‘King of Iraq’ has an odd ring even to those who know that Iraq was called Mesopotamia and was part of the Ottoman empire before falling into and out of the clutches of the British. Many people, including Iraqis, seem unaware that it was a monarchy until 1958. Some 45 years after its overthrow, members of Iraqi families that flourished in those royal days launched ambitious plans to restore the monarchy after Saddam Hussein’s demise. One of them was Ali A. Allawi, the author of this first major biography of Iraq’s founding father, King Faisal (r. 1921–1933).
Formerly a merchant banker in London, Allawi moved to Baghdad in 2003 where he headed the trade and defence ministries and the ministry of finance under the auspices of his controversial American-backed uncle, Ahmed Chalabi.