by Ashley Jackson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. Pp. xiv, 422.
Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 9780300221961
A Vital “Side Show” in the Anti-Axis War
Prof. Jackson (King’s College London), the author of Distant Drums: The Role of Colonies in British Imperial Warfare, The British Empire and the Second World War and other on Britain and the British Empire in \World War II has produced the first complete account of Allied operations in Iraq, Iran, and adjacent regions during that conflict. Jackson opens with a look at the prewar situation in the restless region, rife with Arab and Persian nationalism, and roiled by Axis and anti-Zionist propaganda intended to weaken British influence, already strained by the Arab-Jewish tensions in the Palestine Mandate.
Jackson follows with a discussion of the Iraqi “revolt” against British domination in April and May of 1941. He gives us a good account of the remarkable British shoe-string campaign that suppressed it, despite half-hearted Axis efforts to back it with force, though he does overlook Mussolini’s efforts to get Hitler to take a more aggressive role in backing the rising.
Jackson then covers the in some detail covers the British and Free French campaign in Vichyite Syria and Lebanon in June and July of 1941, and, after Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June of 1941, the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in August and September, to secure a supply line for aid to the Soviets. This campaign effectively ended active combat operations in the theatre, but not its importance to the Allied war effort.
Jackson devotes the second half of the book events in the Persian Gulf region through the end of the war, following British and from early 1942 American, activities, ad the Allies maintained the occupation of Syria, Iraq, and Iran, sustained the flow of supplies to the Soviets, and dealt with worries about Axis – particularly German – intentions, which, despite some efforts at covert operations, were much less serious than the Allies believed.
Though it could have used a few more maps, Persian Gulf Command takes an excellent look at an important “side show” to the European War and how it affected the greater conflict, as well as the origins of the modern Middle East.
Note: Persian Gulf Command is also available in audio- and e-editions.