eyes oil extraction in the region, “at a time when militaries and civilian economies alike were becoming more dependent on oil.”
“The British also saw a value in increasing their prestige among the Sunni and Shia Muslims of the region, most of whom had only nominally accepted Ottoman [rule] in the area.”