The West tampered with the Middle East


WHILE tracing the history of Western colonialism and world subjugation, we find, in the Middle East, historic and complex events that can be traced back to the Western powers’ intricate power games and divisions of land in the aftermath of the First World War.
Prior to its decline, up to the beginning of the 19th Century, the Ottoman Empire controlled all the Middle Eastern territories from Iraq to Turkey, the whole of south-eastern Europe and much of North Africa.
In the following years, however, the empire underwent an overwhelming crisis, until it was reduced to the Asian regions, including Thrace (the current European Turkey).
On the eve of the First World War (1914-1918), the European powers; Britain, France and Germany, were ready to divide the remains of the troubled empire.
The war, in which the Ottomans participated alongside Austria and Germany, accelerated its decline.
France and England immediately began engaging in secret discussions, both among themselves and with compliant sections of the Ottoman populations, with the aim of reaching an ‘entente cordiale’, and obtaining military support from within the empire.
In order to bring on board the different peoples and the leaders of the tribes involved, the Entente Powers resorted to vague promises that frequently overlapped; oblivious of their magnitude and political consequences.
Between 1915-1916, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, at the time, entered into a lengthy correspondence with the Governor (Sharif) of Mecca encouraging him to provoke a revolt among the Arab populations against the Ottomans.
In order to convince him, the British High Commissioner skillfully exploited demands of the Pan-Arabic Movement, to which the Sharif of Mecca belonged, that aimed to unify the entire Arab world, by promising in a vague and yet unambiguous way, the independence of all the territories inhabited by the Arabs.
On the other hand, in 1916, France and Britain secretly agreed to divide their own respective Middle East spheres of influence.
The French and British diplomats François Georges-Picot and Mark Sykes established what became ‘The Sykes-Picot Agreement’, whereby, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, France would control the areas south-east of Anatolia that included large parts of current Turkish Kurdistan and the Syrian-Lebanese coastal strip while the area of southern Mesopotamia, or what became Iraq, would go to the British.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement also provided for the emergence of an independent Arab state.
The two European countries had, in fact, decided to re-enter their respective spheres of political, economic and military influence.
The last clause of the agreement was, however, very vocal with what Britain had, only the year before, promised the Arabs as large areas inhabited by the latter would have been controlled, directly or indirectly, by the two Western powers; making the eventual Arab national state merely a puppet in the hands of the Anglo-French.
Further misunderstandings were created in the Middle East during the most challenging phase of the war, when in 1917, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration; an official document, which stated Britain’s willingness to encourage “… the birth of a ‘Jewish National Home’ in Palestine,” in response to the Zionist Movement’s demands for the establishment of a Jewish state.
The Zionist Movement had been pressing for this demand since the end of the 19th Century
The Balfour Declaration was, in fact, in violation of the Sykes-Picot’s Treaty which stipulated that an international administration be established in Palestine in common agreement with Russia and the Arab leaders, who, in turn, also believed that the terms of the agreements between the British High Commissioner in Egypt and the sharif of Mecca had been violated.
On October 30 1918, the Ottoman Empire signed the armistice with the Entente; ending the war, for the time, in the Near East
Two years later, under the Sevres Treaty, France and Britain formalised what previously had been established, mainly following the Sykes-Picot agreements; they were assigned a mandate on Syria and Lebanon while the UK took possession of Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration had been included in the peace treaty; and thus the establishment of the ‘Jewish national hearth’ endured.
Meanwhile, in Kurdistan, the Sevres Treaty guaranteed broad autonomy for minorities within the Ottoman Empire such as the Kurds, and endorsed their independence in the future.
However, in 1923, following the War of Independence, and the birth of the Republic of Turkey, from the ashes of what was the Ottoman Empire, Kurdistan was incorporated into the new state, thus provoking the now long-standing, on-going rift.
The Western powers’ insatiable hunger for domination, in one of the most strategic areas of the globe, together with their short-sighted policies, have directly resulted in the current disagreements and wars in this area.
The Zionist Movement, which was already in existence, grew dramatically and soon came into conflict with the local Arab populations, who, somehow, felt betrayed by the failure by the British to fulfill their promises of a united and independent Arab state.
Over the decades, the deep divisions that were initiated during the crucial years of the First World War have intensified.
Today, while refusing to accept the consequences of their actions, the Western countries are undeniably responsible for some of the activities relating to the Middle East, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Kurdish question, the current war in Syria and the current relentless waves of poor, desperate refugees who are clamouring for their pristine, unsoiled shores.
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field.
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