About Gertrude Bell (from Wikipedia):
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her knowledge and contacts, built up through extensive travels in Syria-Palestine, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped support the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq.
She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, using her unique perspective from her travels and relations with tribal leaders throughout the Middle East. During her lifetime she was highly esteemed and trusted by British officials and exerted an immense amount of power. She has been described as “one of the few representatives of His Majesty’s Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection”.
At the outbreak of World War I, Bell’s request for a Middle East posting was initially denied. She instead volunteered with the Red Cross in France.
Later, she was asked by British Intelligence to get soldiers through the deserts, and from the World War I period until her death she was the only woman holding political power and influence in shaping British imperial policy in the Middle East. She often acquired a team of locals which she directed and led on her expeditions. Throughout her travels Bell established close relations with tribe members across the Middle East. Additionally, being a woman gave her access to the private quarters of wives of tribe leaders, and thus to other perspectives and functions.
After British troops took Baghdad on 10 March 1917, Bell was summoned by Cox to Baghdad: 274–276 and given the title of “Oriental Secretary.” As the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire was finalised by the end of the war in late January 1919, Bell was assigned to conduct an analysis of the situation in Mesopotamia. Due to her familiarity and relations with the tribes in the area she had strong ideas about the leadership needed in Iraq. She spent the next ten months writing what was later considered a masterly official report, “Self Determination in Mesopotamia”. The British Commissioner in Mesopotamia, Arnold Wilson, had different ideas of how Iraq should be run, preferring an Arab government to be under the influence of British officials who would retain real control, as he felt, from experience, that Mesopotamian populations were not yet ready to govern and administer the country efficiently and peacefully.
On 11 October 1920, Percy Cox returned to Baghdad and asked her to continue as Oriental Secretary, acting as liaison with the forthcoming Arab government. Bell essentially played the role of mediator between the Arab government and British officials. Bell often had to mediate between the various groups of Iraq including Shias in the southern region, Sunnis in central Iraq, and the Kurds, mostly in the northern region, who wished to be autonomous. Keeping these groups united was essential for political balance in Iraq and for British imperial interests. Iraq not only contained valuable resources in oil but would act as a buffer zone, with the help of Kurds in the north as a standing army in the region to protect against Turkey, Persia (Iran), and Syria. British officials in London, especially Churchill, were highly concerned about cutting heavy costs in the colonies, including the cost of quashing tribal infighting. Another important project for both the British and new Iraqi rulers was creating a new identity for these people so that they would identify themselves as one nation.