The task facing the special Commission appointed by the Council of the League of Nations to investigate the question of frontiers between Turkey and Iraq was described briefly in the last issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS. The Commission, composed of Count Paul Teleki, former Prime Minister of Hungary, M. af Wirsen, of Sweden, and Col. Paulis, of Belgium, has completed its extensive investigations on the spot and has presented its report[i] to the Council of the League. The Commission states that the Council had in no way limited its power of action; it might even have recommended a plebiscite, if it had not become convinced of the "insuperable practical difficulties" of such a course. Three alternative methods for disposing of the territory in dispute were suggested:

1. If Great Britain agrees to extend its mandate over Iraq (due to expire in four years) for a period of say twenty-five years, local self-government meanwhile being guaranteed the Kurdish population, the state of Iraq shall maintain its present territory, the northern boundary of which is the "Provisional Line" of October 29, 1924.

2. If the two conditions are not met, the disputed territory is to go to Turkey.

3. If neither of these courses recommends itself to the Council of the League, the territory shall be divided between Turkey and Iraq along the line of the Lesser Zab River. The western frontier of the territory thus awarded to Turkey would presumably be placed somewhat to the west of the Tigris River, the city of Mosul going to Turkey.

The fact that solutions 1 and 2 were offered by the Commission seems to indicate the belief that the population of the disputed territory wish on the whole to remain in Iraq, but only provided the mandate relationship to that territory is maintained by Great Britain. Solution 3 provides for the division of the disputed territory between the Turcophile-Kurds predominating north of the Lesser Zab River, and the Kurds south of that river whose affinities are with Persia. It is interesting to note that the Sykes-Picot line of 1916 followed the Lesser Zab River. The territory which would be allotted to Turkey under plan 3 is understood to contain the richer half of the Mosul oil fields. Incidentally, the completion of the Bagdad railway between Nisibin and Shargat, along the western bank of the Tigris, will involve carrying the line through Syrian territory unless the French should propose to Turkey an exchange of the northeast corner of Syria for territorial compensations elsewhere--for example, along the railway north of the Syrian port of Alexandretta.

[i] "Question of the Frontier Between Turkey and Iraq" (League of Nations, C. 400, M. 147), 90 pp., with eleven maps in separate envelope

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now