12 MAY 1923, Page 24

The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia. By Thomas Lyell. (A.

M. Philpot. 7s. 6d. net.) Mr. Lyell, for some years after our occupation, served as a civil administrator at Baghdad, when he was assistant- director of Tapu, or what we should call the Land Registry. He also spent some time at Najaf, one of the two holy cities Of the Shia sect of Moslems. His account, at first hand, of the Shies is of very great interest. Najaf, like mediaeval Rome, is a sink of iniquity where hypocritical priests grow fat on the enforced contributions of the pilgrims to the shrine of Ali. Mr. Lyell describes the Arabs' joyful anticipation of a real emotional " orgy " in the self-inflicted chastisements that are customary at the festival of Muharram • the faithful work themselves up into a religious frenzy. The Shies, he declares, hold that the Prophet commanded them to deceive and betray unbelievers. They regard their fellow-Moslems, the Sunnis, " as even less than the Kafir,'" and therefore hate the Turks and the orthodox Arabs of Mecca. The late Government, in placing Feisul on the throne- at Baghdad, ignored the sectarian differences between Shia and Sunni, to say nothing of the Wahabi, on which Mr. Lyell lays so much stress. It is abundantly clear, however, that the Arab peoples are by no means so united as King Hussein and other politicians would like us to suppose. The author has no belief in the capacity of the people of Irak for self-government. He maintains that we cannot afford to withdraw and let Mesopotamia relapse

into anarchy or become a " Middle East Bolshevist Power," and that " with a strong Government the country can be made a paying concern " like Egypt.