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British rule In the centuries after the Mongol disaster Iraq served mostly as a buffer or battleground between the great empires based in Turkey and Persia During most of the period from 1538 to 1914 Iraq was dominated by the Ottoman Turks who divided what is now Iraq into three provinces During World War I the tottering Ottoman Empire finally fell apart and the British took control of Iraq This was a source of substantial bitterness since the British had encouraged Arabs during the war to believe that they would have independence Instead Iraq got the status under the League of Nations of a mandate territory which meant it would be under British supervision while preparing for full independence The Iraqi population was enraged and a major rebellion broke out in 1920 which was put down by British aerial bombardment It was the first use of bombardment from airplanes in such an operation Resentment over British imperialism continued for four decades and that tradition of resenting outside powers almost certainly feeds anti-American attitudes today The boundaries of modern Iraq were settled by British officials including Winston Churchill who combined three Ottoman districts the northern mostly Kurdish district administered from Mosul the middle mostly Sunni Arab district which contained Baghdad and the southern mostly Shiite district whose major city was Basra In Arab nationalist thinking these decisions reflected the British desire to create an inherently unstable nation lacking historical legitimacy and forcing three antagonistic groups to live together so the country would never be strong and unified and would be more easily controlled by outsiders When the British drew Iraqs boundaries they lopped off Kuwait even though it had been part of the Basra district during Ottoman times This map-drawing was at the core of Saddams argument that by invading Kuwait he was only recapturing Iraqs lost 13th province Historian Renee Worringer who teaches Mideast history at the University of Minnesota said many Americans seem
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