Libmonster ID: U.S.-1524
Author(s) of the publication: M. S. LAZAREV

London-Portlend: Frank Cass. 1999. XVI, 342 p.*

(c) 2002

In world history, there are events that are called fateful and that therefore arouse the constant interest of both contemporaries and subsequent generations. To them, be-

Fisher J. Curzon and British Imperialism in the Middle East. 1916-1919. London-Portland: Frank Cass, 1999. XVI, 342 p.

page 191

This is true of the First World War, which largely determined the development of mankind in the XX century, including the entire Middle East region, because it led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which formally or actually included all the countries of the Arab East. Instead of the Turkish flag, the English flag flew over Egypt, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and the Gulf Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. So the British protectorate over these countries, which practically existed before the war, was legally formed. On behalf of the League of Nations, British rule was established over Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan in the form of mandatory regimes, later replaced by enslaving treaties, and French rule was established over Syria and Lebanon. Most of Arabia and Yemen gained independence after the war.

Thus, the political geography of the Asian part of the Ottoman Empire underwent fundamental changes and acquired a mostly modern look (from the point of view of the configuration of borders, and not in essence). This was due to the interaction and mutual collision of various factors and interests-military, political, diplomatic, social, etc., the study of which is of considerable cognitive interest. In historical science, including Russian 1, this issue is covered quite fully.

However, as the book of the English historian J. Fisher shows, it is premature to close the topic. And it's not just that the author introduces a new body of facts based on a thorough study of the funds of the personal origin of the main figures in British foreign and colonial policy of the First World War era. Fischer's main contribution to the study of his chosen topic is something else. The author seeks to show the background of certain actions or intentions of British politicians, diplomats and military leaders directly involved in the preparation of the partition of Asian Turkey on the Middle East issue during the war years. Such a vertical methodological approach, in contrast to the traditional horizontal one, allows the author to make his research deep and evidence-based.

The book reveals the true intentions of the British ruling circles in the Middle East in the unfolding battle for the redistribution of the world between the Entente powers and the bloc of Central Powers (of which Turkey was a satellite). The plans for colonial expansion in Western Asia at the expense of the Ottoman Empire intended for destruction and division were purely aggressive and imperial in nature, and it is not by chance that the author uses the expression "British imperialism", which is rare in modern Western literature, in the title of the book.

The British launched preparations for the implementation of their aggressive goals in the region simultaneously on two fronts: political and diplomatic and military. Quick results on the latter required time and considerable effort, but on the former they showed up quite quickly. Already at the stage of preparing the Entente members for negotiations on the division of Turkey, which began immediately after its entry into the war, the desire of England to secure for itself (of course, at the expense of the interests of its allies - Russia and France) dominance in the Middle East arena was revealed.

Discussion in the British ruling elite of options for the upcoming partition of Asian Turkey began at the stage of inter-Allied secret negotiations on Constantinople and the Straits (March-April 1915). This agreement on the transfer of the Straits zone to Russia after the victory promised benefits to its allies, because it was conditioned on the satisfaction of their claims in other places. In particular, England received almost the entire neutral zone in Persia. Thus, the first step was taken to implement the aggressive plans of other Entente members in West Asia.

The next step is to prepare and conduct Anglo-French negotiations (with the participation of Russia) on the division of Asian Turkey, mainly its Arab possessions. At this stage, as Fischer shows, one can see the desire of the British to fully benefit themselves at the expense of Russia, and most of all at the expense of France. For example, one of the leaders of the British administration in Egypt, R. Storrs was a supporter of the landing of British troops at Alexandrette, advancing to Aleppo (Haleb) and reaching the Baghdad railway, i.e. capturing strategically important territory intended for France. He believed that "France would be a better neighbor for Britain than Russia", but "the permanent occupation of Alexandretta by the British would help in time to properly resolve the Syrian issue". Storrs 'adventurous proposal was rejected by the cautious Foreign Secretary E. Gray, but Storrs put forward the idea of creating a" Middle East kingdom " (viceroyalty) from Su-

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dan to Alexandretta, led by the Minister of War, Field Marshal Lord G. Kitchener; according to Storrs, France should have been content with West Africa, and Russia with Constantinople. Kitchener himself, supported by the head of the Admiralty, Lord J. Fisher, opposed the return of Alexandretta to France at the Military Council. Kitchener and Fischer proposed taking over all of Mesopotamia (Iraq) "to create an Arab kingdom" with the inclusion of Mecca, Medina, and Karbala: "We can win Babylon from Byzantium" if we "revive the old Mesopotamia", which should be expanded to the Mediterranean Sea (p.2-4).

Kitchener proposed moving the caliphate to Arabia and creating an Arab Empire under British control, so that the caliph "would not fall into Russian hands", which would have " terrible consequences for British rule in India." The views of Kitchener and his associates in Cairo were fully understood in the Ministry of Indian Affairs (India Office) and in the British Administration in Delhi. The Viceroy of India, Lord S. Harding, was " deeply concerned about Russia's steady advance to the Gulf." The Secretary of War of the India Office, General E. Barrow, believed that if Russia got Constantinople, England would have to support Turkey in Asia and move the caliphate to Konya to create a buffer between Russian and British interests in Mesopotamia. He proposed placing Basra under British control, Baghdad under Turkish control under British control, and limiting the French presence in Syria to British control of the railways running from Mesopotamia to Egypt via Damascus. In his opinion. Northern Mesopotamia and Alexandretta should be given to France to create friction between it and Russia. Harding, on the other hand, believed that a buffer should be created further north, between Alexandretta and the territory that goes to Russia and includes autonomous Armenia, Diyarbakir (Diyarbakir) and Bitlis, i.e. a significant part of Turkish Kurdistan (p.5-7).

So, the first round of diplomatic preparations for the partition of Turkey, when the issue of Russia's annexation of Istanbul and the Straits was put on the agenda, was a signal to the British ruling structures to put forward their own claims mainly to the Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire. Despite all the diversity of opinions of British politicians, a common line can be traced: the final partition should ensure the unconditional priority of the annexationist and colonial interests of England over those of its allies France and Russia. For the sake of this, the British were even ready to make some concessions to the Turks.

In the discussion that unfolded during the secret preparations for a new round of negotiations on the division of the already Asian part of the Ottoman Empire, the voice of J. R. R. Tolkien was also heard. Curzon, a member of the Asquith - Gray Cabinet since May 1915. He took a keen interest in the operations of the British Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia, especially in connection with Kitchener's proposed plan to transfer the caliphate to Arabia and establish an Arab Empire under British auspices, and advocated an offensive on Baghdad and a further advance to Alexandretta. However, Kitchener, Curzon and other extremists could not overcome the resistance of the more cautious leaders of the India Office, headed by Austin Chamberlain. They were supported by Prime Ministers H. Asquith and E. Gray, who feared the discontent of France and Russia, as well as Indian Muslims. The head of the political and secret Department of the India Office A. Hirtzel wrote: "A strong Arab state can be more dangerous to Christianity than a strong Ottoman state, and Lord Kitchener's policy of destroying one Islamic state for the sake of creating another has always seemed disastrous to me" (p.15).

Curzon and his associates argued that the capture and colonization of Mesopotamia should be the main goal of England in the Middle East theater of war. In this spirit, the recommendations of the interdepartmental expert committee under the leadership of M. De Bunsen (April-May 1915), which determined the future (i.e., division) of the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of Germany and its allies, were sustained. British interests included: 1) Iraq's border is drawn along the mountains north of Mosul; 2) the interdependence and indivisibility of its vilayets in relation to navigation, irrigation, oil production, etc.: England should be the "gatekeeper" of Basra in the event of French and Russian expansion; 3) the region is open to British trade and entrepreneurship. The region must be protected by England; the French presence may provide some security, but the hostile Franco-Russian combination must not be discounted. It provided for the decentralization of the entire Ottoman Empire and the control of its individual parts by the local administration (pp. 22-23).

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At the end of 1915 and the first half of 1916, a secret Anglo - French agreement on the partition of Asian Turkey (soon joined by Russia and Italy), known in history as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, was diplomatically formalized. 2 The British carefully prepared for it, presenting several versions of the section, provided with appropriate maps. In one of them, Alexandretta was given to England, in the other-to France, but in return the British received all of Palestine with Haifa. There was also a very exotic project that provided for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire with the exception of Istanbul with the straits that went to Russia, Izmir - to Greece, Basra-to England. However, in all cases, the maps indicated an indeterminate geographical area in the Arabian Peninsula - "Independent Arab" (23-24).

The Sykes-Picot agreement, being the fruit of a compromise, significantly differed from the options offered to British diplomacy due to concessions to France and Russia. Therefore, it was critically received not only by the statesmen of England, who were not directly involved in it (Curzon, for example), but also by its direct authors (Gray, Balfour), who soon hastened to disown it (p.26).

At the turn of 1916-1917, Curzon's influence on state affairs, especially on Middle Eastern politics, increased. In the newly formed government of Lloyd George in late 1916, he became a member of the War Cabinet and head of the Mesopotamian Administration Committee (March 1917). His associates were called "military imperialists". They set out to " revise or cancel "the Sykes - Picot agreement, citing changes in the international situation as a result of the" collapse of tsarist Russia." Curzon and his supporters expected a threat to the interests of England not only in strengthening the positions of France and Russia in the Middle East in the event of the implementation of this agreement, but also in the" very dangerous", from his point of view, ideas that US President Woodrow Wilson began to promote after joining the Entente (April 1917). It is dangerous to be guided by the principles of "so-called democracy" in British Arab politics, as this can lead to significant difficulties or only partial success. England must confine itself to the "facade of Arab independence" (pp. 26-27).

With the expansion of military operations in the Turkish-Asian theater of the World War, which the British waged in Iraq and Palestine, and the Arabs themselves in the Arabian Peninsula (mainly in the Hejaz), it was Arab politics that was the main topic of discussion and discussion in the British leadership. The Iraqi issue was brought to the fore. The debate centered on the limits of the British occupation of Iraq and the nature of the country's administration. The extreme positions were held by the" Anglo-Indians " - the colonial authorities in Delhi, who were sympathetic to Curzon, the former Viceroy of India. They advocated the idea of occupying all of Iraq, including the oil-rich Mosul promised to France, and "Indianizing" it, i.e. governing on the Indian model with possible subordination to Delhi and formal inclusion in the British Empire. The head of the British civil administration in the areas of Iraq occupied by British troops, Lieutenant Colonel A. Wilson, "who most strongly expressed the spirit of British imperialism in Mesopotamia," saw the future of this country in the fact that it "should be annexed for India and the Indians... The government of India will manage it, gradually populating the vast deserts with warlike races from the Punjab " (pp. 21, 113).

However, in London, the "Anglo-Indians" did not find support, including from the chief of the India office O. Chamberlain and his entourage, who considered such a course contrary to the official policy of the cabinet and fraught with serious complications in relations with France, the Arabs and the Muslim world.

Nevertheless, Curzon and his associates strongly opposed the Sayke-Pi-ko agreement, harshly criticizing the idea of supporting the Arab national movement, whatever the true background of London's ostentatious Arabophilism. He was very skeptical of the Arab demands, denying their ability to create "a new Arab state and Caliphate from the Persian Gulf to Egypt and from Egypt to Syria." He wrote to Lord E. Cromer about the negotiations between the Anglo-Egyptian authorities and the sherif of Mecca Hussein on the creation of a Caliphate headed by him: "This will be an old Afghan case, only worse." In a letter to Gray, Curzon put forward another argument against the Sykes-Picot agreement: France would claim the area from Diyarbakir to the Persian border, i.e., almost all of Turkish Kurdistan (pp. 54-55).

Initially prioritizing Mesopotamian affairs, Curzon soon turned to pan-Arab issues, especially when he became head of the Government's Middle East Committee. His main concern remained protecting the imperial interests of Great Britain

page 194

in the Arab East from possible encroachments by its Entente allies. He was alarmed not only by France, but also by Italy, which claimed the entire western part of the Red Sea coast. In London, as well as in Delhi, where the Anglo-Indian authorities had long been interested in the situation in Western and Southwestern Arabia and had close ties with the local leaders, they suspected the Italians of expansionist claims in this region, in particular in Yemen (in Delhi it was called "limitrof for England") and Aden. Viceroy Harding considered it dangerous to allow Italians there even as merchants (pp. 67-69).

But, of course, the main rival for Curzon and his imperial supporters remained France, and the main irritant in the endless disputes about the post-war division of spheres of influence and seizures in the Middle East was the Sykes-Picot agreement. And the closer the final of the world fight was seen,the fiercer were the disputes between all the participants in the script of this section.

Sharp disagreements over the interpretation of the Sykes-Picot agreement broke out, for example, in 1916 between the British High Commissioner to Egypt (previously Governor-General of the Sudan) R. Wingate and an influential member of Parliament, one of the main cabinet experts on the Middle East, the author of this agreement on the part of England M. Sykes. According to Fischer, Seike called this agreement "the cornerstone of a strictly Francophile policy." Wingate, on the other hand, believed that it did not give Britain sufficient control in the Arabian Peninsula and would prevent it from gaining Syria after the war. The British, and Curzon was one of the first, considered Arabia, especially the Hejaz, their protected field and reacted sharply to the French claims to introduce their influence there (pp. 87, 90-93).

However, the anti-French sentiments that were widespread in Anglo-Egyptian circles in Cairo (Storrs et al.) and shared by Curzon and his Middle Eastern Committee were still not supported in London, including in the India Office, and the Foreign Office suggested "muzzling" Curzon, but not "strangling" him Srednevostochny Committee (p. 102) 3 .

Major changes in the international situation at the beginning of 1917 - the fall of tsarism in Russia as a result of the February revolution and the entry of the United States into the World War on the side of the Entente - brought new motives to the discussion on the imperial Olympus of Britain about the post-war structure of the Asian part of the Ottoman Empire. You could practically ignore Russia, which was experiencing a deep national crisis, but you need to pay the most serious attention to the American factor, as well as consider the need to promise some compensation to Italy. However, in the spring of 1917, alarming signals were received from Delhi about the establishment of Russian contacts with the Kurdish and Arab tribes of Northern Mesopotamia and the Syrian Desert, and it was proposed to take appropriate countermeasures. Soon, however, these fears disappeared due to the collapse of the Russian state and the withdrawal of the Russian army from Turkey and Persia. London and its colonial branches in Cairo and Delhi began to prepare the ground for a revision of the Sykes-Picot agreement in favor of England (p. 114).

Already in January 1917, M. Syke opposed the transfer of Mosul to France, and in the autumn of the same year proposed to establish British control over it. Curzon expressed confidence that the United States, as a new member of the Entente, would not insist on the full self-determination of Mesopotamia (p.127). He actually demanded the annulment of the Sykes-Picot agreement, because the French "got more out of this agreement than they could have hoped for" (p.146). The same position, which the author of the book calls "military imperialism", was taken by the military department, the entire Middle Eastern Committee (pp. 156-157, 228-229) and a member of Lloyd George's war cabinet, a South African politician (later one of the main architects of the Versailles system and field Marshal) J. Smuts, who stated that this agreement is in "terrible condition". conflicts with our goals in the war." In order to nullify the Sykes-Picot agreement, Smuts proposed to persuade American President Woodrow Wilson to veto the Anglo-Franco-Italian treaty signed in April 1917 in Saint-Jean de Maurienne on the accession of Italy to this agreement, which was promised acquisitions in Southwestern Anatolia (p. 199).

The entry of the United States into the game made it more difficult to solve the tasks set for itself in the Middle East by Curzon and other British "military imperialists", because it introduced elements of unpredictability into the situation. Initially, London thought to use the Americans to their advantage, apparently counting on their little experience in Eastern affairs. In the depths of the Central-Eastern Committee, Curzon said, "a completely new idea" was born to establish an ame-

page 195

a Moroccan protectorate over Palestine, which would be "an entirely new attitude in Arab and Palestinian politics" (p. 111).

However, this idea lasted only two days. On January 8, 1918, the famous "14 points" of Woodrow Wilson were proclaimed, in particular, formally rejecting the annexationist approach to the fate of the non-Turkish regions of the Ottoman Empire and proclaiming their right to autonomous development. Behind this were the broad geopolitical plans of the Americans, which inspired their European allies with at least suspicion. True, Smuts hoped for American help, but Curzon and other bison of "British imperialism" were opposed to US intervention in Middle Eastern affairs. "England, but not America, must dictate the terms of peace," Curzon argued (p. 202). Therefore, the idea of transferring Palestine to the Americans was strongly rejected by Curzon: "Palestine should be included in the British protectorate." Any condominium or any international control (as stipulated in the Sykes-Picot Agreement) was unacceptable to him (p. 208).

Thus, the problem of dividing the Ottoman Empire, which was close to complete collapse, seemed to return to the starting point. Fischer's book clearly reflects the position of British ultra-imperialists, mainly Curzon, in the new situation that has developed in the Middle East arena, when Russia, as one of the main contenders for the Ottoman inheritance, has left the game, but new ones have appeared: Italy, the United States with their global plans, as well as Greece. In addition, France, as victory approached, to the achievement of which it had made a major contribution on the Western Front, began to more vigorously defend its interests in the Turkish - Asian theater. The British, who had a clearly superior military force in the region, did not intend to give in to their allies, or at least sought compensation. The most valuable of these was Palestine, which the British had just begun to occupy.

On the Palestinian issue, Curzon has most clearly shown himself to be a politician with ultra-Imperial views, and extremely disloyal to the allies of England. Unlike his colleague A. Balfour (the author of the famous declaration of November 2, 1917 on the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine), with whom he shared the portfolio of Foreign Minister in 1919, and all other cabinet members, Curzon had a negative attitude towards X's intention. Weizmann and other Zionists to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. As Fischer writes, Curzon "opposed Zionism and foresaw its dangers." He pointed out that the establishment of a Jewish empire in this country "would be a disaster, since it would lead to the ousting of England as a 'tutelary power'". Curzon wanted the Jews to support Feisal (to one of the sons of the Hejaz ruler Hussein ibn Ali, who led the anti-Turkish uprising with the help of the famous Colonel T. Lawrence) only in the fight against France and warned that if Faisal went after the Zionists, it would be "fatal": the latter would inherit Palestine, control Syria and become "the most significant factor in the East." Curzon predicted: "Not only France, but also America will become possible neighbors of Britain in Egypt... We have laid the cross on ourselves" (pp. 213-221).

Fischer's research provides information about the increased interest of the British in the Kurdish issue, mainly due to the advance of British troops in northern Iraq and London's annexationist plans for this country. Lawrence informed Curzon that the Kurds of Northern Mesopotamia were ready to join the British, but "would not accept French rule in any form." British intelligence in Iraq proposed to create a separate state under British control in the Arab and Kurdish-populated Jazira (adjacent territory in Syria and Iraq), the Syrian Hinterland of which should be subordinated to the British resident in Damascus. Prominent functionaries of the British administration in Delhi (Hirtzel and others) persistently demanded the inclusion of the Diyarbakir district in Mesopotamia, so that all of Northern Kurdistan would belong to Great Britain. In any case, both London and Delhi ruled out the possibility of transferring this region to France. Regarding specific measures taken against the Kurds during this transition period between war and peace (late 1918 - first half of 1919).The Foreign Office expressed the belief that" the Kurds are asking Great Britain to become a mother for them"; the most prominent English historian-orientalist, expert of the British Government on the Middle East, A. Toynbee, considered it impossible to create a state that unites all Kurds; in the Middle East Department, the United States of America and the United States of America, the United States of America, the United States of America, the United States of America, the United States of America, the United States of America, the United States of America, and the United States of America.

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the colonial ministries believed that "the Kurds should be left to their own fate" (pp. 235, 251-253. 257).

Thus, thanks to the research of J. R. R. Tolkien, Many of the secret plans of the British imperialist circles, including their most prominent, active and competent representative, Curzon, in the Middle East during the First World War, became the property of science. It becomes clear why the partition of the Ottoman Empire created by the victorious powers did not happen as it was originally planned. The work is widely informative and analytical at the same time. This is its undoubted advantage.


1 See: Lazarev M. S. The Collapse of Turkish domination in the Arab East (1914-1918). Moscow, 1960. The main literature on this subject is also given here.

2 For details, see: Lazarev M. S. Edict op. s. 129-135, and also: Shevelev DL. To the history of the agreement on the division of Asian territories of the Ottoman Empire. 1916 / / Vostok (Oriens). 2001. N 5. pp. 39-43.

3 For disputes in imperial circles in Great Britain over various options for dividing Asian Turkey, see E. Keduri's article "Cairo and Khartoum in the Arab Question 1915-1918" (Historical Journal. Cambridge, 1964. N 2) and my review of this article (Voprosy istorii. 1965. N 2).


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