Skip to content

Timeline – European 19th – Early 20th Century Middle East Intervention and Middle East Uprisings

February 14, 2014
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

1789 – Beginning already in the eighteenth century, rulers of British India began to make deals, sign treaties with Persian Gulf emirates like Kuwait and Muscat, supposedly vassals of the fading Ottoman Empire. But by this time British India treated the Gulf as a “proprietary lake and viewed the emirates as essentially underlings. The key to British influence was sea power. The East India Company began posting Residents in the Persian port of Bushire (today’s Bushehr). As British trade and influence grew, so did the power of Britain’s representatives, “Residents” in the Gulf. From Bushire, other Residents and Political Officers spread through the Gulf to “advise” sheikhs, sultans and emirs.

1796 – Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, a prominent politician, revolutionary and former priest argues before the National Institute (in Paris) that Republican France needed colonies in order to prosper. Pointing to British sugar production in Bengal, he implied that France needed to do likewise and that France should “also seek profits through colonial possessions that would produce lucrative cash crops.” (Cole, p.12). French control of Egypt could produce such a colony and also stimy British global influence by blocking the shortest route to India. So both French economic and strategic interests were at play. Napoleon was apparently impressed with his logic.

1799 – 1802Napoleonic Invasion of Egypt. Along with 30,000 French troops that he would soon, in a most cowardly fashion abandon to their own devices, Napoleon brought with him to Egypt many scholars, 150 artists and scientists, experts in many fields who would survey many aspects of Egypt’s ancient history, modern life, and fauna and flora – opening up not only Egypt, but what was then referred to as the Levant, today – the Middle East – to European scrutiny, a prelude to the European economic, political and military penetration and conquest of the region, wresting control from the already weakened Ottoman Empire.

As Andrew Oliver notes in his fascinating “American Travelers on the Nile: Early U.S.Visitors to Egypt, 1774-1839.”, ‘The savants were drawn from the Observatory in Paris, the Jardin des Plantes, the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees, the Ecole Polytechnique and other institutions.”The work of these scholars would be published in the great Description de l’Egyptea volume which “forever transformed the European and American understanding and appreciation for Egyptian antiquity.”

1799Battle of the Nile – French fleet destroyed by British of the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Its supply lines to French Mediterranean ports cut, Napoleon is forced to withdraw in disgrace.

1806 – One Mehmet Ali (also known as Muhammed Ali), a Turkish speaking Ottoman of Albanian background, after shrewd negotiations with the Sultanate in Constantinople, becomes the pashalic of Egypt

1807 – A British fleet under one Admiral Duckworth sailed to Alexandria and landed an expeditionary force to forestall an expected French offensive in the Mediterranean. Local resistance led to a British defeat at Rosetta. Britain withdraws.

1811 – In March, Mehmet Ali invites a delegation of 60 Mamluks (military caste with allegiance to Constantinople) to dinner in Cairo. As they leave, he has all of the slaughtered in a narrow palace alley. In the aftermath several hundred more Mamluks are killed and their property pillaged. They cease to exist as competitors for power.

1811 – a little later that year, to feign allegiance to Constantinople, Mehmed Ali sent a military force to Arabia to purge Mecca and Medina of a fundamentalist Islamic sect, the Wahhabis (named after an 18th century Muslim scholar, Ibn al-Wahhab) which had taken over control of the holy cities of around 1803 and had refused to allow the Ottoman sultan’s annual offerings to Mecca and Medina. The war dragged on for six years but in 1817 Mehmed Ali’s forces were finally successful.

1813Treaty of Gulestan between Persia and Russia. The treaty confirmed inclusion of modern day AzerbaijanDaghestan and Eastern Georgia into the Russian Empire.

1814The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. It allowed Americans once again to travel abroad, including to what today is the Middle East. They begin to do so

1820-1830Greek revolt against Ottoman control

1820s – Britain signs a series of `defense treaties’ with the emirates of the Persian Gulf (in an effort to check a French advance in the region)

1820s – Britain signs a series of `defense treaties’ with the emirates of the Persian Gulf (in an effort to check a French advance in the region

1822 – First Arabic printing press begins operation in Cairo; Many of the first workers were translations of European manuals on medicine and on military subjects

1827 – Battle of Navarino – Ottoman fleet under Mohammed Ali is defeated in a naval engagement in the Ionian Sea by a combined British, French and Russian Fleet – marks the decisive hegemony of European power over the Ottoman maritime rivals From then on, it is the Europeans who control the Mediterranean

1828Treaty of Turkmanchai – After defeating Persia in the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828), Iran is forced to abandon attempts to regain its territories in the Caucasus (which it has lost to Russia in a war in 1813) of what would become Armenia (the Erivan khanate), Nakhichevan and sections of what would become s.e. Azerbaijan. It is forced to make major political and trade concessions to the Russians (Russian merchant rights in the Caspian Sea, greater political and trade rights to Russia).

1829 – Russian – Ottoman War – Ottomans cede E. Black Sea (Caucasus,) Russian sovereignty
over Georgia is recognized. Serbia achieves autonomy. Russia occupies Moldavia and Wallachia

1830France invades Algeria; takes 17 years until 1847 to pacify the country and defeat Abdel Khader

French Troops Storm Constantine in Eastern Algeria - 1837

French Troops Storm Constantine in Eastern Algeria – 1837

1839-1871 – Era of the Tanzimat in Ottoman Empire

1840 London Convention for the Pacification of the Levant: signed by Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia on the one hand and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Curious agreement. It was brought about by the Great Powers’ fear of the destabilizing effect an Ottoman collapse would have on Europe. All the European powers, distrusting the colonial intentions of one another – and ready to go to war – agree to the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire – ie that none of them would invade and colonize at the expense of one another. It held until 1881 when the French – with British `permission’ annexed Tunisia.

1837-1857 – Knowing that France has ambitions to annex Tunisia, the Ottoman Bey of Tunis reaches out to intensify relations between Tunis and France. During this period, the Tunisian military is reorganized and trained by French military advisers. Tunisian manufacturers and scholars were sent to Paris to learn how to create the modern Tunisian railroad and healthcare infrastructure.

1839 – On 19 January 1839, the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden to occupy the territory and stop attacks by pirates against British shipping to India. The Aden naval base would be expanded after 1869 when the Suez Canal was formally opened to protect the sea routes to and from the Canal.

1840Oriental Crisis of 1840 – British – Austrian forces attack Acre. Force Muhammed Ali to withdraw from Syria and Crete.

1854 – The Alexandria-Cairo railway is completed by the British, the first to be built in Africa and Asia.

1853-1856The Crimean War. Russian influence in the Ottoman Empire is somewhat curtailed to the benefit of France and UK. Russia forced to end its monopoly of maritime trade in the Black Sea and open the region to `free trade’ (which meant mostly British shipping interests). Taking a longer view of Russian-Ottoman relations, Russia fought twelve wars with the Ottomans over three centuries in a failed attempt to gain access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. It was a long-lasting geopolitical struggle. bosphorus-map

1857Treaty of Paris –  between Persia and Great Britain. Persia agrees to withdraw from Herat (present day Afghanistan), and to sign a commercial agreement giving Great Britain greater access to Persian market

1858 – 1869 – The Universal Suez Ship Canal Company (French: Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez, or simply Compagnie de Suez for short) was the corporation that constructed and operated the Suez Canal between 1859 and 1869. It was founded by Ferdinand de Lesseps. Initially, French private investors were the majority of the shareholders, with Egypt also having a significant stake. The canal offers watercraft a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans via the Mediterranean and Red seas by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans, in turn reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi)

1860s – Serbs revolt – Western pressure forced Turkey to withdraw its troops from the area.

1860 – Inter-ethnic war breaks out in Lebanon between Moslems and Christians. 5000
Christians slaughtered in Damascus alone

1860-1920 – wave of Christian emigration from the ME – especially Syria and Lebanon as
ethnic tensions between Christians and Moslems flare up

1861 – France (Napoleon III) lands troops in Beirut “as protector of the Christian communities”. Ottoman sultan forced to accept autonomy of Lebanon under a Christian governor to be chosen by the European powers.

1864 – Major revolt in Tunisia against “Fundamental Pact” and the rise in the head tax (mejba). The pact was a result of intense European pressure after the execution of a Jewish subject for challenging a Muslim.

1866 – 1869 – Crete revolts against Ottoman control: Turkey forced to accept Cretan autonomy under Christian control.

1869 (Nov 17) – the Suez Canal opens. Built by the French, 44% of the rights are sold to the British, who control it for 84 years before the Egyptians nationalized it.

1875 – Major revolt against Ottoman rule breaks out in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Ottoman treasury declares bankruptcy.

1875 – A financial crisis forced Isma’il Pasha, the Egyptian ruler, to sell his shares  in the Suez Canal Company to the British Government for only £3,976,582. Britain becomes a minority share holder in the company, acquiring 44%, with the remainder being controlled by French business syndicates

1876  – the new Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II promulgates a new Constitution as the culmination of four decades of government led reform known as the Tanzimat. Ottoman Empire goes bankrupt, exposing its weaknesses and its dependence upon European finance. British policy changes from one of propping up the Ottomans (to prevent the Russians and French) from gaining influence in the region, to picking off as much Ottoman territory as it could. British investors withdraw their funding in large part, while French financial interests, in an effort to boost their influence in the Middle East region move in.

1876Bulgarians launch major revolt against the Ottomans.

1876 – Serbia declares war on the Ottoman Empire

1877 – Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire because they were `denied the right’ to protect Christian Orthodox communities within the Ottoman Empire.

1878 –  The first several “congresses” in Berlin takes place to avoid European countries going to war over colonies. Many decisions come from this, among them, “granting” the British “the right” to seize Cyprus and the French were given a green light to fully colonize Tunisia

1878Treaty of San Stefano – peace settlement imposed on the Ottomans by Russia which specified the virtual dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in Europe through the creation of two enlarged and independent Slav states of Bulgaria and Montenegro as well as Romania. Ottomans cede large parts of Armenia to Russia.

1878The Treaty of Berlin supersedes the Treaty of San Stefano and undoes some of the concessions the Ottomans were forced to make to the Russians, particularly regarding Bulgaria. Britain and France fear too large a Bulgaria as a Russian wedge into the Balkans. The Treaty of Berlin is essentially the first partition of the Ottoman Empire. The colonization of the region by European powers would follow almost immediately.

According to the Treaty, the Ottomans lost two-fifths of the empire’s territory and one-fifth of its population in the Balkans and eastern Anatolia. Among the territories ceded were three provinces in the Caucasus region of Eastern Anatolia – Kars, Ardahan and Batum – considered the Ottoman’s “Alsace-Lorraine.” These provinces ceded to Russia had predominantly Armenian populations. Armenians ask for political autonomy.

By the measures taken as a result of the Treaty of Berlin, the Ottoman Empire was forced to surrender two-fifths of its territory and one-fifth of its population, half of them Muslim.

1878The British annex Cyprus as a protectorate – it extends the partition of the Ottoman Empire from the Balkans to N. Africa. Now the horse-trading intensifies. Germany gave “its consent” to Britain’s acquisition of Cyprus, though both the British and the Germans recognized the need to “compensate” France to restore the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

1879 – Bulgarian peasants revolt; it was suppressed by the Ottomans with “outstanding ferocity”

French Troops Attack Sfax on the Tunisian Coast - 1881

French Troops Attack Sfax on the Tunisian Coast – 1881

1881France invades Tunisia with troops from Algeria and makes it into a protectorate. France had gotten nothing out of the Treaty of Berlin. In exchange for seizing Cyprus, Britain (and Germany) agreed to “offer” France Tunisia as a consolation prize. In an attempt to create an environment of rapprochement with France, Germany was willing to agree to give France a green light in Tunisia, as it had mauled France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

1881 – In April, Jules Ferry, a secular liberal, claiming that Tunisian troops had attacked eastern Algeria, decides to send a punitive expedition to Tunisia and forces the Bey to abdicate. Tunisia officially became a French protectorate on May 12 of that year.

1882 – Britain invades Egypt. An Egyptian Parliament had pressed to regain control of the Egyptian budget from the European committee that was managing the Egyptian economy. This panicked British (and other) bondholders who had invested in the Suez Canal, fearing they’d lose their money. The British prime minister at the time, William Gladstone possessed 2,000,000  pounds worth of those bonds in his portfolio.

Europeans feared that they would lose their longstanding privileges known as “capitulations” whereby foreigners were exempt from local laws, taxes and tariffs. Brits were also concerned that Egypt would seize control of its finances and customs income from the system of “Dual Control” whereby “Egyptian budgets were supervised and shaved by an English and French controller.” (Meyer and Blair-Brysac)

In July, 1882, British warships mercilessly bombed Alexandria, the beginning of what was going to be 70 years of British colonial control of Egypt. To neutralize the growing power of Colonel Ahmad Urabi, Britain invades in a complex situation, wins a decisive military battle at Tel-el-Kebir at w hich Urabi’s troops are decisively defeated by greater British fire power. Egypt becomes a protectorate in September, 1882. While Egypt remains formally a part of the Ottoman Empire, it is, in effect now, a British colony. As the Suez Canal had turned into a major artery of British global trade with India, Indonesia and China, controlling Egypt and the Canal itself became a major strategic consideration of British foreign and Middle Eastern policy.

Furthermore, starting in 1882, by 18 new major territories were added to the British empire by the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.

1883  – Sir Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer) becomes Queen Victoria’s Consul-General to Egypt

1884 – Colonial rivalries between European powers in the MENA countries (and Africa) intensify.

1885 – On January 28, the British garrison at Khartoum fell to the forces of the Mahdi, one of the biggest British military defeats in Africa. General Charles Gordon tried to fend off the Mahdhi, a confrontation described by Lyyton Strachey as the moment when “…two fanatics had indeed met face to face.” The Madhi’s forces prevailed, Gordon was beheaded, his head “propped on a forked branch as a target for derision and food for kites.” Immediately afterwards the Mahdi’s forces sacked Khartoum.

1893 – The British put down a tribal rebellion in British Somaliland. Parts of Somaliland had become a British protectorate in the 1880s.

1894 – 1896 – Ottoman Armenians were the target of a series of terrible massacres. Again, thousands of Armenians were killed. The level of violence against the Armenians was unprecedented in Ottoman history

1897First Zionist Congress and the Basel Program.

1898 – Lord Kitchener returns to the Sudan with 25,000 troops, a third of whom were British, to avenge the death of Gordon. At Omdurman, the forces of the Mahdi’s successor, the Khalifa, some 50,000 strong were slaughtered in a daylight charge by Kitchener’s Maxim and Gatling guns. Between 10,000 – 20,000 Sudanese fighters were killed. The bones of the Mahdi’, who had died some years previous, were exhumed and his skull seized as a souvenir. In a show of what he was genuinely like, Kitchener considered using the unusually large skull as an inkwell or drinking cup, but Queen Victoria protested and he reburied it.

1898The Fashoda Incident. Britain and France nearly go to war with each other over extending influence in Africa. Britain forces French forces to withdraw from Fashoda, in the Sudan.It was a struggle over who would control the headwaters of the Nile. To mollify the `hurt feelings’ of the French, the British `offer’ France Morocco. Britain stops French control of the Sudan a limits the expansion of French colonialism, protecting access to the Suez Canal from the Red Sea

1899 – Kuwait…When the Ottoman Empire with German assistance tries to take over Kuwait, the Sheik asks for British assistance which he gets

1900 – The British government terminates the Royal Niger Company charter and declares a protectorate; Frederick Lugard becomes High Commissioner of Norther Nigeria. In 1912 Lugard would become the Governor General of all of Nigeria. Luguard develops a formula for “indirect rule” in which he relied on local emirs and chiefs of the past continued to rule, but under British supervision and with the goal of fulfilling British economic and strategic needs. As Meyer and Blair-Brysac note “…his recipe for Indirect Rule…was the template for future imperial adventures in the Middle east, expressed in what one wit described as a “rent a shiek, buy an emir” strategy.”

1900 – Chad colonized `military territory of Chad’ comes under French control. Ruthlessness of the mission provoked a scandal in Paris

1902  – On the night of 15 January 1902, Ibn Saud led 40 men over the walls of the city on tilted palm trees and took Riyadh. The Rashidi governor of the city, Ajlan, was killed in front of his own fortress. The Saudi recapture of the city marked the beginning of the Third Saudi State.

1904 – the Entente Cordiale. Fearing growing Germany influence, and needing to thus strengthen their bilateral ties in an anti-German alliance, France recognizes British position in Egypt and would not ask “that a limit of time be fixed for the British occupation”. Britain acknowledges France’s strategic “right” to Morocco and pledges not to obstruct French actions “to preserve order in that country”.

1904 – Franco – Spanish Agreement on Morocco reached in October.

1904 – In a effort to avoid a war between themselves over possessions in Africa Britain and France agree on an “Entente Cordiale” in which The French reluctantly acknowledged British rule in Egypt and Sudan and, in exchange, The British recognized French claims on Morocco.

1905 – Ottoman controlled N. Yemen and British controlled S. Yemen (with port of Aden) are divided. The two Yemens will not re-unite until 1990.

1906 – On August 5 of that year “Constitution Day” is declared in Persia after three weeks of protest against the ruling Qajar Dynasty. The Majlis is created.

1906 – In the “Dinshawal Affair” four Egyptians were hanged and eight flogged after a scuffle with five British officers in which one officer was killed;

1907 – Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907. Iran is divided between Britain and Russia as combined spheres of influence. The agreement carved Persia into so-called zones of influence with Russia awarded the bigger northern area, including Teheran, while Britain claimed the southeast, the southwest in between being designated a neutral zone. This was something of a pragmatic bargain meant to end their geopolitical rivalry in Asia

1907– The Young Tunisian’s Movement (Mouvement des jeunes Tunisiens) is founded on February 7. It calls for a radical transformation of the educational, judicial and administrative systems, a radical reform movement that aiming for greater indigenous autonomy within the context of French colonial rule. It produced a weekly news source, Le Tunisien, which was closed down by the French authorities in 1911 as a part of the effort to repress the incipient national movement

1908 – Young Turk Revolution – beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire. Revolt begins on July 3.  It forms the “Committee for Union and Progress” (CUP) which rules the country.

1908  – on October 5, in light of the instability of the Young Turk rule in the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria declares its independence

1908  – A. T. Wilson, Britian’s representative,  is present as the British strike oil in South-West Persia, the first in the Middle East.

1909 – Anglo-Persian Oil Company founded after the discovery of a large oil field in Masjed Soleiman, Iran (sw Iran, Khuzistan). The British government buys a 51% stake in 1914.

1911 Italian Occupation of Libya

1911 Italian invasion of Libya; the last of the more than 100 years of European colonial interventions in the Middle East. Here, mass execution of Libyan rebels.

1909 – On the night of April 12-13, the enemies of the CUP launch a counter-revolution against the Young Turks. The counter revolution is defeated within two weeks.

Within weeks after the defeat of the counter revolution, Muslim crowds massacre thousands of Armenians in Adana, in Turkey’s southeastern region. It is estimated that more than 20,000 Armenians were killed in this orgy of violence.

1911 – The Young Tunisian’s Movement (Mouvement des jeunes Tunisiens)

1911 – Italian invasion of Libya; the last of the more than 100 years of European colonial interventions in the Middle East. The Ottomans had done nothing to provoke war with the Italians over Libya

1911 – Italy declares war on the Ottoman Empire in order to seize Libya. Libya had been “promised” to Italy by the British in 1878, the Germans in 1888 and the French in 1902. Italy invaded with a force of some 34,000 soldiers; against them was an Ottoman military of no more than 4200. Although the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire “accepted” the Italian annexation, the C.U.P. didn’t. They helped launch a guerilla struggle against the Italian occupation. Among those Young Turks who supported the Libyan guerrillas was a young adjutant major named Mustafa Kemal, the future Ataturk.

1911-1912 – Between late 1911 and November 1912, the Libyan guerrillas, supported by the Young Turks “prosecuted a remarkably successful guerrilla war against the Italians.” (Rogan:2015, p.17) denying the latter access to the Libyan interior and limiting their gains to the coastal cities of Bengazi, Tripoli, Tobruk. Arab bands inflicted high casualties on the Italians during this period killing 3,400 and wounding over 4000.

1912 – Unable to consolidate their hold on Libya, the Italians attacked other Ottoman positions in the Eastern Mediterranean, bombarding Beirut from the sea in March, occupying the Dodecanese Islands (now a part of Greece) in May of that year. Finally the Italians conspired with elements in Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria to help undermine Ottoman rule in the Balkans. That would help to trigger two Balkan Wars.

Center of Ottoman colonial power moves eastward to Syria, Iraq and the Lebanese-Palestinian coast.

1912 – Fez Convention of 1912. French occupation of Morocco is completed.

1912 – The Italian fleet, feeling its oats, bombarded Beirut in February and then attacked Ottoman positions in the straits of the Dardanelles in April and occupied Rhodes and other Dodecanese Islands in April – May 1912, wreaking havoc on the strategic balance in the Eastern Mediterranean.

1912 – In October a peace treaty between the Italians and the Ottomans was concluded that formally ceded Libya to Italy – but resistance to Italian rule would continue for another 20 years.

1912 – 1913 – The first and second Balkan Wars. The Balkan Wars were two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war; one of the four, Bulgaria, was defeated in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost nearly all of its holdings in Europe. Austria-Hungary, although not a combatant, was weakened as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples. The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus was a “prelude to the First World War.”

1912 – by the end of 1912, the entire coast of North Africa from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Suez Canal was under European colonial domination. Two of the states, Algeria and Libya, were under direct colonial domination. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco were protectorates ruled by France and Britain through their own local dynasties

1913  – Winston Churchill, then Lord of the Admiralty establishes the Admiralty Fuel Oil Commission (otherwise known as the Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines) in London headed by Lord Fisher charged with “finding the oil” so that Great Britain, who had none of the stuff, could convert its naval fleet from coal to oil.

1913 – June. The Arab Congress of 1913, otherwise known as the Arab National Congress, met in Paris. It called for more autonomy and cultural rights for Arabs within the Ottoman Empire.  Many scholars place the origins of Arab nationalism during these crucial years that witnessed a dwindling of empires and a build-up of tension surrounding Zionist immigration to Palestine and Arab reaction to it. One result of the Congress was to intensify French-British efforts to consolidate their mutual holds over Ottoman Middle Eastern that would soon lead to the Sykes-Picot Treaty.

1914 – World War One begins in the Balkans; several military fronts open in the Middle East.

1914  – The Ottoman Empire, unable to secure security agreements with either France or its great fear, Russia, enters into an alliance with Germany. Their main concern is protecting as much of their empire as possible.

1914 – On November 3, Britain recognizes the independence of Kuwait, thus severing its ties to the Ottoman Empire and strengthening the British position in the Persian Gulf.

1914  – November 11-21. The Battle of Basra. Basra falls to the British and is severed from the Ottoman Empire; Britain moves to protect the oil fields in nearby Iran and to secure the region between the Eastern Mediterranean and India, mostly Moslem. Britain fears that Moslems will respond to the Ottoman Sultan’s call to jihad and that this message will resonate among Moslems in British India. The British victory at Basra was supposed to be a part of a temporary presence at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and not a permanent occupation, which it soon thereafter became, lasting in one form or another more than half a century.There was no Iraq in those days, only three Ottoman vilayets (provinces), Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.

1914  – On December 18th, Britain – which had all but formally colonized Egypt in 1881, “unilaterally decreed Egypt’s secession from the Ottoman Empire as a British protectorate, bringing to a close 397 years of Turkish rule. The following day the British deposed the ruling khedive, who was thought too sympathetic to the Ottoman cause, and installed the eldest living prince of the Egyptian ruling family, Husayn Kamil, in his place.

1914  – Britain and Russia occupy Persia.

1914  – Arab secret societies (made up largely of dissident Arab elements within the Ottoman military, issue what is known as the Damascus Protocola call for Arab independence from the Ottomans.

1914 – 1920  – The height of the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians. which would continue after that year.

The Armenian Genocide (Armenian: Հայոց ցեղասպանություն,Hayots tseghaspanutyun; Turkish: Ermeni Soykırımı), also known as the Armenian Holocaust, was the Ottoman government‘s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens within the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leadersfrom Constantinople to Ankara, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marchesleading to the Syrian desert.

Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians and the Ottoman Greeks were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.[18][19] Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide


Assyrian Christians slaughtered by Ottoman Turks during World  War One

1914 – 1920 – The Assyrian Christian civilian population of upper Mesopotamia (the Tur Abdin region, the Hakkâri, Van, and Siirt provinces of present-day southeastern Turkey, and the Urmia region of northwestern Iran) was forcibly relocated and massacred by the Muslim Ottoman(Turkish) army, together with other armed and allied Muslim peoples, including Kurds, Chechens and Circassians, between 1914 and 1920, with further attacks on unarmed fleeing civilians conducted by local Arab militias.

The Assyrian genocide took place in the same context as the Armenian and Greek genocides. Since the Assyrian genocide took place within the context of the much more widespread Armenian genocide, scholarship treating it as a separate event is scarce, with the exceptions of the works of Joseph Yacoub,Gabriele Yonan, David Gaunt and Hannibal Travis, who have classified the genocide as a systematic campaign by the Young Turk government.

David Gaunt accepts the figure of 275,000 deaths as reported by the Assyrian delegation at the Treaty of Lausanne and ventures that the death toll would be around 300,000 because of uncounted Assyrian-inhabited areas.

1915 – March and April. The Constantinople Agreement, a precursor to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of the same year, is concluded between Britain, France and Russia. It is the first in a series of agreements between Britain and France that would begin to shape the forms that the Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire would look after the war. Britain has agreed to a Russian request to take over Constantinople and the Straits, in return for increased influence in Persia. France has demanded the right to annex Syria as its price for acquiescence. The Russians now reply that they will accept this, provided that this French annexation does not extend so far south as to include Palestine. Russia’s leaders feel that some kind of special arrangement must be put in place for the Holy Land.

1915 – March. The same month that the Constantinople Agreement was concluded, the British Parliament sets up what is referred to as the De Bunsen Committee, whose charge Bwas to etch out what would be British interests in the Middle East after the war. This was in preparation for negotiations with France over carving up the Ottoman Arab territories after the war.

1915 – Mark Sykes, a Conservative member of the British Parliament publishes the Caliph’s Last Heritagea shallow book, but one that establishes Sykes’ “expertise” on Middle East questions in the British Parliament. in which he pawns himself off as a Middle East specialist (which he wasn’t) and soon gains influence. He claimed knowledge of both Arabic and Turkish, neither of which he spoke. His vision of the post Ottoman Arab region was a British cordon from the Mediterranean and to the Persian borders with Iraq, leaving areas further north (Northern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) to France

1915 – A series of military confrontations – the British (and Allies) are defeated at Gallipoli and again at Kut (Iraq), but the Ottomans fail in an effort to seize the Suez Canal and after a failed Ottoman campaign in Eastern Turkey, the Russians seize Erzurum.

The surrender of British forces to the Ottoman armies at Kut on April 29, 1915 was considered the worst disaster in British military history since the surrender to American forces at Yorktown in October, 1781.

1915 – December 26 – The Treaty of Darin, or the Darin Pact, was signed between the United Kingdom and Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (Ibn Saud). It was signed on the island of Darin (also known as Tarout Island) in the Persian Gulf, on 26 December 1915 by Abdul-Aziz and Sir Percy Cox on behalf of the British Government.The Treaty was the first to give international recognition to the fledgling Saudi state. Also,  for the first time in Nejdi history the concept of negotiated borders had been introduced. Additionally, the British aim was to secure its Gulf protectorates, but the treaty had the unintended consequence of legitimizing Saudi control in the adjacent areas. The Treaty was superseded by the Treaty of Jeddah (1927).

1915 – 1916  – the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence takes place over several months. McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt later wrote his expectations of a successful arrangement with Sherif Hussein of Mecca. Hussein could be “a hereditary spiritual Pope (to the Muslims) with no temporal power” dependent on the British for income and protection and a proxy to spread British influence in the Middle East.

Although there are several letters in this exchange,  it is Henry McMahon’s October 17, 1915 letter to Sherif that is critical. In it McMahon sets the terms on which Britain would support an Arab Revolt against the Ottoman government. The on June 5, 1916 Sherif Hussein announced his war against the Ottomans.

1915 – 1918  – a terrible locust plague destroys food crops. This combined with the requisition of remaining food for the Ottoman armies leads to starvation – as many as 500,000 in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine region die of starvation until the end of the war.

1915 – Ottoman leader Cemal Pasha organizes a wave of repression against Arab nationalists. 50,000 Arabs are exiled into Turkey; The first wave of hangings of Arab nationalists takes place in Beirut on August 21, 1915.

1916Sykes – Picot Agreement sets the framework for the division and colonization of the rest of the Middle East. It is dependent on Britain and France winning World War One.

1916 – The Arab Bureau is founded in Cairo and recruits Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence; the besieged British Army surrenders at Kut; Lawrence is sent to bribe Turks: Chaim Weizmann meets Mark Sykes; The Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule is proclaimed; Lloyd George replaces Asquith as British Prime Minister.

1916 – February – Russian forces win one of their most spectacular victories against the Ottomans, capturing the supposedly impregnable fortress of Erzerum in Eastern Turkey

1916 -1924 – There at least 26 Bedouin rebellions against Ibn Saud in the Nejd, future leader of Saudi Arabia, all put down by the Ikhwan, that included mass killings.

1917 – Jordan, Iraq and Palestine become British Protectorates: Balfour Declaration

1917 – March 11.  General Frederick Stanley Maude leads a contingent of the British Army to capture Baghdad, extending British rule into the heartland of what would become Iraq. There he issues what became known as The Proclamation of Baghdad, claiming that the British armies ” do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” This was a bit of an overstatement. Maude came down with cholera and died in Iraq on November 17 of that year.

The same year, Percy Cox is named Civil Commissioner of Mesopotamia. the United Stats declares war on Germany but not on the Ottoman Empire.

1917 – The Balfour Declaration – Great Britain “look upon with pleasure” the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. By publicly supporting Zionist aspirations to make Palestine a Jewish state, they could secure the exposed eastern flank of the Suez Canal (mostly from France) while dodging accusations that they were land grabbing. “What seemed at the time to be an ingenious way to outmaneuver France has had devastating repercussions ever since.” (Barr, p.X)

1917 – Lebanon and Syria become French Protectorates.

1917  – Three kingdoms vied for mastery of central Arabia. The Hejaz, ruled by Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca. In Hail, a warlord named Ibn Rashid remained loyal to the Turks and opposed both Hussein and the Rashidis’ hereditary enemy, the Emir Ibn Saud, ruler of the Nejd.

1917  – November. The British agree to provide Ibn Saud with 5000 British pounds monthly as part of a limited alliance. The sum was relatively modest, and it offended Ibn Saud’s pride to learn that his rival Sharif Hussein was receiving forty times that figure (200,000 British pounds gold monthly, as well as tons of weaponry.

Shortly there after Colonel Lloyd Hamilton and Harry St.  John Bridger Philby come to an agreement to provide Ibn Saud with four field guns, 10,000 rifles with ammunition, 20,000 British pounds and a 50,000 British pound monthly stipend to pay ten thousand Ikhwan fighters for a three-month campaign against Ibn Rashid. The Wahhabi army was ready to march against Hail, Ibn Rashid’s stronghold in April, 1918.

1917 – December. With the intention of extending British influence beyond what would soon become called Iraq to the Caspian Sea region and the rich oil fields of the Caspian Sea off of Baku, British Major-General Lionel Dunsterville led a force which would advance eastward to the port of Enzeli (today Anzeli in Iran) and on to Baku. The goal was ostensibly to  create a cordon to prevent German and Ottoman agents from reaching central Asia, Afghanistan and India.

Dunsterforce fought in the Battle of Baku from 26 August – 14 September 1918. The battle was fought as a conclusive part of the Caucasus Campaign, but as a beginning of the Armenian-Azerbaijani War

1917-1919 The Great Famine and Genocide in Iran. At least 8–10 million Iranians out of a population of 18–20 million died of starvation and disease during the famine of 1917–1919. The Iranian holocaust was the biggest calamity of World War I and one of the worst genocides of the 20th century, yet it remained concealed for nearly a century.

Faisal Enters Damascus - Oct 3 1918

Faisal Enters Damascus – October 3, 1918

1918  – October 1. The fall of Damascus to British forces – collapse of Ottoman resistance in Mesopotamia. The Capture of Damascus occurred on 1 October 1918 after the capture of Haifa and the victory at the Battle of Samakhwhich opened the way for the pursuit north from the Sea of Galilee and the Third Transjordan attack which opened the way to Deraa and the inland pursuit, after the decisive Egyptian Expeditionary Force victory at the Battle of Megiddo during theSinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. Damascus was captured when Desert Mounted Corps and Prince Feisal‘s Sherifial Hejaz Army encircled the city, after a cavalry pursuit northwards along the two main roads to Damascus. During the pursuit to Damascus, many rearguards established by remnants of the Fourth, Seventh and Eighth Armies, were attacked and captured. Prince Feisal’s Sherifial Army, Desert Mounted CorpsAustralian Mounted Division the 4th and the 5th Cavalry Divisions. The important tactical success of capturing Damascus resulted in political manoeuvring by representatives from France, Britain and Prince Feisal’s force.

1918  – October 30. A week before the Germans surrender in France, the Ottoman Empire representatives sign the armistice at Mudros (also spelled Moudros), on the Greek island of Lesmos. It marks the complete defeat of the Ottoman Empire to the Allies in World War One.

Under the terms of the armistice, the Ottomans surrendered their remaining garrisons in Hejaz, Yemen,Syria, Mesopotamia, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica; the Allies were to occupy the Straits of the Dardanellesand the Bosporus, Batum (now in southwest Georgia), and the Taurus tunnel system; and the Allies won the right to occupy “in case of disorder” the six Armenian provinces in Anatolia and to seize “any strategic points” in case of a threat to Allied security. The Ottoman army was demobilized, and Turkish ports, railways, and other strategic points were made available for use by the Allies.

The armistice was followed by the occupation of Constantinople (Istanbul) and the subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) which was signed in the aftermath of WWI was never ratified by the Ottoman Parliament in Istanbul (the Ottoman Parliament was disbanded by the Allies on 11 April 1920 due to the overwhelming opposition of the Turkish MPs to the provisions discussed in Sèvres).

It was later superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923) following the Turkish victory at the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1922) which was conducted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara (established on 23 April 1920 by Mustafa Kemal Pasha and his followers, including his colleagues in the disbanded Ottoman military, and numerous former MPs of the closed Ottoman Parliament in Istanbul.

1918 – November 7. The Anglo-French Declaration. The declaration attempted to explain the reason why the two powers had decided to take part in the battle for Ottoman territories. France and Great Britain contended that their intentions were “the complete and final liberation of the people” who had been oppressed by the Ottoman Empire, and the establishment of democratic governments in Ottoman Syria, Ottoman Iraq (Mesopotamia), and other territories still to be assisted in obtaining their “liberation”.

Classic example of double talk.

Bowing to Woodrow Wilson’s insistence that the former Ottoman colonies enjoy the rights of self-determination while at the same time noting that it would be Britain and France that would “assist” the Arabs in achieving their national dignity, ie – one of the earliest and clearest statements of European neo-colonialism in the Middle East.

As one British diplomat, Arthur Hirtzel, nicely put it “we must at least consider the possibility of a peace which will not give us the absolute control of Mesopotamia that would should like to have…, but that somehow or other we must retain predominating influence in Mesopotamia.

1919  – The Paris Peace Conference takes place. It is attended by Mark Sykes, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, A. T. Wilson, Emir Faisal and Nuri al-Said

1919  – January 3 – The Faisal- Weizmann Agreement is signed by Zionist representative Chaim Weizmann and Arab leader Emir Faisal. In it, the two agreed to set a definite boundary between the Hijaz and Palestine once the Versailles Peace Conference was over. As James Barr notes (A Line in the Sand: 2012, p. 62) “Today this document is sometimes cited as aa freely given Arab acknowledgement of the legitimate existence of the state of israel, but Feisal depended on a British subsidy of L150,000 a month and that was why he signed. he also made his support conditional on the Arabs achieving their independence.”

1919 – May – The Syrian National Congress opens.The mission of the Congress was to consider the future of “Syria”, by which was meant Greater Syria: present-day Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. The Congress also intended to present Arab views to the American King-Crane Commission of inquiry. The Congress was considered the first national parliament in the modern history of Syria.

The Congress was attended by representatives from all parts of Greater Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine, and was headed by Hashim al-Atassi. Some participants showed support for King Faisal‘s demands, while others were beginning to question his willingness to make concessions to pro-Zionist groups. In its final report it pleaded that “there be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine, nor of the littoral western zone, which includes Lebanon, from the Syrian country.”

In response, the King-Crane Commission recommended that “the unity of Syria be preserved.” Expressing the will of the people, and in an attempt to counter a likely French attempt to colonize the region, on March 8, 1920, the Congress declared the independence of the Arab Kingdom of Syria (which included modern-day Syria, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine). It lasted all of four months and nine days, destroyed and dissolved by a French military invasion.

1919  – June 10. The Crane Commission, comprised of two Americans, Henry King and Charles Crane arrive in Palestine. The Commission was opposed by both the British and the French who feared the Commission would oppose their respective colonial ambitions in the Middle East. Both France and Britain did everything in their power to undermine the Commission’s work. In their report, issued on August 28 of that year, the Commission supported the British claims against that of France and called for American management for both Syria and Palestine, effectively icing out the French, who, needless to say when ballistic over the report’s recommendations. As Barr notes (see January 3, 1919 comment, p. 77) “And, in notable contrast to later American support for Zionism, they (the commissioners) argued that the “extreme Zionist program” in Palestine would require “serious modification” to prevent war between the Arabs and the Jews.”

1919  – November 21. General Henri Gouraud, head of the French military mission arrives in Beirut, determined to take for France that part of the former Ottoman Empire “promised” to Paris by the Sykes-Picot Agreement. On July 17, France troops based in Beirut invaded Syria, ending the independence of the country.

1919 – Britain signs a self-serving treaty with Persia, which is later rejected by Reza Khan. Ant-British riots occur in Egypt. The Amritsar massacre takes place in India.

1919 – 1922 – The Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1923, known as the Western Front (Turkish: Batı Cephesi) of the Turkish War of Independence in Turkey and the Asia Minor Campaign (Greek: Μικρασιατική Εκστρατεία) or the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Greek: Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή) in Greece, was fought betweenGreece and the Turkish National Movement during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after World War I between May 1919 and October 1922.

The Greek campaign was launched primarily as the western Allies, particularly British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. The armed conflict started with the Greek occupation of Smyrna on 15 May 1919 and Greek forces occupied several other cities in Anatolia during the war, including Manisa, Balikesir, Aydin, Kutahya, Bursa and Eskisehir but their advance was checked at the Battle of Sakarya in 1921. The Greek front collapsed with the Turkish counter-attack on August 1922 and the war effectively ended with the re-capture of Smyrnaby the Turkish forces.

As a result, Greek government accepted the demands of the Turkish national movement and returned to its pre-war borders, thus leaving East Thrace and Western Anatolia to Turkey. Turkish victory also brought an end to the Occupation of Constantinople by the British forces. Greek and Turkish governments agreed to engage in a population exchange.

1920 – February. Demonstrations break out in Jerusalem in favor of the unification of Syria and Palestine (against the conclusions of the Sykes-Picot Agreement) and against Zionist settlement which had begun to intensify. A few months later, between April 4-7, riots broke out there against the Muslim festival of Nebi Musa protesting Zionist settlement. Five Jews and four Arabs were killed, more than 250 wounded, mostly Jews.

1920  – April – San Remo Conference – This agreement between post-World War I allied powers (Britain, France, Italy, Japan) was adopted on April 25, 1920 during the San Remo Conference. The Mandate for Palestine was based on this resolution; it incorporated the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the Covenant of the League of Nation’s Article 22. Britain was charged with establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Territorial boundaries were not decided until four years after.

Several issues were addressed: a peace treaty with Turkey, League of Nation mandates in the Middle East, Germany’s obligations under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919, and the Allies’ position on Soviet Russia. Great Britain and France agreed to recognize the provisional independence of Syria and Mesopotamia, while claiming mandates for their administration. Palestine was composed of the Ottoman administrative districts of southern Syria. Under international law, premature recognition of its independence would be a gross affront to the government of the newly declared parent state. It could have been construed as a belligerent act of intervention without any League of Nations sanction.[8]

For France, the San Remo decision meant that most of its claims in Syria were internationally recognized and relations with Faisal were now subject to French military and economic considerations. The ability of Great Britain to limit French action was also significantly diminished. France issued an ultimatum and intervened militarily at the Battle of Maysalun in June 1920, deposing the Arab government and removing King Faisal from Damascus in August 1920. 

As the news of San Remo reached Iraq, Churchill’s “ungrateful volcano” (ie – Iraq) exploded. Having been promised independence “we come as liberators, not as conquerors” the British had said in November 1917, the Iraqi people expected nothing less. Next month, in May, Iraq erupted. Demonstrations erupted in Baghdad, clerics in both Sunni and Shi’ite communities preached jihad. The revolt spread over the summer. One British officer, Colonel Gerald Leachman advocated “wholesale slaughter” of insurgents. He was ambushed and killed near Fallujah

Perhaps as important as all the above, on the sidelines of the San Remo Agreement, Britain offers France what had been Germany’s share of what was called before the war the Turkish Petroleum Company, in exchange for a French promise to permit Britain to lay pipeline from Mosul, Iraq through Northern Syria (near Palmyra) to the Mediterranean. After more legal hassles, involving the Americans who wanted to be cut into the deal, in 1929, the company was renamed the Iraqi Petroleum Company. It, in turn, between 1925 and 1961, had a virtual monopoly on all oil exploration and production in Iraq.

1920 – July 24 – The Battle of Maysalun – military confrontation between the newly organized forces of the Arab Kingdom of Syria and the French Army of the Levant. Given French military power, the Syrian forces were quickly and soundly defeated on Maysalun Pass, gateway to Damascus. It wasn’t much of a battle, Syrian nationalist opposition was crushed, the French marched victoriously into Damascus, scuttled the Arab Kingdom of Syria and established their colonial presence in Syria.

1920 – The Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) was one of a series of treaties[1] that the nations that constituted the Central Powers were made to sign subsequent to their defeat that marked the end of World War I. Its ratification on 10 August 1920 marked the beginning of the partition of, and the ultimate annihilation of, the Ottoman Empire. The harsh terms it stipulated, motivated mainly by the Gallipoli Campaign defeat of the Allied powers at the hands of the Turks, included the renunciation of all non-Turkish land that was part of the Ottoman Empire, as well as parts of Turkish land, to the Allied powers.[2]

The Treaty of Sèvres ceded parts of Ottoman territory to Greece and a nascent Armenia, as well as dividing most of the remaining Ottoman lands into British, French, and Italian zones of influence or mandates. Notably,Eastern Mediterranean land was to be divided, yielding, amongst others, the British Mandate of Palestine and the French Mandate of Syria.[3] Italy and Greece were also to receive concessions.The terms of the treaty brewed hostility and nationalistic feeling amongst Turks. The signatories of the treaty, themselves representatives of the Ottoman Empire, were stripped of their citizenship by the Grand National Assembly led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,[4] and the treaty ultimately led to the Turkish War of Independence, when a new treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne was accepted by Atatürk and Turkish nationalists, and which effectively brought into being the modern day republic of Turkey. A Kurdish Autonomous Territory was also agreed upon at the Treaty of Sevres that included a fair portion of Eastern Turkey,

1920 – League of Nations establishes mandates for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon

1920 – 1922 – In response to the implementation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement,  in the summer of 1920 the people of Bagdad rose in revolt against the British. Known also as the 1920 Iraqi Revolt or as the Iraqis referred to it as the Great Iraqi Revolution. The revolt would go on for two years, uniting Sunnis and Shi’ites and later the Kurds of the north in a common effort to overthrow colonial rule. Before the revolt was put down, some 10,000 Arabs and 2,300 British soldiers (mostly Indian conscripts)  were dead. Of those killed some 9,000 met their deaths from RAF bombings. Churchill, then in charge of the colonies ordered the Royal Air Force to use mustard gas against “the recalcitrant natives.” The revolt cost Britain, at the time trying to save money on its colonial ventures, some 50 million pounds (more than $1 billion in today’s – 2017 – money). The revolt ended the carrier of A.T. Wilson, associated with the attempt to link Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria) to the administration in India. It was a political victory for T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell of London’s Arab Bureau.

Mosul-Haifa-Tripoli Oil Pipeline

Kirkuk-Haifa-Tripoli Oil Pipeline, agreed upon in 1931

1920 – October. The British promised Iraqis elections but they were not held. Instead the British Administration (Gertrude Bell in particular) put together a provisional government with a council made up of ministers, nearly all of them chosen, following Ottoman practice, from the minority Sunnis, by the British authorities, who then attached themselves to each ministry as advisers. The Shias protested but Bell argued that the Shia’s were “not really Iraqis” claiming that Shia “leading people, the leading divines and their families are all Persian subjects.” A pattern is set: put a minority community in power, divide and conquer and as such that community (religious, ethnic, otherwise) principally because they don’t have a base in the broader community will forced to rely on British (or other) colonial entity to stay in power.

1921 – Peace between Kuwait and the Wahhabis is restored with British intervention.

1921 –February 21. With British support and the usual connivance, Reza Khan, leader of the Tabriz Battalion, overthrows the the Qajar Dynasty in Persia, soon to be renamed Iran. Reza Khan initiates what is referred to as the Pavlavi Dynasty. Five days later, the new government enters into a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union.

1921  – March 12 – 30. The Cairo Conference is held in Cairo and Jerusalem. It included virtually all of the main Middle East and India players of the British Empire at the time, under the leadership of Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, who referred to the meetings, appropriately enough as the “gathering of 40 thieves.” The problem that needed to be resolved – the diametrically opposite promises the British had made to 1. the Arabs, 2. the French 3. the Zionist movement over the future of the Middle East. There were also major political differences between how London and its Arab Bureau on the one hand and the reps of British India on the other. British India wanted the Middle East completely and openly colonized, to be run, logically enough for them, out of Delhi. London and the Arab Office was looking for a more flexible relationship where the region would have nominal indigenous leadership run by British advisers behind the scenes. Some of the main parameters of British neo-colonial rule were mapped out at the meeting.

1921  – August. Faisal I is crowned in Iraq after a British run plebiscite in which the main opposition candidate was arrested by the British and shipped to Ceylon. Faisal could legitimately claim descent from the prophet, having been the leader of the Arab Revolt, and being the son of theGrand Sherif of Mecca. On the other hand, he had never previously stepped foot in Iraq, his Arabic accents was strange to Iraqi ears and his knowledge of Iraq’s complex tribal politics was imperfect. The plebiscite had one question: Do you want Faisal as king. The vote came in that 96% of Iraqis (who voted) – a very suspicious percentage of course – wanted Faisal. But the question was which Iraqis had voted? as both the Kurds and Shi’ites, which together made up the overwhelming marjority of the Iraqi population were barred from the voting. 

With this “election” Baghhad becomes a capitol city, a designation it had not held since the end of the Abbasid dynasty in 1258 AD.

1922 – League of Nations establishes mandate for Palestine, including the Emirate of Trans Jordan

1922 – Great Britain recognizes the Independence (or perhaps partial independence is more accurate) of Egypt, declaring the Egypt was no longer a protectorate, but a sovereign state. The next year a constitution is approved. All the change necessary to maintain the status quo. Still it was something less than genuine independence as the 1922 agreement included clauses that protected British interests including the right for Britain to retain military bases and defend Egypt’s territorial integrity.

1922  – By September of this year, all foreign powers had been expelled from Turkey.

1922 – Fearing the eventual decline in its own sources of oil, the United States pressures Great Britain (Churchill) to give it entry into Middle East oil supplies. Churchill has no choice other than to comply. The US is offered a minor state in the Turkish Petroleum Company (which was not at all Turkish).

1922 – December 2. The Uqair Protocol of 1922 is drawn up, at Uqair, in eastern Saudi Arabia. According to the protocol, Sir Percy Cox, British High Commissioner in Iraq, persuaded Saudi Arabia’s future monarch, Ibn Saud, to recognize Iraq, and as advised as usual by Gertrude Bell, determined Iraq’s borders with Kuwait and what later would become Saudi Arabia.

The boundaries included a Saudi–Iraqi neutral zone and a Saudi–Kuwaiti neutral zone.Kuwait was not permitted any role in outcome of the Uqair agreement when the Saudis and British decided Kuwait’s modern boundaries. Kuwait lost more than two thirds of its territory as a result of the agreement[3]and anti-British sentiment was growing in Kuwait due to the loss of territory. These controversial borders were disputed by Saddam Hussein in the 1990-91 Gulf War

1923 – The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 24 July 1923. It officially settled the conflict that had originally existed between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied British Empire, French Republic, Kingdom of Italy, Empire of Japan, Kingdom of Greece, and the Kingdom of Romania since the onset of World War I.[1] The original text of the treaty is in French.[1] It was the result of a second attempt at peace after the failed Treaty of Sèvres, which was signed by all previous parties but later rejected by the Turkish national movement who fought against the previous terms and significant loss of territory. The Treaty of Lausanne ended the conflict and defined the borders of the modern Turkish Republic. In the treaty, Turkey gave up all claims to the remainder of the Ottoman Empire and in return the Allies recognized Turkish sovereignty within its new borders

1923  – September 23. The tripartite British, French and Italian occupation of Istanbul comes to an end. It began two weeks after the Ottoman surrender at Mudros on October 30, 1918 and had continued for five years. When the allied troops entered Constantinople (as it was then named), it was the first time that power had changed hands since the Ottomans first took over the city in 1453.

1923  – Republic of Turkey is proclaimed

1925 – Hejaz (Medina and Mecca) conquered by Saud clan

1925  – July. Considered the onset of what is referred to as “The Great Syrian Revolt” or “The Great Druze Revolt.” The French, who had colonized Syria by force couldn’t believe that the Syrian people were rebelling on their own, were convinced that the British were behind it, in order to drive them (The French) from Syria.

1926 – Oil rich Mosul, which had been “offered” to France as a part of the Sykes Picot Treaty becomes formally a part of British dominated Iraq.  In the Treaty of Lausanne, the dispute over Mosul was left for future resolution by the League of Nations. Iraq’s possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations brokered agreement between Turkey and Great Britain in 1926. Former Ottoman Mosul Vilayet eventually became Nineveh Province of Iraq, but Mosul remained the provincial capital.

1926 – June 7-14. The Mosul Treaty is signed. The International Boundary Commission confirmed the border of Turkey with Iraq. Iraq retained Mosul and its oil. The Iraq Petroleum Company owned by British, French, American and Anglo-Dutch interests held the concession. As with so many essentially colonial treaties in the Middle East and Africa, the boundaries set did not correspond to any political or geographical realities, nor did they reflect the wishes of the inhabitants who were not consulted.

1926 – May. In Morocco, rebel leaders Abd’el Karim is forced to surrender to French and Spanish forces. No longer forced to fight colonial wars on two fronts (Morocco, Syria), France redeploys its forces from Morocco to Syria boosting troop presence from 15,000 to 95,000, maybe the original “surge”? – thus permitting France to crush the Syrian rebellion a year later.

1926  – July 11. Three days prior to her 58th birthday, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, swallowed a lethal dose of pills and died in her sleep. She had been nothing less than one of the key architects of British neo-colonial rule in Iraq from its inception to execution stage. But after having shepherded the rise of Faisal I to power, her services no longer needed, she was marginalized. Having lost all interest in living in England, and now finding herself cast aside by the British authorities in Baghdad, and rejected by a would-be lover, she ended it all. Few figures made a deeper impression on post WW One British Middle East policies than Gertrude Bell, a liberal imperialist, very effective one.

Gertrude Bell’s history would be expunged by the Baathists from Iraq’s history in 1973 although her activities have now been returned to the educational syllabus.

1927  – January. The rising power in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibn Saud, expels the Sherif Hussein of Mecca from the Hijaz. At the time the British were worried that Ibn Saud would annex the territory east of the Jordan River (modern Jordan) to the Saudi empire.

1927  – Oct. 14. Oil first gushers out at Baba Gurgur, near Kirkuk Iraq, killing two oil workers in the process and spilling 90,000 gallons in 24 hours. It was considered the largest oil field in the world until the discovery of the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia in 1948. Baba Gurgur is 16 kilometres north-west of Arrapha and is famous for its Eternal Fire (Arabic: النار الازلية‎) at the middle of its oil fields.

1928 – July – A deal is hammered out between Anglo-Persian (predominantly British), Royal Dutch Shell (British-Dutch), the French state-owned Compagnie Francaise des Petroles and the Near East Development Corporation (which represented various U.S. oil interests) – each of which would own 23.75% shares in the company. “Mr. Five Percent”, Calouste Gulbenkian, who had setp up the company, retained control of the remainder.

1929 – August. Riots in Jerusalem set off an Arab massacre of Jews in Hebron and revenge attacks across the Palestinian mandate that left 271 dead and some 571 wounded. Known as “The 1929 Riots” in Zionist literature, it is referred to as “The Uprising” (al Buraq) by Palestinian-Arab sources.  Thinking Palestine a growing security risk, British hopes to extend an oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa were cooled. Instead a more northerly route through French-dominated Syria was temporarily more seriously considered.

1930The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty is signed. The 1930 treaty was based upon an earlier Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1922 but took into account Iraq’s increased importance to British interests given new oil finds made in 1927. Nuri al-Said, Iraq’s Prime Minister, negotiated the treaty with the British providing for “a close alliance” which meant that the British would be consulted on matters of foreign policy and if war threatened, they would take part in a common defense. Through the agreement, Britain secured not only air bases, but also the exclusive right to supply weapons and train the Iraqi army, plus the exemption of British military personnel from Iraqi taxes and laws. Two years later, in 1932, Iraq became the first Arab member of the League of Nations and was formally sovereign but as Meyer and Blair Brysac note “But, upheld by British bayonets, Iraq was at best a pseudo democracy.”

1931 – February. Charles R. Crane, the son of an Illinois plumbing fortune magnate, arrived in Jiddah, Saudi Arabi and meets with Ibn Saud there. Crane offered to underwrite a resource survey of the kingdom to be conducted by Karl Twitchell, a mining engineer then employed by Crane on a water development project in Yemen. In April, Twitchell completed a 1500 mile trip across the peninsula to search the kingdom’s sands for water, gold and oil.

1931  – March – After nearly a decade of wrangling, France, Britain, the United States in concert with colonized elements in Syria, Mandate Palestine and Iraq agree to a bifurcated pipeline from Iraq’s oil fields, a part of which would run through British controlled Jordan and Palestine to Haifa, the other part of which would run through French controlled Syria to the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli. The issue was settled by a compromise which provided for the construction of two pipelines, each with a throughput capacity of 2,000,000 tons a year. The length of the Northern line would be 532 miles (856 km), that of the Southern line (Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline) 620 miles (1,000 km). In 1934, the pipelines were completed from Kirkuk to Al Hadithah, and from there, to both Tripoli and Haifa; the Kirkuk field was brought online the same year. Only in 1938, nine years after the discovery, did IPC begin to export oil in significant quantities

1932 – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia unified; Standard Oil of California (Socal) discovers oil in Bahrain.

1932 – Kingdom of Iraq granted full (or perhaps partial is more accurate) independence from Great Britain

1932  The Convention Between Italy and Turkey is signed on January 4, 1932. According to this agreement certain territorial/sovereignty disputes between the two countries concerning islands off the coast of southwest Turkey are addressed and resolved.

1933 – King Faisal of Iraq dies. Shortly thereafter, Iraqi government troops in the region of Mosul are responsible for what is called the Simele Massacre. The Simele massacre was a massacre committed by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Iraq led by Bakr Sidqi during a campaign systematically targeting the Assyrians of northern Iraq in August 1933. The term is used to describe not only the massacre in Simele, but also the killing spree that took place among 63 Assyrian villages in the Dohuk and Mosul districts that led to the deaths of between 5,000[1] and 6,000[2][3]Assyrians.

The Assyrians did not share an amicable relation with their neighbours. Their historical feud with the Kurds, which culminated in 1915, was centuries old. Bitterness between the Assyrians and the Arabs was reported by British historians as far back as 1920. This was made worse by the British officers of the Levies who encouraged the Assyrians to think that they were first-class troops, which had the effect of increasing the natural pride of the Assyrians. This, coupled with the fact that the British and Assyrian Levies succeeded in suppressing Kurdish revolts when the Iraqi Army failed created an inferiority complex among some Iraqi corps towards the British and the Assyrians.

The conclusion of the British mandate of Iraq caused considerable unease among the Assyrians who felt betrayed by the British. For them, any treaty with the Iraqis had to take into consideration their desire for an autonomous position similar to the Ottoman Millet system. The Iraqis, on the other hand felt that the Assyrian demands were, alongside the Kurdish disturbances in the north, a conspiracy by the British to divide Iraq by agitating its minorities.

1933 – May 29. As Meyer and Blair Brysac poetically put it, “the mating of a blind eagle and a deaf camel, yielding a grotesque progency.” They were referring to the agreement between the Saudi government and the Standard Oil Company of California that granted the latter exclusive rights for six decades to extract oil from eastern Saudi Arabia (including offshore waters and island) for 35,000 British pounds, payable in gold and an additional 20,000 British pounds to follow in eighteen months. Such are the core elements in what the State Department subsequently calls “the greatest commercial prize in the history of the planet.” In the agreement, helped along by intervention of one Harry St. John Bridger Philby, a former British intelligence agent recently converted to Islam,  the Saudi Arabian government granted a concession to SoCal in preference to a rival bid from the Iraq Petroleum Co..

On 31 January 1944, the company name was changed from California-Arabian Standard Oil Co. to Arabian American Oil Co. (or Aramco).

1936-9  – In April, Palestinians revolt against increased Zionist settlement and British support for it. The revolt will last three years.  According to official British figures covering the whole revolt, the army and police killed more than 2,000 Arabs in combat, 108 were hanged, and 961 died because of what they described as “gang and terrorist activities”.In an analysis of the British statistics, Walid Khalidi estimates 19,792 casualties for the Arabs, with 5,032 dead: 3,832 killed by the British and 1,200 dead because of “terrorism”, and 14,760 wounded. Over ten percent of the adult male Palestinian Arab population between 20 and 60 was killed, wounded, imprisoned or exiled. Estimates of the number of Palestinian Jews killed range from 91 to several hundred.

1938 – October 16. After several failed efforts, or others yielding only modest results, the Damman-7 well “blew” gushing in excess of 1,500 barrels a day, compared to the daily average U.S. output of around a hundred barrels. Ibn Saud received is first royalty check of $1.5 million soon thereafter. On May 1, 1939, the King, along with a retinue of more than two thousand people packed into five hundred automobiles journeyed out to the eastern oil fields and turned the spigot that began the flow of oil into the first tankers. On the return trip, the king along with some of his brothers and older sons, sand Bedouin raiding songs from their youth.

1938  – Oil is discovered in Kuwait; major oil strike in Saudi Arabia.

1943 – Syria and Lebanon granted full (or perhaps partial is more accurate) independence from France

1944 – The U.S. State Department found that Saudi Arabia’s security was of vital concern to the United States, qualifying the kingdom for direct and indirect wartime aid, which by 1945 totaled nearly $100 million. In a 1945 memorandum prepared for then Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson. It included the following: “IF the Saudi Arabian economy should break down and political disintegration ensue, there is a danger that either Great Britain or Soviet Russia would attempt to move into Saudi Arabia to preserve order and thus prevent the other from doing so.” Thus, the logic went, it was essential to keep Saud oil resources in American hands, and to develop a military relationship that ideally should provide for airbases and flight privileges for U.S. warplanes.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: