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Religious Animosities Between Sunnites and Shaites Are Undercurent of Mesopotamia Politics

September 10, 1924
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The ratification of the Anglo-Iraq Treaty which was accepted by the National Assembly under the threat of an ultimatum, caused the resignation of the Mesopotamian Cabicet: A new cabinet, on “broad principles”. was named by King Feisul and has the character of a coalition cabinet.

The political situation of the new cabinet under the leadership of the extremely nationalistic leader, Yassin Pascha El Hachimi, is considered here to be a very uncomfortable one. The cabinet is charged with the task of obtaining from Great Britain those modifications of the Anglo-Iraq Treaty which the National Assembly previously attempted to demand and which it was compelled to abandon owing to the pressure of the British.

Besides the political difficulties which confront the new cabinet, there is another discordant situation in existence owing to the fact that the new cabinet consists of elements which are in continuous disagreement with each other and are mainly opposed to the British.

Yassin Pascha, the Prime Minister is an adherent of Feisul’s party, who had already once contributed to Feisul’s downfall in Syria. Owing to this extreme nationalism, Feisul was dethrowned and was compeled to run from Damascus. Other members of the cabinet are Jaafer Pascha, Abdur Moshein El Saadua, at one time Prime Minister, and Mozaheim Beik Pachatchi who was previously the leader of the opposition to the Anglo-Iraq Treaty. None of these ministers are considered to be too friendly to the British. The only member of the cabinet who is known as pro-British, is Sir Sasson, a prominent Jewish Mesppitamian banker who is occupying the post of Finance Minister for the fourth time.

Well informed circles here do not predict a long duration for the newly formed cabinet. It is stated that besides the differences of opinion concerning the attitude to the British and King Feisul, there is an undercurrent of religious animosity between them, based on the ancient conflict between the two Moslem sects, the Sunnites and the Shaites. Sixty percent of the population of Mesopotamia belong to the Shaites sect, whereas King Feisull is not only a disliked Sunnite, but a son of the proclaimed Sunnite Caliph.

Turkish propaganda, directed from Angora, makes use of this fact.

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