Mesopotamia and the Caucasus
Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914. In response, the war in Mesopotamia (Iraq) began when in November 1914 India sent a naval expedition to Basra to protect British interests — notably oil in southern Persia. Under the control of the Indian government, British and Indian land forces at Basra pushed into southern Mesopotamia, using the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for their advance. Initial success spurred the force into thinking that it could capture Baghdad, 400 kilometres (250 miles) upriver (in a straight line) from Basra. Although London had reservations about an advance to Baghdad, it failed to stop the Mesopotamia force, under the overall command of John Nixon, from advancing inland. Nixon’s force was ill-equipped for the task ahead. He failed to build up the logistics needed to take an army deep into enemy territory. Port facilities at Basra were poor; thereafter, supply to the front relied on limited numbers of small boats that negotiated the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the face of intense heat and a hostile local population. Nixon’s failure to realise that the campaign depended on proper logistics ruined it (Nixon retired on the grounds of ill-health in early 1916).