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American diplomats sensed new opportunities in the midst of the crisis in Anglo-Iraqi relations. Although British officials cited Axis machinations as the cause of the rebellion, the Americans began attributing Iraqi resistance to genuine grievances about the British embassy’s manipulations of politics and the denial of national aspirations. Washington perceived Iraq as a potential arena for its political, military, and economic objectives, an important “wedge of influence” for US interests in the Gulf and the wider Middle East.

The Americans disagreed over the proper course of action when the British overthrew the government of Rashid Ali in the spring of 1941 and restored the pro-British faction. Washington debated how to reconcile Wilsonian principles with the realities of Alliance politics. The British invasion of May 1941 occurred three months prior to the Atlantic Charter and more than six months before America entered the war. No one in Washington seriously discussed supporting the Iraqis, or even issuing statements of concern about British actions.

51 Anglo-American Tensions At the outset of World War II, the American legation in Baghdad, and US policy more broadly, followed the British lead, as Great Britain pursued its informal imperial objectives. During the confrontation between Great Britain and Iraqi nationalists in 1941, the United States first began to involve itself in a meaningful way. The United States continued to be a relatively uncertain actor in the region and Knabenshue was consistently eager to support British objectives.

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