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The 16th-century conquest of Iraq and the regime imposed by Süleyman I



The 16th-century conquest of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and the Hejaz brought the holiest cities of Islam, the most important of the pilgrimage routes, and all the former seats of the caliphate under Ottoman rule, thus reinforcing the dynasty's claim to supreme leadership within the Sunnite Muslim world.

In Iraq, Ottoman rule represented the victory of Sunnism. Although the Shi'ite notables of southern Iraq continued to enjoy considerable local influence and prestige, they were inclined to identify with Shi'ite Iran and to resent the Sunnite-dominated Ottoman administration. Control of the trade routes passing through the Red Sea and up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and from Iran to Anatolia, Syria, and the Mediterranean was an important element in the sultan's efforts to ensure that east-west trade would continue to flow through his territories despite the newly opened sea routes around Africa.

But, perhaps most importantly, Iraq served as a buffer zone, a shield protecting Ottoman Anatolia and Syria against encroachments from Iran or by the intractable Arab and Kurdish tribes. Süleyman's imposition of direct rule over Iraq involved such traditional Ottoman administrative devices as the appointment of governors and judges, the stationing of Janissaries in the provincial capitals, and the ordering of cadastral surveys. Timars (military fiefs), however, were few except in some areas in the north. Although the pasha of Baghdad was accorded a certain preeminence as governor of the most important city in Ottoman Iraq (as was the governor of Damascus in Syria), this in no way implied the unity of the five eyalets.


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