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Losing hearts and minds in Iraq: Britain, Cold War propaganda and the challenge of communism, 1945–58



This article analyses British policy towards Iraq during the period following the Second World War until the 1958 Iraqi revolution. Using British archival sources it demonstrates how Britain covertly tried to stem the rise of communist and nationalist anti-imperialist sentiments in Iraq through an insistence on employing ill-fitting anti-communist propaganda designed as a Cold War weapon with which to counter Soviet influence. Failing to appreciate the level of indigenous politicization, because of their own rigid ideas about the nature of the ‘Iraqi mind’, British officers were incapable of devising local responses to the growing threat of anti-imperialism, instead inadvertently handing over the initiative to Iraqi political groups to set the agenda. In this way Britain gradually lost the battle for hearts and minds in Iraq despite maintaining a huge propaganda apparatus in the country and the wider region.