Iraq Table of Contents

Developments Through World War II

Natural seepage aroused an early interest in Iraq's oil potential. After the discovery of oil at Baku (in what is now the Soviet Union, on the west side of the Caspian Sea) in the 1870s, foreign groups began seeking concessions for exploration in Iran and in the area of the Ottoman Empire that became Iraq after World War I. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and still later British Petroleum) was granted a concession in Iran and discovered oil in 1908. Shortly before World War I, the British government purchased majority ownership of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

The discovery of oil in Iran stimulated greater interest in potential Iraqi oil resources, and financial groups from several major nations engaged in protracted negotiations and in considerable intrigue with the Ottoman Empire in order to obtain concessions to explore for oil in Mosul and in Kirkuk, two locations in what later was north-central Iraq. Although a few concessions were granted prior to World War I, little surveying or exploration was done.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress