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What about the treaties of Sevres 1920 and Lausanne 1923 and the League of Nations mandates?

Reader comment on item: The "Shocking Document" that Shaped the Middle East Turns 100

Submitted by Daniel Bamford (United Kingdom), May 9, 2016 at 10:52


Of course the Sykes-Picot agreement was secret!

It was a wartime agreement about future occupation zones of enemy territory: If it had been publically announced, then this would have helped the Ottomans and the Central Powers to counter likely Entente troop movements.

It only became a template for more long-term plans with the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which also made provision for a large independent Armenia (as marked on the map in yellow) and a plebiscite for Kurdish self-rule in the eastern half of Zone A.

In the light of subsequent events, do they sound like bad ideas?

Of course, the Treaty of Sevres was never implemented because of the Turkish nationalist victories of Kemal Mustafa 'Attaturk', whose new Turkish Republic was granted large concessions under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. So there was no Armenian or Kurdish independence after that.

The Hussain-McMahon correspondence related to Zone A and Zone B on the map, but never received French agreement - hence the French expulsion of the Hashemites from Damascus.

The Balfour declaration did not say anything about a sovereign independent state, so it was compatible with the orange zone of Holy Land on the map under direct British administration.

Remember, that in the 1890s the Zionist Council had tried to negotiate an autonomous province within the Ottoman Empire, while the Israelis later tried to join the British Commonwealth.

As for Lebanon, it was only thanks to the French that an independent Lebanon was established at all. The envy and resentment of subsequent Syrian government with their imperialistic plans for a 'Greater Syria' played a major part in stirring up the Lebanese civil war.

So, would it really have been better for Lebanese Christians to remain within a larger Syrian state? I think the Syrian refugees now fleeing to Lebanon would think otherwise.

As for Syria and Iraq, the French and British did not even bother formalising the border until the 1930s, when they left it to a League of Nations committee. So the line between Zone A and Zone B was never such a big deal.

Syria and Iraq have been rival power-bases since the times of the Babylonians and the Assyrians, while the more recent conflicts have more to do with interference by Iran, Turkey, the Gulf Arabs and the good old USA than with a one hundred year old agreement between the British and the French.

The only worthwhile remark in this whole article fails to clarify the matter:

'Winston Churchill one fine afternoon conjured up the country now known as Jordan'.

Well yes, that was a British consolation prize for their Hashemite friends after the French expelled them from Damascus.

The creation of the Emirate of Trans-Jordan was in direct breach of Britain's League of Nations Palestine Mandate of which the territory in question was a part.

So, even before the seizure of the territory on the west bank of the River Jordan in 1948, the Emirate of Jordan was a Palestinian Arab state, as the 1936 Peel Commission had recognised when it recommended that Arab self rule on the west bank of the Jordan should be within confederation with the emirate on the east bank of the Jordan.

I'm of the opinion that the 1936 Jordan option remains the only geographically, economically and politically viable option for Palestinian Arab self-rule.

So, how about the 'Washington Times' paying me for offering more fresh and informative insights ... ?


I got most of my information from reading Elie Kedouire (who was hardly an admirer of British policy in Iraq!) and Efraim Karsh, as well as standard general textbooks by M. E. Yapp and Peter Mansfield.


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