Letter: Saudia Arabia's guilt over Iraqi monarchy

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The Independent Online
Sir: Annika Savill's interesting article on the future leadership of Iraq ('Monarchists tout a royal solution for Iraq's ills', 15 April) omitted the causes of Saudi Arabian unease over a possible restoration of the Iraqi monarchy - namely a sense of guilt and, in particular, the knowledge that the present claimant, Sharif Ali bin-al-Hussein, is the grandson of the last Hashimite ruler of the Hijaz, King Ali.

In December 1925, the founder of today's Saudi state, Abdal-Aziz ibn Saud, completed his conquest of the Hijaz, forcing King Ali into exile and thus making possible the absorption of his domains into the nascent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So ended more than six centuries of Hashimite authority in the Hijaz and its holy cities of Mecca and Medina. To those of the world's Muslims who oppose the Saudi Arabian monopoly of Islam's holiest places, a Hashimite restoration appears even more appropriate - albeit far less likely - in the Hijaz than in Iraq.

Besides recalling that it was the British who established Iraq's Hashimite monarchy in 1921, we should remember that only 18 days after the massacre of the Iraqi royal family in July 1958, the British government recognised the regicides as Iraq's new rulers despite the much vaunted Anglo-Hashimite alliance.

A contemporary account of that shameful episode demonstrates that the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime is far from unprecedented in Iraq. In a despatch to the Foreign Office dated 28 July 1958, our ambassador in Amman confirms reports that 'the hands and feet of the Crown Prince were hacked off and carried through the streets on spikes' and concludes: 'I have left out a number of horrors (mutilation, cannibalism, etc) which are no doubt already familiar to you.'

Yours faithfully,


Hay-on-Wye, Powys

16 August

The writer is the editor of 'Records of the Hashimites', a documentary work in 10 volumes to be published in 1994.