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The Safavids (1508-34)


On Oct. 21, 1508, Shah Isma'il I, founder of the Shi'ite Safavid dynasty in Iran, entered Baghdad at the head of his Kizilbash Turkmen troops, driving out the Purnak governor. Turning the city over to his chief of staff, he moved south against the Musha'sha'. As in the Turkmen period, tribal centrifugalism continued to dominate the politics of the region.

In Upper Iraq, parts of Diyar Bakr--including Mosul and the Kurdish regions east of the Tigris--came under Ottoman control after the Safavids under Isma'il were defeated by Sultan Selim I at Chaldiran in 1514. Arabian Iraq, however, remained in Safavid hands, and the Mawsillu chieftains, formerly confederates of the Ak Koyunlu, now in the service of the Safavids, rose to power in Baghdad between 1514 and 1529. One of them, Dhu'l-Faqar, or "Nukhud Sultan," in fact declared himself independent of the Safavids. The young Shah Tahmasp I, the son of Isma'il, retook Baghdad in 1529 and gave it to Muhammad Sultan Khan Takkalu.

In 1533 Selim's son, the Ottoman sultan Süleyman I (also known as Süleyman the Magnificent), set out on his campaign against "the Two Iraqs." On Nov. 18, 1534, he took Baghdad from the Safavid governor Muhammad Sultan Khan. The city was then integrated into the Ottoman Turkish empire, except for a brief Safavid reoccupation from 1623 to 1638. Lower Iraq, too, was incorporated into the empire by the middle of the 16th century. As a result of the Ottoman conquest, Iraq underwent complete geopolitical reorientation westward.


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