Iraq, Syria and Persia April–September 1941


Map Code: Ax00299

Britain had the use of two RAF bases in Iraq, at Shaibah near Basra and Habbaniya near Baghdad. In April 1941, a coup by the pro-Nazi Iraqi prime minister, Rashid Ali, overthrew the pro-British Iraqi regent, endangering Allied oil supplies, and cutting off a vital air and land link between India and Egypt. India Command sent infantry to secure Basra and, with the assistance of Kingcol, the flying column of Habforce (short for Habbaniya Force) from Palestine, they advanced to Baghdad. Ali fled and the Iraqi regent returned to the throne. Next, under Operation Exporter, British troops overthrew Vichy governments in Syria and Lebanon. After intense fighting, they surrendered to the Allies on 12 July. Operation Countenance followed, with British and Russian forces invading Persia (Iran) to secure both oil and the American Lend-Lease supply route to the eastern front. Success was swift, with the Persian premier agreeing to divide the country between Persia, Britain and Russia during the war.

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