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What if Iraq was in Axis Hands in May 1941

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  • What if Iraq was in Axis Hands in May 1941

    I just finished reading about a battle in WW II I had never heard about before, the Battle of Habbaniya in May 1941.

    The gist of what happened is this: A militant anti-British Iraqi, Rashid Ali el Gailani was able take over the Iraqi military and in early May 1941 attacked the obsolete British forces at Habbaniya Air Field.
    The Iraqi's were in contact with the German/Italian forces in North Africa and eventually small numbers of German and Italian airplanes were involved in the conflict, but for whatever reason the German high command did NOT seem to place any urgency on supporting the revolt. The British ended up winning by a narrow margin and holding on to Britains vital oil assets in the region.

    Here's the "what if". What if the airborne forces that were about to attack Crete had been diverted to attack Iraq. Vichy-French forces in Syria were already allowing use of their airfields to stage the German/Italian aircraft that did participate against Habbaniya, so if would not be farfetched for paratroopers/gliders to stage out of Syria. The British had virtually no ground forces that could have repelled such an attack. With Axis control over England's main oil supply this would have had large ripple effect on the war.

    If Germany had control over this important oil producing area Hitler would have been more likely to view North Africa/Middle East as a prime theater of operations. Maybe he would have had second thoughts about attacking the USSR.

    This might have been Germany's best chance to win the war!


    A complete article about this battle is in the May 2004 issue of Aviation History
    Lance W.

    Peace through superior firepower.

  • #2
    Hmmm...

    It’s intriguing to think about scenarios where Germany has successes elsewhere which remove the “need” to attack Russia, and I’m interested about the facts that you have uncovered about Iraq – but Hitler having second thoughts about attacking the USSR??

    :quest:

    My view is that Hitler would NEVER have backed down from his plans to attack the USSR. What astonishes me is that people seem to forget that Hitler’s conquest of Russia is what the WHOLE European war was all about - well, in my view anyway - I don't want this to sound like a lecture, so please forgive me if I prattle on for a bit.

    If you read "Mein Kampf" (not in one sitting, or even two or three, it's just too turgid) there are numerous references to the German people requiring the fabled "Lebensraum" in the East. Hitler laid out almost his entire plans for war in this book - and yet everybody seemed to be taken by surprise when the war actually started.

    All Hitler’s machinations in Czechoslovakia and Austria were directed at gaining economic strength for war and an improved position for attacking Russia.

    Poland was attacked so that Hitler had a border directly with Russia and to recover territory lost after WWI. The pact with Russia was a red herring, intended to gain economic advantages over Russia at their expense while maintaining the great myth of peace with the hated enemy of fascism.

    Once Britain declared war on Germany, Norway was attacked for strategic purposes to make it easier to harass the British mainland.

    France and the Low Countries were attacked because they had also declared war and, simply, so that Hitler didn't have to worry about defending his rear or fighting on two fronts.

    The Battle of Britain was intended to try and bring the country to its knees. Hitler was aware that he didn’t have the capacity to invade, and wasn’t that interested – once the battle started going the wrong way for him, he got bored with the whole situation. Towards the end of the Battle of Britain, Hitler wasn’t even bothering to attend briefings.

    Because these were all “diversions” – side-shows from the main event. All along, the entire strategy was directed at one goal - the USSR. Yeah, it would have been nice if he had won in North Africa – but he just didn’t CARE that much – he wanted Russia, it was a burning obsession for him.

    Hitler could have had immense successes in the Middle East if he had put his mind to it. He could have tried to invade Britain, if he had really wanted to - but he didn't, because he was fanatical about invading and conquering the Soviet Union.

    Hitler had no particular beef with the British Empire and would have left it alone if it hadn’t leapt to “defend” Poland after invasion. Hitler speaks glowingly of the Empire in his boring book as a source of “great stability” in the world – because if he had kept peace with Britain, it was basically one third of the planet he didn’t have to worry about in his strive for conquest. Although I have no doubt that Hitler would have eventually betrayed any “pact” with the Empire, Hitler actually had visions of the British Empire co-existing with the German Reich.

    If Hitler could have been assured that the British would not intervene in his drive to the East, he would have left well alone and gone-a-conquering straight off the mark – right after Poland. But it didn’t work out for him. Likewise the French and other European nations – he might have hated the French (don’t we all?) but why pick a fight with them if you don’t need to? If they hadn’t declared war on him, he could have invaded Russia a whole year before he did.



    A friend of mine with whom I often discuss grand strategy always infers that it was a great “mistake” for Germany to attack Russia. I think the mistake lay in NOT taking out Britain before he went for it – because it was inevitable that Russia would be attacked. The conquest of Russia was the entire raison d’etre (sorry, bit of French there) for the war – it wasn’t a “mistake”, it was a deliberate calculated act that didn’t pay off and if you remove the attack on Russia from the equation, you remove the entire reason for the war.

    Yes, from what you say, the Nazis could easily have taken control of Iraq, but I have no doubt in my mind that this wouldn’t have made the slightest jot of difference to Hitler’s plans for Russia – Iraq would have just been a bonus, that’s all.

    Just some of my thoughts, that's all. I promise to shut up for a bit now.

    Regards,

    Dr. S.
    Imagine a ball of iron, the size of the sun. And once a year a tiny sparrow brushes its surface with the tip of its wing. And when that ball of iron, the size of the sun, is worn away to nothing, your punishment will barely have begun.

    www.sinisterincorporated.co.uk

    www.tabletown.co.uk

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    • #3
      Dr. S.,

      I agree that Hitler was maniacal about attacking the USSR and that sooner or later he would have attacked, but the opportunity in Iraq was certainly worth delaying the attack, surely a more important target than Greece or Crete.

      The door to Iraq was opened from within and the Axis failed to react with speed or numbers. Cutting of Britains main oil supply hurts its entire war effort and makes the theater less of a "side show" and makes the fall of Egypt far more likely.

      As for the eventual attack on the USSR, control of Iraq opens a second front to attack the USSR from and would force the Soviets to actively defend their own oil producing region in the Caspian.
      Lance W.

      Peace through superior firepower.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ah!

        Yeah, I definitely concur with you there.

        The way I read your original question was that successes in the Middle East might have forced Hitler to have second thoughts about attacking Russia at all, and I can see that we agree that it was inevitable.

        I think he was afraid that if he delayed it by another year, he might have missed his best opportunity - he was an impatient bugger.

        Pretty stupid of him to declare war on the USA as well, although I know why he did it, but that's another discussion...

        Dr. S.
        Imagine a ball of iron, the size of the sun. And once a year a tiny sparrow brushes its surface with the tip of its wing. And when that ball of iron, the size of the sun, is worn away to nothing, your punishment will barely have begun.

        www.sinisterincorporated.co.uk

        www.tabletown.co.uk

        Comment


        • #5
          Dr. S.,

          If you want to see someone who feels attacking Russia was inevitable check out Rogue16's view about attacking Russia under the thread what if Rommel was given more support. He doesn't say where he's from, but from what he says I'd bet he's been living in seclusion in Argentina.
          Lance W.

          Peace through superior firepower.

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          • #6
            I'd have to agree with the good doctor,Hitler saw his whole reason for being as sort of a modern crusader against communism.

            Some have suggested that Stalin had attack plans of his own. If that's the case,He might have had his hand forced in any event.
            Delegate, MN GOP.

            PATRIA SI, COMUNISMO NO

            http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/p...?id=1156276727

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            • #7
              I think you are forgetting one minor thing gentlemen.

              Supplies and supply lines.

              Iraq and the oil there cannot be reach unless the area upto it has been secured. That means f.ex. that the Middle East from the Mediterranian coast till Iraq must be securely in Axis hands.
              Even tough the the French Vichy forces in Syria allowed planes to stage to Iraq that doesn't neccessarily mean that they would so easily have agreed upon German troops marching through their terrain.
              But they did put up a stiff fight when the Allies invaded Syria to secure their backland.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Sturlungur
                I think you are forgetting one minor thing gentlemen.

                Supplies and supply lines.

                Iraq and the oil there cannot be reach unless the area upto it has been secured. That means f.ex. that the Middle East from the Mediterranian coast till Iraq must be securely in Axis hands.
                Even tough the the French Vichy forces in Syria allowed planes to stage to Iraq that doesn't neccessarily mean that they would so easily have agreed upon German troops marching through their terrain.
                But they did put up a stiff fight when the Allies invaded Syria to secure their backland.
                I agree completely with what you say. What I meant was that this may have convinced Hitler to use the resourses needed to control the southeast Mediterranean. Make it his primary target (if only temporarily) to secure the supply lines you mention.
                Lance W.

                Peace through superior firepower.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is a very good what if that goes on to Rommel in the desert. If Hitler had gotten to the Iraqi oil fields then history would have drastically changed. Hitler should have realized the oppertunity to take the oil fields early on. Let's face it, early on, the Brit's in Africa couln't stop Rommel.(Sorry all you British people) If Hitler supported Rommel just a little bit more and gave him the necessary supplies and reinforcements, he could have taken Iraq. This means that Hitler could have cut Britian completely off from the Middle East. This would have caused the Brit a long drawn out war in the Middle East to get it back. They would have to hold off on a invasion of Europe because they would have to didvide their military might between India and England. With all that oil at his disposal, an invasion of Russia might have been a little easier. If germany took Iraq in early 1941, America might have stayed out of the war in Europe a little longer and concentrated on Japan.

                  P.S. I am American. I am not French. I am an American Napoleon lover. I do have French blood.

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                  • #10
                    Iraq

                    I agree with Doc Sinister...with some additional comments. Crete was a much more critical target at the time in question. Hitler held great anxiety about the vulnerability of the Romanian oilfields and wanted Crete removed from the possibilty of a platform from which the British could launch attacks against this weak link in his overall planning. Of course hindsight allows us to see that Britain lacked the resources at that time to make such attacks..but apparently Hitler did not know this.

                    Secondly, additional airpower would not have given the Iraqis the ability to hold Iraq against a renewed British, Austrailian, Indian onslaught which was sure to come.. In the end, Luftwaffe to the contrary, Iraq and the oil fields could not have been held by the Iraqi forces,(leaving however the possibility of their destruction which WOULD have been a set back for the Allies). Once again you give Hitler credit for massive coordination of maneuver when in fact none existed. Once committed to the Eastern gambit he had neither the air lift capacity or the sea lift ability to move the forces necessary to secur the fledging Iraqi fascists. In addition while certain Iraqi units performed reasonably well under fire, the vast majority did not. It would not have required major forces to subdue the rebellion and restore Biritish control. Lastly, there is the question of other powers in the area, How would Turkey have reacted? Iran? Last, but certainly not least, what about the Russians. All in all, it was not a good gamble and Hilter was wise enough to recognize it.

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                    • #11
                      I am very sorry Churchhill but you are wrong. Crete was not a bigger target because the Germans successfully captured it despite heavy losses. However, the main axis supply route to Africa was not through Crete bu by way of Malta. Yes this little tiny British island held the gateway to Africa for Hitler. From this island, the British were able to somewhat control the axis supply route to Africa, the Italin fleet in the Med, and the German fleet in the Med. I suggest you look at Malta instaed of Crete. There is an awsome book called How Hitler Could Have Won WWII by Bevin Alexander. Read it and you Crete theory will be explained.

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                      • #12
                        Crete

                        NF....I know about that. But that was not the question. The issue was why the Germans did not take sufficient advantage of the revolt in Iraq. Further, the central theme was why the German air borne forces were not deployed to Iraq instead of Crete. As I stated, Crete was seen at the time as a more important objective.....and as you pointed out it was within the reach of the German forces in Greece. By the time the Germans did realize their opportunity in Iraq, it had already passed and their penny packets of air did not make a major impact on the fighting. As I stated Iraq was beyond the range of large scale German intervention and the Iraqi's lacked the military acumen to be much help.. What the German's pulled off in Crete with considerable casualties could not have been replicated in Iraq because there was no land contingent. Air borne forces can seize terrain, particularly by surprise, but holding it against a combined arms opponent is another story. The conquest of Crete was not a done thing until the Germans were able to re-inforce the air landing force with conventional ground forces including artillery, brought in over the beach. That would have been impossible in Iraq and would have condemned those air assets to ignomy. Re-examine the issue.

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                        • #13
                          Any new thoughts on this one?
                          Lance W.

                          Peace through superior firepower.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Lance Williams
                            Any new thoughts on this one?
                            Yes!
                            Especially regarding to your answer to Doc S.
                            The "problem" was that Hitler did not see the opportunity in africa and thus Arabia and Iraq. Or he didn't wanted to. The Generalls urged him to conquer the mid east before attacking the Suviet Union but he ignored their pleas.
                            There are cases of troops equipped for africa to be rerouted to take part into the initial assault on the SU.

                            Personally I think that a conquest of the mid east would have altered the strategic balance in the war drastically.If it would have been possible to chase all Allied units out of africa and the mid east a recapture would have been very hard to accomplish. I mean you would have needed an amphibious operation similar to Overlord to land all the troops and the supply through the med or the eastern Atlantic would have been hard to accomplish.
                            The additional ressources plus the new front against the Soviet Union would have made it possible for germany to win the war, IMHO.
                            "A platoon of Chinese tanks viciously attacked a Soviet harvester,
                            which was peacefully working a field near the Soviet-Chinese border.
                            The harvester returned fire and upon destroying the enemy
                            returned to its home base."

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                            • #15
                              My problem with this scenario is that Germany simply did not have the men and materiel to accomplish all these things. Driving the British out of Egypt and Iraq does not secure these areas against future Allied assaults and the Italians can't be left to guard the strategic flanks alone. Yes it opens up new possibilities for attacking the USSR but imho it stretches the Axis forces too thin and so makes them even more vulnerable.

                              Even before Barbarossa German war strategy was deeply flawed and establishing control in Iraq only deepens those flaws.
                              Signing out.

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