Mid-19th-century Ottoman reforms
The military reforms undertaken by Mahmud II after the destruction of the Janissary corps in 1826 were gradually extended to Iraq. The Iraqi Janissary regiments were reorganized and, together with new troops sent from the capital and soldiers recruited locally as military conscription was applied in various parts of Iraq, formed what later became the Ottoman 6th Army. So many Iraqis opted for a military career that by the end of the 19th century they formed the most numerous group of Arab officers in the Ottoman army. Most were Sunnites from modest families, educated in military schools set up in Baghdad and other provincial cities by the Ottoman government. Some were then admitted to the military academy in Istanbul; among them were Nuri as-Sa'id and Yasin al-Hashimi, who became leading figures in the post-World War I state of Iraq.
Apart from the military schools and the traditional religious schools, a number of primary and secondary schools were opened by the government and by foreign Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish missionary organizations. In 1865 the Alliance Israélite Universelle founded what is reputed to have been the best school in Baghdad; its graduates contributed to the great advances made by the Iraqi Jewish community during the next half century. Graduates of the government schools were expected to enter the provincial bureaucracy, and most did so. Some members of local notable families, among them the Jalilis of Mosul and the Babans of As-Sulaymaniyah, chose careers in administration, but it was Turkish speakers from Kirkuk and descendants of the Caucasian Mamluks who were especially well represented in the bureaucratic ranks. The highest administrative posts, however, were filled by appointees from Istanbul.
As secular reforms were implemented and the role of the state expanded in the 19th century, Iraqi religious notables and office-holders--both Shi'ite and Sunnite--suffered a relative loss of status, influence, and wealth. Meanwhile, Ottoman civil administrators and army officers, virtually all of whom were Sunnites, came to constitute a political elite that carried over into post-1918 Iraq.
Along with new military, administrative, and educational institutions, the communications network was expanded and modernized. Steamships first appeared on the Tigris and Euphrates in 1835, and a company was later formed to provide regular service between Basra and Baghdad. To handle the increasing volume of trade, the port facilities of Basra were developed. In the 1860s telegraph lines linked Baghdad with Istanbul, and in the 1880s the postal system was extended to Iraq. Roads were improved and new ones were built. Railroad construction, however, did not come until the Germans built the Baghdad-to-Samarra' line just before World War I.
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