Enemy on the Euphrates

Between July 1920 and February 1921, in the territory known as Mesopotamia – now the modern state of Iraq – an Arab uprising came perilously close to inflicting a shattering defeat upon the British Empire. A huge peasant army surrounded and besieged British garrisons with sand-bagged entrenchments; British columns and armoured trains were ambushed and destroyed; and well-armed British gunboats were sunk or captured.

The quest for oil was central to Britain’s Middle East policy during the First World War and was one of the principal reasons for its continuing occupation of Iraq. However, with around 131,000 Arabs in arms at one stage of the conflict, the British were very nearly driven out. Only a massive infusion of Indian troops and the widespread use of aircraft prevented a total rout.

Enemy on the Euphrates is the definitive account of the first British occupation of Iraq and the revolt against it in 1920. Using a wealth of primary sources, Ian Rutledge brings central players such as Winston Churchill, Arnold Wilson, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Sir Mark Sykes vividly to life in this gripping account.

Published by SAQI Books 2014



‘Ian Rutledge’s brilliant book reveals the folly and delusion of invading Iraq. Read it and shudder.’Nicholas Rankin, author of Chirchill’s Wizards. The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945

‘Ian Rutledge has researched Britain’s concern about Shia power in southern Iraq, where Basra’s oil lies – material with acute relevance to the crisis now tearing Iraq to pieces.’
Robert Fisk, The Independent

‘[A] well-crafted and lively account … While offering abundant detail on military operations, lines of communications and warfare tactics, Enemy on the Euphrates also makes for a very lively and human-centred read of imperial history. Populated by a remarkable crowd of spies, diplomats, soldiers, clerics and tribal leaders, Rutledge’s account displays almost a novelist’s taste for intrigue, espionage, gunboat diplomacy, personal hardship and murder.’
BBC History Magazine

‘An excellently produced book that admirably succeeds in illuminating an important episode in British imperial history’
History Today

‘Fascinating, lively and very readable’
Professor Charles Tripp, London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

‘The description of the military campaign is masterful, and the narrative of the campaign maintains a high level of suspense.’
Peter Sluglett, author of Britain in Iraq. Contriving King and Country

‘[A] rare treasure that combines a fascinating account of important historical events with penetrating geopolitical analysis. Anyone seeking an understanding of the role of oil in shaping modern Middle Eastern history will want to read this book.’
Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left: the Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources

‘A sobering, thoughtful, brilliantly-written book … Excellent.’
The Long, Long Trail

‘Much of Enemy on the Euphrates reads like a great adventure story, proving how fascinating history can be … A rare combination of in-depth information, fairness of analysis and readability, reinforced by excellent maps.’
Jordan Times

‘A timely reminder of how we got here … An important book’
The National (Abu Dhabi)

‘A very useful contribution to the understanding of modern Iraq.’
Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online

‘Highly readable, lively and dramatic. [Rutledge] presents fascinating accounts of the main British and Iraqi personalities involved in the narrative and the conflicts that sometimes erupted between them’
al-Hayat (Kuwait)

‘A fast-moving account of the uprising which continues to reverberate across Iraqi politics a century later … Rutledge guides the reader through the twists and turns of British policies towards Iraq with clarity and aplomb … Enemy on the Euphrates should become required reading for officials in London – and Washington DC – as they contemplate yet another military foray into Iraq.’
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, International Affairs

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