Middle East is a rather imprecise term describing a geographical area that extends from Egypt to Afghanistan, or the cultural region in which Islam arose and developed

 

 

 

However, the story of the Middle East or at least the bits with which David and I will be concerned mot importantly has its beginning with the fortunes of the Ottoman Empire and the fall of it by 1923. As such the geography of the history of the Middle East must be stretched into the Balkans and Turkey's struggles with them and also  South Central/Eastern Russia in addition to the more familiar parts of the Middle East which includes Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Persia, and Saudi Arabia.

 

Remember that nine-tenths of the people in the Middle East are Muslims. Half the population of the area speaks Arabic; most of the other half speaks either Turkish or

Persian.

 

The mosaic of separate religious and ethnic groups has started to crumble. Widespread primary schooling, iPods, satellite television, DVDs, and cell phones help diffuse a universal culture, mostly among the young. Oil revenues, the proliferation of factories, and the growth of cities have also made the people seem more alike.

 

But cultural and religious differences persist and promote conflicts.

 

Lebanon’s civil wars arose partly because many Muslims felt that they did not enjoy equal power and prestige with the Christians, who used to be the country’s majority.

 

Syria’s current elite comes disproportionately from a minority sect, the Alawis, who used the army officer corps to rise to power in a society otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims.

 

Christian Arabs, especially the Greek Orthodox, who make up less than 5 percent of Syria’s population and 10 percent of Lebanon’s, were more active than the Muslims in promoting the early spread of Arab nationalism in those

countries.

 

Iraq’s politics are bedeviled by differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs, both of whom have resisted attempts by the Kurds (about a fifth of the country’s population) to form a separate state.

 

Israel, though mainly Jewish, has 1.5 million Arabs living within its pre-1967 borders and has been ruling 2.5 million additional Arab Muslims and Christians in the West Bank, which it has controlled since the June 1967 war. The Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied from 1967 and invaded again in 2006 and 2009 contains almost 1.6 million Arabs.

 

Israel’s Jews are divided between those of European origin, called Ashkenazim, and those who came from Asian or African countries, called Mizrachim or Orientals.

 

 

 

Ancient History/Ancient Peoples - Pre-Islam

 

10,000 years before the birth of Christ, the peoples of the Middle East developed various skills to cope with their challenging environment. As the uplands grew dry and parched, they learned to harness the great rivers to grow more crops. They fashioned tools and weapons of bronze and, later, of forged iron. They devised alphabets suitable for sending messages and keeping records.

 

They absorbed Medes and Persians coming from the north and various Semitic peoples from Arabia. They submitted to Alexander’s Macedonians in the fourth century BCE but soon absorbed them into their own cultures. Finally, in the last century before Christ, the lands east and south of the Mediterranean were themselves absorbed into the Roman Empire.

 

The two great empires at the dawn of the common era were  Persia

and Rome

 

During the period of the Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 BC), Persia, the

land we now call Iran, ruled over various ethnic and religious groups in

an area stretching from the Indus to the Nile.

 

Zoroastianism

Some, but not all, of the kings and nobles followed the religion of Zoroaster, who had lived in the sixth century BCE. He had taught the existence of a supreme deity, Ahura Mazda (“Wise Lord”), creator of the material and spiritual worlds, source of both light and darkness and judge of all being.

 

An opposing force, Ahriman, was represented by darkness and disorder. Although Zoroaster predicted that Ahura Mazda would ultimately win the cosmic struggle, all people were free to choose between Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, the Truth and the Lie.

 

The Achaemenid kings tolerated the diverse beliefs and practices of their subjects

as long as they obeyed the laws, paid their taxes, and sent their sons to the Persian army.

 

Their empire set the pattern of the multicultural dynastic states that have arisen since ancient times. When Alexander the Great humbled the Achaemenids and absorbed their empire into his own, he hoped to fuse Hellenic (Greek) ways with the culture of the Middle East.

 

Many of the ideas, institutions, and administrators of the Egyptians, Syrians, Mesopotamians, and Persians were co-opted into his far-flung but short-lived realm. Cultural fusion likewise occurred later, when Rome ruled the Middle East. By uniting under its rule all the peoples of the Mediterranean world, the Roman Empire stimulated trade and the interchange of peoples and folkways.

 

Several Middle Eastern religions and mystery cults spread among the Romansand Christianity, originally a Jewish sect whose base of support was broadened by Paul and the apostles.

 

Most of the early church fathers lived in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa. These areas—later Islam’s heartland—saw the earliest development of most Christian doctrines and institutions.

 

By the late third century,  Christianity (still officially banned by the Roman Empire) actually prevailed in the eastern Mediterranean. Its appeal, relative to rival religions,

lay partly in its success in adopting the attractive aspects of earlier faiths. For instance, the Egyptians could identify the risen Christ with Osiris, one of their ancient gods who too had died and been resurrected.

 

When Rome’s emperor Constantine (reigned 313-337) became a nominal Christian, he redirected the course of history, both Middle Eastern and Western. Rome became a Christian empire. The emperor ordered the construction of a new capital, strategically situated on the straits linking the Black Sea to the Aegean....

 

Nova Roma (“New Rome”), but its inhabitants named it Constantinople. Its older name, Byzantium, survives in the parlance of historians who call his “new” state the Byzantine Empire.

 

Even now, when Arabs, Persians, and Turks speak of “Rum,” they mean what we term the Byzantine Empire, its lands (especially Anatolia, Rum was far from the Italian city on the banks of the Tiber, but the old Roman idea of the universal and multicultural empire lived on in this Christian and Byzantine form. Later, Arabs and other Muslims would adopt this idea and adapt it to their own empires.

 

Some greeks, syrians, Egyptians and other did very well out of the trade between with Rome and Constantinople but others who resisted Rome's heavy taxes suffered from brutal oppression that did not improve when Rome became  christian.

 

Christian Rome did not take kindly to dissident sects such as the Arians who denied Christ's divinity. And at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 it was accepted that Christ was indeed divine and the fundamental truth of christianity rested in the Trinitarian doctrine.

 

The Orthodox church offered a compromise formula: Christ the saviour was both perfect God and perfect man. His two natures, though separate, were combined within the single person of Jesus Christ. Whenever the Byzantine emperor upheld the Chalcedon formula, the Orthodox bishops would use their political power to persecute Egyptians and Syrians. This policy turned dissenters against Constantinople and would later facilitate the Arab conquests and the process by which Islam displaced Christianity as the majority religion in the Middle East.

The Roman Empire never monopolized the Middle East. There was always a rival state in Persia that covered not just today’s Iran but also what we now call Iraq (Mesopotamia), in addition to lands farther east, such as present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.

 

Foreign scholars were attracted to Persia, a tolerant kingdom in which Nestorian Christians, Jews, and Buddhists could worship and proselytize freely.. Scholars and students came from all parts of Europe and Asia to teach and study there, unhindered by racial prejudice, religious dogma, or political restrictions.

 

 

The Arabs:

 

It was not the Persians who ended the Hellenistic age in the Middle East but their Arab allies. How did the Arabs begin? The domestication of the camel, a slow process that occurred between 3000 and 1000 BC, enabled bands of people to cross the vast deserts of Arabia, eastern Persia, and eventually North Africa.

 

The Arabs learned to move around constantly, following the seasonal availability of

groundwater and forage for their animals. Milk and dates—occasionally meat and bread—made up their staple diet. It would have been hard to survive in such a harsh environment.  Great military empires or mercantile city-states would not have arisen there.

 

The Arabs were organized into clans and tribes, extended families that migrated together

and held their property in common.

 

Each tribe was governed by a council of adult men who represented the various clans or smaller family groupings. The council chose a shaykh (elder)

 

Some members of tribes served as auxiliaries in the Persian or Roman armies; one of the third-century Roman emperors was named Philip the Arab. Others built trading cities on the

fringes of the settled areas, such as Palmyra in Syria, Petra in Jordan, and Najran in Yemen.

 

Goldschmidt has noted that Pre-Islamic poetry helped to shape the Arabic language, the literature and culture of the Arabs.

 

By the 6th C Mecca emerged as a major point of convergence for the trading caravans. In art ths had happened because of a nearby poetry festival; Mount Aarafat; and Mecca's Ka'ba as a religious shrine.

 

Mecca’s rulers belonged to an Arab tribe called the Quraysh. Every Muslim caliph for more than six centuries could trace his ancestry back to them and the transition from the ancient to the medieval era: Muhammad, the last and the greatest of Islam’s prophets, was a Meccan of the Quraysh of the clan of Hashim, or Hashimites. I th early 7th c (610) Muhammad had a visitation and the words and all that follows are to be found in the Quran

 

Establishing himself as prophet he gained followers. During Muhammad’s mission, those who believed in him as God’s messenger came to be known as Muslims. The Arabic word muslim means “one who submits”—to God’s will. His teachings were seen as threatening to Mecca's pagans and the loss of his powerful uncle Abu-Talib led to hashemite persecution and so the Muslims would have to leave. He eventually departed to Medina - the city of the Prophet. By 630 he and his followers had occupied Mecca and furthermore Taifian non-muslim arabs  had been defeated. By 632 it is suggested that most arabs had converted.

 

For about a thousand years, the Arabs. have been wracked with internal factionalism and strife, external invasion, subordination to outside rulers, natural disasters, and exaggerated hopes and fears. However, there was a time when their ancestors ruled most of the eastern hemisphere, when the Europeans and the Chinese feared and courted them, and when theirs was the language in which humanity’s highest literary and scientific achievements were expressed. This was the time of the two great caliphal dynasties, the Umayyads and the Abbasids. This is sometimes known as the High Caliphate between 685 and 945

 

Under the high caliphate Arab dominance waned and Muslims civilisation became dominant and extraordinary in theology, arts, mathematics, and medicine. As the state grew so it took in many peoples who could help run the emerging empire. Muslim armies invaded across Europe as far as France and then went East, then to Turkey and Afghanistan. However, they could take Byzantium - Constantinople. In hears to come Turkish coverts into the Abbasid armies would take over the Caliphate. By 1258 Ghengis Khan's grandson Hulegu had destroyed Baghdad and that most remarkable city at the heart of the caliphate had been taken.

 

But muslim society survived and the Mongol hordes were seen off in 1260 and slowly the Ottoman Empire emerged. Its founder was Osman was of Turkic origin who attacked Byzantium on behalf of Islam and took the key city of Bursa. His son and his grandson took ever more control of the Balkans.

 

 

Subsequent Sultan's would take over ever greater chunks of the near East adn parts of western Europe and North Africa.

 

Selim I “the Inexorable” (1512-`520) transformed the Ottoman Empire from a ghazi state on the western fringe of the Muslim world into the greatest empire since the early caliphate. Suleyman “the Lawgiver” or “the Magnificent” (r1520-1566) Seen as the greatest of the Ottoman sultans by Turks and Westerners alike, Suleyman headed the forces that took Rhodes and Belgrade, defeated the Hungarians, besieged Vienna, captured most of the North African coast, drove Portugal’s navy from the Red Sea.

 

Te Christian west had for long been frful of thepower of the Ottoman Empire but their technology and militaary and naval  power was beginning to asset itself over the Ottomans who by the late 17th C were being defeated by smaller forces.

 

When the Ottoman army besieged Vienna in 1683 the superior arms and tactics of the Europeans saved the Habsburg capital and repelled the Turks, despite their greater numbers. By 1699, when the Ottomans signed the Treaty of Karlowitz, ceding control of Hungary to the Habsburg Empire, they were clearly on the defensive. The Ottoman Empire had ceased to be the scourge of Christendom.

 

Economic decline: Many Ottoman merchants and artisans were ruined by foreign

competitors sheltered by the Capitulations. Extortionate taxation by the multezims and rural overpopulation caused many peasants to leave their farms and flock to the cities. When they found no work, they became vagabonds and brigands, further impoverishing the economy.

 

Equally if we believe Davidson:  "By the late seventeenth century, they were no longer effective defenders of the empire. The Ottoman government took no more levies of Christian boys, and it phased out the rigorous training schools for janissaries and administrators. Appointment and promotion came to be based on family ties and favoritism, in place of

merit."

 

 

 

 

The main stages on the long road of Ottoman defeat and decline, each of which might in itself rank as a turning point in the history of the Ottoman Empire warranting a chapter in the history of the Eastern Question, require rehearsing.

 

The Eastern Question has been the question of what to do about an over-large and all too regularly ambitious but often unstable Ottoman Empire

 

 

Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji (1774), was concluded following a war with Russia. The Ottomans were compelled to concede a substantial loss of territory on the northern shores of the Black Sea and recognition of the independence of the Khanate of the Crimea.

 

In 1798 possession of Egypt, already tenuous, was temporarily lost to the French under Bonaparte who aimed to drive the British out of the Red Sea.

 

The Treaty of Adrianople (1829), concluded following a Greek rebellion in the Morea and a  disastrous war fought against the Russians, the Ottomans were compelled to admit not only the loss of the Morea (where a Greek state was created) but also recognition of a Russian annexation of Georgia and eastern Armenia, and a number of other changes favourable to Russia.

 

By the terms of the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi (1833), concluded with Russia following an invasion of Syria and the Lebanon by the forces of Mehmet Ali, the viceroy of Egypt, the Ottomans were obliged, in return for assurances of Russian protection, to accept effective Russian control of the Straits; though following a second crisis, provoked by an Ottoman attempt in 1839 to recover control of Syria and the Lebanon, the Ottomans, with British, French and Austrian assistance, did succeed in recovering both a degree of independence and control of the lost territories.

 

In the Treaty of Paris (1856), concluded following the defeat of Russia by an alliance of western powers in the Crimean War (1853-6), the Ottomans were obliged to admit not only the right of the contracting powers to establish a protectorate over Serbia and the principalities, but also the right of the principalities, still nominally subject to Ottoman suzerainty, to create an 'independent and national' organisation - a concession which not surprisingly quickly led to complete independence.

 

In 1878, following yet another Russo-Turkish war, provoked by Christian uprisings and massacres in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria, the Ottomans were obliged, as part of a settlement drawn up by the Great Powers at the Congress of Berlin (1878), to accept substantial losses of territory, both in the Balkans and eastern Anatolia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina (the administration of which passed to Austria), Kars, Ardahan and Batum,

 

At the same time the Ottomans were obliged to admit the complete independence of Serbia, Romania and Montenegro, already effectively conceded; and in a separate convention, agreed with Britain, they were obliged to agree to a British occupation of Cyprus, granted in return for promises of British support for the Ottoman position in eastern Anatolia.

 

From the middle years of the nineteenth century, the Ottomans found themselves increasingly dependent on the European capitalist system. In 1875, following a period of hectic borrowing on the London and Paris exchanges, generated in part by the extravagance of Sultan Abdulaziz and  in part by a series of bad harvests, accompanied by famine, in Anatolia, the Ottoman government was obliged to default on the interest payments due on a part of the Ottoman public debt; and in 1881 to agree to the creation of an Ottoman public debt administration, controlled by a council of the public debt, elected mainly by European bond holders.

 

More than one-third of Ottoman revenue was made available to make payment on the Ottoman public debt. Meanwhile European capitalists, exploiting concessions and monopolies granted by the Ottoman government, gained control of the greater part of the Ottoman transport system, and a number of other industries, including tobacco, gas, electricity and water.

 

Not that foreign influence and control was exercised merely by military and economic means. In the nineteenth century a number of the Great Powers, building in some cases on claims put forward in the eighteenth century, even asserted a right to protect whole communities, in the case of Russia the Greek Orthodox, France the Maronite and Armenian Catholic and Britain, the Druze.

 

In these circumstances it is not surprising that, in the period of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 and even earlier, Ottoman reformers and others should have become increasingly obsessed with the need to re-establish Ottoman independence

 

The Eastern Crises that had sponsored Great Powers interventions across the late 18th and through the 19th century had to be ended lest the Ottoman Empire crumbled and become lost. With this in mind in 1876, in the midst of the Eastern Crisis, Midhat Pasha, determined to shift power from the Palace to the Sublime Porte (the central office of the Ottoman government, including the offices of the grand vizier, the ministry of foreign affairs and the council of state),

 

Henceforth, according to the articles of this constitution, effective power would be placed in the hands of a council of ministers, appointed by the sultan, and legislative power in the hands of a chamber of deputies, elected indirectly by the people, and a senate, appointed by the sultan.

 

In order to secure popular support for the new order, a new ideology of Ottomanism was promoted, the principal tenet of which was that henceforth the subjects of the sultan would be expected to identify, not as heretofore  with the Greek, Armenian or Muslim, but with a new entity, the Ottoman nation. The reformers espoused the idea of Ottomanism (loyalty to the Ottoman state) as a framework within which racial, linguistic, and religious groups could develop autonomously but harmoniously

 

This period known as 'Tanzimat' collapsed quickly as the Sultan Abdul Hamid reasserted his traditional political control and this resulted in his regime becoming a by-word for despotism. In the wake of this pan-Islamism was promoted as a way of encouraging opposition to the advances of the Great powers of Britain France and Russia. Despite this modernisation continued wt the building of communications systems, transport - railways and so forth.

 

Hamid enjoyed substantial support among the Muslim peoples of the Ottoman Empire; and he was generally successful in holding the front against the great imperial powers, though he did lose Tunis, still nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire, to France in 1881; and Egypt and the Suez Canal (opened in 1869) to Britain in 1882.

 

The disorders emergent in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Armenia created in

by the failures of the Hamidian regime and the spread of nationalist ideology saw the

foundation of a series of opposition movements in the Ottoman Empire, aimed at a restoration of the constitution.

 

In 1889 a group of students at the Military Medical College in Istanbul (a centre of secular and anti-religious opinion) formed an Ottoman Unity Society, calling for a restoration of the Ottoman constitution.

 

In 1896, now renamed the Society of Ottoman Union and Progress, it attempted a coup. But the plot was quickly discovered and the conspirators arrested. Attempts were made by leading members of the Ottoman elite, to secure British backing for a radical change in the system of government, involving a transference of power from the Palace to the Porte, proved equally unsuccessful, for the British refused to intervene.

 

Davidson comments that the reform ideas ha their roots in westernisation:

 

"In short, as Middle Easterners learned how to work like Europeans,

some also started to think like them. They learned that bad governments

did not have to be endured (indeed, many earlier Muslims had defied

tyrannical rulers), that individuals had rights and freedoms. In the 1870s these liberal

and nationalist ideas became current among many educated young Muslims

of the Middle East, especially in the capital cities.

 

Many Ottomans, especially if they had attended Western schools, felt that the only way to save the Ottoman Empire was to restore the 1876 constitution, even if they had to overthrow Abdulhamid first.

 

A number of opposition groups were formed. All of them tend to get lumped together

as the “Young Turks,”

 

The key society was a secret one formed by Muslims but of several nationalities. It became known as the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).

 

Gradually, many Ottomans adopted the CUP’s goals: that the empire must be militarily and

morally strengthened, that all religious and ethnic groups must have equal rights, that the constitution must be restored. If not, then Russia would take what was left of the empire in Europe, including Istanbul and the Straits. The other Western powers would carve up Turkey-in-Asia, just as they had partitioned Africa and divided China into spheres of influence.

 

Staging a coup in  the CUP forced Hamid to restore the Constitution in 1908. Elections were held for the  new Parliament, the tide of democracy seemed to be sweeping into Istanbul, and the CUP started so many changes that we still call vigorous reformers

“Young Turks.”

 

They did not halt disintegration, as Austria annexed Bosnia, Bulgaria declared its independence, and Crete rebelled, all in late 1908. Their hopes for rapid economic development were dashed when France withdrew a loan offer in 1910 The next year

Italy invaded the Ottoman province of Tripolitania. Russia incited Bulgaria and Serbia to join forces in 1912 and attack the empire in Macedonia. In four months the Turks lost almost all their European lands. Even Albania, a mainly Muslim part of the Balkans, rebelled in 1910 and declared its independence in 1913.

 

The new wave was pan-Turanism. This was the attempt to bring together all speakers of Turkic languages under Ottoman leadership. This was unwise as it mean turning away from Islamic interests as well as Ottomanism and as such would alienate the Arabs and the reformist ideas of earlier years. The CUP/Young Turks were undoing by thier increasingly autocratic rule what they had striven for in 1907-8.

 

Rising Arab nationalism against the ottoman/CUP rule encouraged Arab elites to organise but most Arabs remained loyal to the CUP, the Ottoman constitution that gave them parliamentary representation, and a government in which some Arabs served as ministers, ambassadors, officials.

 

The Ottoman Empire at the eve of WW1 was under CUP control even if it retained the Sultanate. And now it was about to make a wrong call - it joined the German cause against the allies. Indeed the Sultan had proclaimed a jihad against Britain, France and Russia. Britain s it crated a protectorate over Egypt in 1914 had to ensure no Ottoman threat to Egypt and more importantly to the Suez Canal.

 

Britain looked for ways to stem the jihad and so contacted  Sharif Husayn, the leader of had long struggled with the Ottoman sultan. Loyal to the Ottomanist ideal Husayn hated the CUP’s centralizing policies. Britain was  hoping to dissuade him from endorsing the jihad or, better yet, to persuade him to lead an Arab rebellion against Ottoman rule.

 

Britain pledged that, if Husayn proclaimed an Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, it would provide military and financial aid during the war and would then help to create independent Arab governments in the Arabian Peninsula.

 

It is moot whether Britain meant to exclude only what is now Lebanon, a partly Christian region coveted by France, or also Palestine, in which some Jews hoped to rebuild their ancient homeland. Lebanon is clearly west of Damascus and those other Syrian cities more than is what we now call Israel. The Arabs argue, therefore, that Britain promised Palestine to them.

Not only the Zionists but also the British government after 1915 even McMahon himself, believed that he had never promised Palestine to the Arabs.

 

These discussion gornd to a ha,t in 1916 but then ...

 

The Arab Revolt

On 5th June  1916 Husayn declared the Arabs independent and unfurled the standard of their revolt against Turkish rule. The Ottoman Empire did not fall at once, but large numbers of Arabs in the Hijaz, plus some in Palestine and Syria, began to fight the Turks. This revolt against turkish oppression f the Arab peoples was in full flight.

 

The Arab Revolt raged for the next two years. Guided by European advisers,

notably T. E. Lawrence, the Arab supporters of Amir Husayn fought on the Allied side against the Ottoman Empire. Working in tandem with the British Empire troops advancing from the Suez Canal, they moved north into Palestine. While the British took Jaffa and Jerusalem, the Arabs were blowing up railways and capturing Aqaba and Amman. When Britain’s forces drew near Damascus in late September 1918, they waited to let Lawrence and the Arabs occupy the city, which then became the seat of a provisional Arab government headed by Faysal. Meanwhile, the Ottoman army, now led by Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk), withdrew from Syria. The Turks were also retreating in Iraq before an Anglo-Indian army. Late in October the Ottoman Empire signed an armistice with the Allies at Mudros. The Arabs, promised the right of self-determination by the British and the French, were jubilant.

 

The Sykes-Picot Agreement

But this was not to be. The British government during the war had promised Ottoman-ruled Arab lands to other interested parties. Russia had already demanded Allied recognition of its right to control the Turkish Straits. In a secret treaty signed in London in 1915, Britain and France promised to back Russia’s claim. Italy and Greece also claimed portions of Anatolia. France, while fighting the Germans on the Western Front, could not send many troops to the Middle East, but it wanted all of Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine. So Britain, France, and Russia drew up a secret pact called the Sykes-Picot Agreement Signed in May 1916 it provided for direct French rule in much of northern and western Syria, plus a sphere of influence in the Syrian hinterland, including Damascus, Aleppo, and Mosul. Britain would rule lower Iraq directly.

 

An enclave around Jaffa and Jerusalem would be under international rule because Russia wanted a part in administering the Christian holy places. The only area left for the Arabs

to govern without foreign rulers or advisers was the Arabian desert.

 

The Balfour Declaration

More public was a decision by the British cabinet to help establish a Jewish national home in Palestine, formally announced on 2nd November 1917. This was the famous Balfour Declaration, so called because it appeared as a letter from the foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, titular president of Britain’s Zionist Federation.

 

The British government would help set up a national home in Palestine for the Jews; ) it would not undermine the rights or status of Jews choosing not to live there; and it would not harm the civil and religious rights of Palestine’s “existing non-Jewish communities.” The Arabs’ main objection to the Balfour Declaration was that they made up over nine-tenths

of what would later become Palestine. How could anyone create a home for one group of people in a land inhabited by another?

 

Failure to negotiate fully on Woodrow Wilson's peace plans when it came to the Arab-Jewish territorial disagreements,

 

the King-Crane Commission, went alone. It found that the local people wanted complete independence under Faysal, who had already set up a provisional Arab government in Damascus. If they had to accept foreign tutelage, they would choose the Americans, who had no history of imperialism in the Middle East, or at least the British, whose army was already there, but never the French. The King-Crane Commission also examined the Zionist claims,

which its members had initially favoured, and concluded that their realization would provoke serious Jewish-Arab conflict. Its report proposed to scale back the Zionist program, limit Jewish immigration into Palestine, and end any plan to turn the country into a Jewish national home.

 

Contrary to Arab hopes, Britain and France agreed to settle their differences. France gave up its claims to Mosul and Palestine in exchange for a free hand in the rest of Syria. As a sop to Wilson’s idealism, the Allies set up a mandate system, under which Asian and African lands taken from Turkey and Germany were put in a tutelary relationship to a Great Power

(called the mandatory), which would teach the people how to govern themselves. Each mandatory power had to report periodically to a League of Nations body called the Permanent Mandates Commission, to prevent exploitation.

 

Meeting in San Remo, Italy, in 1920, British and French representatives agreed to divide the Middle Eastern mandates: Syria (and Lebanon) to France, and Iraq and Palestine (including what is now Jordan) to Britain. The Hijaz would be independent. The Ottoman government had to accept these arrangements when it signed the Treaty of Sèvres in August 1920. By then the French army had already marched eastward from Beirut, crushed the Arabs, and driven Faysal’s provisional government out of Damascus.

 

Things got worse for the Arab cause: France split up Syria. British working with the Hashimite family. Husayn still ruled in the Hijaz, but the prestige he had gained from the Arab Revolt made him a troublesome ally for the British. He refused to sign the Versailles and Sèvres treaties, proclaimed himself “king of the Arabs,” and later claimed to be the caliph of Islam. These actions so offended the British that, as the Saud family rose to power in eastern Arabia they did nothing to stop the Saudis from marching into the Hijaz and toppling his regime in 1924. As for Iraq, British control led to a general insurrection in 1920. Needing a strong man to pacify the Iraqis, the British brought in Faysal to become their king, and peace was restored.

 

All these Imperial re-negotiations of the territories of the Middle East obscure another feature which was the rise fo Turkish nationalism under the inspiration of Kemal Ataturk.

 

Egged on by the Allies, especially Lloyd George, Venizelos acted to realize these ambitions.

On 15th May  1919some 25000 Greek troops landed at Smyrna, welcomed by its mainly Greek and foreign inhabitants. No resistance came from the Ottoman government, which was trying to pacify a country that was close to anarchy. Yet this landing of the Greeks, long the most rebellious subjects of the Ottoman Empire, was the spark that ignited Turkish nationalism in Anatolia.

 

At a congress at Erzurum, Kemal was elected its chairman. It was here that the Turks first drew up their National Pact, calling for the preservation of Turkey’s existing borders

(the Ottoman Empire minus the Arab lands lost in the war), opposition to any future changes in those borders, formation of an elected government, and denial of special privileges to non-Turkish minorities. This set the stage for the September 1919 Sivas Congress, which rejected any foreign mandate over Turkey and demanded that the weak Ottoman government

be replaced by an elected one willing to uphold Turkish interests.

 

The Kemalist were successful in elections but the Allioes who  occupied Istanbul after the war ejected the nationalists and let Damad Ferid resumed power, and the shaykh al-Islam (as appointed head of the Muslim community) branded the nationalists as rebels against the sultan. Kemal set up in Central Anatolia and called the Grand National Assembly in April 1920.

 

The Kemalist movement now found itself at war with the Ottoman  government in Istanbul, the (British-backed) Greek invaders around Smyrna, the Republic of Armenia in the east, the French in the south, and the British on the Straits.

 

What saved Turkey was the aid it got from Soviet Russia. Both countries were embroiled in civil war and in fending off foreign attackers. With no more challenge from the east, Kemal’s forces managed to slow the Greek advance early in 1921. It gradually became clear that some Western countries would not back the Greeks either, once they claimed lands beyond what the Sèvres Treaty had given them. France settled with the Kemalists after they had fought the Greeks to a standstill in a bitter battle close to Ankara in August and September 1921. Both France and Italy renounced their territorial claims in Anatolia. Only Britain continued to occupy the Straits, control the sultan, and cheer on the Greeks. In the summer of 1922 the Turks launched a fierce offensive that drove the Greek armies completely out of Anatolia. Then, at last, the British government decided to cut its losses by calling for another Allied conference to negotiate a new peace treaty with Turkey.

 

The Ottoman sultan, deprived of foreign support, fled from Istanbul, whereupon the Grand National Assembly in Ankara abolished the sultanate altogether. On 29th October  1923 Turkey became the first republic in the modern Middle East.

 

Mustafa Kemal devoted the last fifteen years of his life to changing Turkey from the bastion of Islam into a secular nation-state. Islam, the lifestyle and basis of government for the Turks since their conversion a thousand years earlier, was now to be replaced by Western ways of behaviour, administration, and justice. If persuasion failed, then the changes would be imposed by force.

 

Kemal Ataturk was a westernizing reformer, but above all he was a Turkish nationalist.

 

The actual occasion, for the abolition of the sultanate and the formal dissolution of the empire that abolition entailed, was the receipt in October 1922 of an invitation from the Allies to both the Istanbul and Ankara governments to send delegations to the peace conference shortly to be convened in Lausanne in July 1923.

 

Faced then with what remained of the Ottoman Empire, he decided to opt, not for an abolition of the provisional administration set up in Anatolia by the nationalists, but for the abolition of the Ottoman sultanate and the administration which supported it.

 

The remaining issues regarding the residue of the Ottoman estate were finally resolved and, as Mustafa Kemal later put it, 'centuries-old accounts' regulated.

In Europe eastern Thrace, was recognised as belonging to the new Turkish state, as was the whole of Anatolia, including Cilicia and the eastern provinces. With regard to the Straits, an issue of primary importance to the Great Powers, in particular Britain, France and Russia, it was agreed that, subject to certain restrictions, agreed by the powers, they would henceforth remain open, not only to ships of commerce, as heretofore, but also to ships of war; and that the sea passage would be administered by an international commission; while the area approximate to the Straits would be demilitarised.

 

Between 1923 and 1925 more than 188 000 Greek Orthodox Turkish nationals were transferred from Turkey to Greece, and more than 355000 Muslims from Greece to Turkey.

 

Kemal Ataturk had brought an end to the Ottoman Empire.