Mesopotamia was an area of immediate strategic importance to the British once the Ottoman Empire entered the war. The oilfields of Iraq and Persia supplied the British refinery at Abadan, and were critical for fuelling the Royal Navy. The offensive began on 6 November with the bombardment and capture of the Persian Gulf port of Fao. Abetted by the pro-British Sheikh Mubarak of Kuwait, who harried the western Ottoman borders, the British took Basra on 22 November. In order to create a cordon sanitaire around the vital oilfields the British pursued the retreating Ottoman forces to the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and the town of Qurna. The main Ottoman forces in Iraq were now almost 300 miles (483 km) away, north of Baghdad, a marching time of several weeks; the capture of Qurna would create a secure front line.
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