A Soldier’s Story encompasses the memoirs of Jafar Pasha Al-Askari. Born in Iraq in 1985, he played a colourful part in the events that led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and in the foundation of modern Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s. These memoirs, published in English for the first time, shed a vivid light on the creation of modern Iraq as experienced by one of its prime movers, and provide a timely reminder of the obstacles to building an open Iraqi state.
Large and courageous, with a sharp intellect, a talent for languages, and a jovial and commanding personality, he was sent by the Turks for military training in Germany before the 1914–18 War. He was however strongly drawn to the Arab nationalist ideas then current, and his intense Arab patriotism is the consistent theme in his career. As a general in the Ottoman Army, he led the Sanusi regular forces in Cyrenaica in 1915–16. Imprisoned by the British in Cairo, he realized the Arab cause might best be served by Sharif Hussain of Makkah’s revolt against Ottoman rule, then getting under way with British support. He was released in March 1917 to take command of the Arab regular forces fighting under the Amir Faisal bin Hussain (later King Faisal I of Iraq) in the Hijaz.
After the First World War, he joined the new Iraqi government under the British Mandate, and spent the remainder of his life serving Iraq as Prime Minister (twice), Minister of Defence (five times), and Iraqi Minister in London, even finding time to be called to the Bar (at Gray’s Inn). In 1936 he was assassinated outside Baghdad, in a doomed bid to forestall Iraq’s first military coup. A Soldier’s Story is a tribute to his life’s work.