World War I 5/15/2012 2:54:00 PM
the postwar settlement in the political history of the region we are talking
about (the modern middle east).
With Which people are grappling today
They were determined by the postwar settlement.
And yet in the negotiation for that settlement (the postwar settlement),
middle easterners themselves, had almost no voice at all
Rather the cast of characters in this part of the story that were
venturing through. It consist largely a Britain’s and French men
among them a fellow called Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, Sir Mark
Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot
The Husain-McMahon correspondence of 1950-1960.
The Sykes-Picot accord of 1960.
These documents have remained after root of controversy over specifically
the compatibility of Britain’s commitments during the first WW.
The notion that the borders for the postwar middle east upon which
Sykes and Picot decided in their accord violated the territorial
pledges that McMahon had made to the Sharif of Mecca. This is a
notion that precist [21:31] in both secularly discourse but also
political discourse to this day.
o Particularly, of course, with reference to Palestine.
The Sharif of Mecca, Sharif Husain, he was flooded with insinuations from
British officials to the effect that the British would insure that the Arabs
realize their independence. This was part of the bargain that was the British officials trying to
make with this influential figure, a man who could assist them in
their struggle against the Ottoman empire during the first WW.
o Particularly, by harassing the Ottomans militarily as part of,
what would ultimately become known as, the Arab revolt.
The Sharif of Mecca being cudgeled, he is being solicited by the British in
order to support this Arab revolt, to lend his support
Particularly, in terms of men.
And, in order to win and to secure that support the British are willing to
make pledges, these pledges come from Cairo, from a man known as Sir
Arthur Henry McMahon.
He is (McMahon) willing to discus exactly what the Arabs can expect
upon the end of the war, in terms of independence.
Where is the controversy here?
The controversy is in the fact that McMahon ultimately prides
himself on having pulled the proverbial wall over the Sharif Husain’s
o On having masterfully, according to him, hidden the truth
from the Arabs.
o On having managed to win Arabs support for a revolt without
having made a concrete territorial pledge.
o This is what McMahon believed he had accomplished.
o And of course he, Lawrence, was part of this British effort to
win the Arabs to the British side. Who was McMahon ?
he was the British high commissioner to Egypt
and in a letter, dated October 24 th1915 to the Sharif Husain (The
Sharif who was the guardians of Islam’s holier shrines), McMahon
committed Britain to a recognition of Arab independence in those
lands that had been requested by the Sharif, however (and this
would become the subject of controversy) with a number of critical
These exceptions …
The lands to the west of the district of Damascus, Aleppo, Hums,
and Hama were excluded from the pledge.
Lands disputed by France were declared beyond the scope of
What were called “special administrative arrangements” were to
reign in the provinces of Baghdad and Basra.
The Sharif was enjoying to respect the claims of the British ally
chiefs of Arabia.
With all of these exceptions having then incorporated into the
correspondence, as we indicated before, McMahon felt that he had, very
cunningly deceived the Sharif.
Not only Palestine, but Damascus, Aleppo, Hums, and Hama are
disputed by France.
Because all of these areas are disputed by France, McMahon believe
that he had, in fact, issued no territorial pledge at all. And having pulled the wall over the Sharif Husain’s eyes, the Arab
revolt begin in June 1916 with an attach on Ottoman forces at
Mecca and it would continue right through to October 1 1918 when
the Sharif Husain’s son, Faisal, would make a triumphant entry into
However; the Sharif, Sharif Husain, was unaware that at just the
time that he was negotiating his loyalties with McMahon, there were
two men meeting in London discussing the very same issues.
o That is to say the postwar settlement, how the lands of the
middle east would be divided after the end of the war.
And under the terms of the Sykes-Picot accord that they secretly
drafted in May 1916, and this was of course a month before the
beginning of the Arab revolt, France would sees control of grater
Lebanon and Britain of provinces of Baghdad and Basra.
o Those provinces together with Mosel would ultimately
constitute the kingdom of Iraq.
o The part of Palestine that were beyond French Rule, under
this rule, would be entrusted under international
Arabs under this plan were supposed to realize their independence
in regions that were not ruled directly by France or Britain, but they
would realize this independence only under the influence of the
great powers, Britain or France.
Most infamously in the case of Syria, this “independence” would prove a
sham, with France invading only about five months after the general Syrian
congress, The declaration of a Syrian kingdom and the secession of Faisal to
the thrown. And so this sham independence of Sykes-Picot raises probably
the thornious [30:30-] question of modern middle eastern historian, that is had McMahon, in fact, committed Britain to nothing at
Are we to except McMahon’s claim that he had pulled the
wall over the Sharif Husain’s eyes ?
These is no question that McMahon had aimed for a certain
ambiguity in the terms of his pledge.
But it can also be safely said that these ambiguity ultimately
extended well beyond anything he had intended.
o To the point that, not only
the Sharif Husain
the Arab side
but, indeed, British officials themselves had a hard time
figuring out exactly what the British were arguing in that
Lets explain why, what was the problem with the correspondence
that led to confusion?
First of all, there was the question of terminology.
o You recall that in describing the line, beyond which
negotiation was not possible, a use of term districts, but for
McMahon, terms like …
These were not defined, they were not precisely defined, and
this led to enormous confusion. His inconsistence references in this regard, and some pretty inapt
translation that happened here, at the Cairo high commission where
he was based, led to the invocation of an Ottoman term “Velaiets”.
o This Ottoman term was that which was ultimately used on the
Arab side in interpreting McMahon’s pledge.
o And yet in the Arab side there is likewise very inconsistent
use of various terms.
o Moreover, the extent of this frontier, (the Damascus, Aleppo,
Hums, and Hama) that was suppose to determine what was
included and what wasn’t, northward or southward was left
unspecified by McMahon.
So that’s part of the explanation for the fact that the Sharif Husain
saw a territorial pledge, where McMahon ultimately claimed there
But beyond that we have to consider the context in which the
o Because beyond the correspondence itself, the letters