In March 1985, my wife and I set off from London to drive to Baghdad on my appointment there as Ambassador.
By Ali Khadr
In March 1985, my wife and I set off from London to drive to Baghdad on my appointment there as
Ambassador. We little imagined that it would be nearly five years before we were once more on the
move by road – to Oman – in late January 1990. During those tumultuous years of the Iraq/Iran war
and its aftermath, I had to adjust to working in a country that in so many respects was more like one
of the Soviet satellites behind the Iron Curtain. In those closed societies, contact between foreign
diplomats and the local population was positively discouraged.
Fortunately, I had already had experience of living and working in such conditions, and I knew that
the best way to proceed was to establish what the limits on normal practice were and then to adjust to
them. I soon found, for example, that although movement outside Baghdad involved making a detailed
application for a travel permit two weeks beforehand, once obtained it could be used fairly elastically.
So it was that I gradually managed to explore this vast country and acquire in the process an
understanding of its complexities and a basis of knowledge for interpreting developments.
Our initiation was not at all encouraging. Even before leaving London, many of our friends had
commiserated with us on a posting to a country under a brutal dictatorship locked in a war of attrition
with Iran. As we drove across Turkey, the news became increasingly alarming, with reports of Iranian
air raids on Baghdad airport, to which British Airways announced it would stop flying. Our daughter
was supposed to be arriving there a week or so later; and we knew we would have to unscramble
rapidly all our plans for her.
The road to the Iraqi border became a nightmare. In pouring rain, we negotiated our way through a
never-ending stream of oil tankers coming out of Iraq and equally heavily laden juggernauts toiling
in the opposite direction, with all the imports which could no longer enter by sea through the Gulf
port of Basra. Worse was to come! Having reached our new home in Baghdad with an enormous sigh
of relief, we suffered the shattering experience in the middle of the night of a strike nearby by an
Iranian ballistic missile. This wasthe first of 69 such explosions while we were there. What a welcome
to Baghdad, known historically in Arabic as Madinat as-Salaam (The City of Peace)!
January 25, 2024
January 12, 2024
May 3, 2022
The Trustees of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Abdulameer al-Hamdani on Friday April 29th in Nasiriyah, Iraq.