by Juan Cole | Informed Comment | Click HERE to read article
The countries now known as Syria and Iraq came into modernity having been for 400 years part of the Ottoman Empire. Sometimes it ruled what is now Iraq as a single province with roughly its modern borders, sometimes it ruled it as a set of smaller provinces. At some points the city of Mosul was the seat of a province of the same name. More often its top official reported to the Sultan in Istanbul through Baghdad. Mosul, a large urban center on the caravan and river trade routes stretching to Aleppo and Tripoli to the west and to Basra and India to the southeast, was a major urban place. It was very different from southern Iraq, which through the 19th century converted to Shiite Islam (in part under Indian Shiite influence) and was less urban and more tribal. Still, it was united with the south by trade along the Tigris and by the structures of Ottoman rule.