IRPAPER! - Document Analysis: Britain's Diplomacy For a...

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Document Analysis: Britain’s Diplomacy For a Better Post-War Middle East By Michael Lane Following the onset of the First World War the European powers found themselves engaged in a struggle the likes of which the world had never seen before. As the Great War raged on in Europe conflicts arose on its periphery, most significantly in Asia Minor. The Ottoman Empire, or the “sick man of Europe” as it was known, had declared war on the Allied forces when it allied itself with the Central Powers. This afforded the Allied Powers with new possibilities in the post-war Middle East. Throughout the course of the war the Allied Powers (Great Britain in particular) pursued negotiations which committed the West to the post-war Middle East. These negotiations were for the benefit of Great Britain and focused on securing British prosperity in the Middle East following an Allied victory. To put it in simple terms, Britain made political maneuvers during the war in order to acquire territory from the Ottoman Empire and establish alliances which would secure British interests in the Middle East. Two of the primary settlements which outlined British post-war commitments to the Middle East were the “Hussein-McMahon correspondence” and the “Sykes-Picot Treaty.” These documents characterized Britain’s aims both during the war and outline her intentions for the post-war future. As the intensity of the war increased on the European mainland, Great Britain found herself in need of more allies to combat and divert the armies of the Ottoman Empire from the front. Throughout 1915 Sir Henry McMahon, the British High
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Commisioner in Egypt, wrote a series of letters to Ibn Ali Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca, in an attempt to secure Arab support against the Ottomans 1 . These letters became known as the Hussein-McMahon correspondence. The correspondence started when Hussein wrote a letter to McMahon pledging an Arab uprising against the Turks in return for a British guarantee towards an Arab nation following the end of the war. Opening the correspondence because he feared the Turks were going to depose him, Hussein essentially began the correspondence out of necessity and will to survive 2 . To the British he seemed a good ally, especially because they were confident he would be able to organize a massive Arab uprising against the Ottomans and possibly take them out of the war 3 . Of the several letters which make up the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, the most critical message was written from McMahon to Hussein on October 24, 1915. The letter from McMahon to Hussein is typical of British diplomacy because by its nature it is both cordial and full of promises while at the same time quite vague. As with any document, the wording that McMahon used is key to understanding the undertones with which the relations had been made. Great Britain was desirous of support – especially if an Arab revolt could be guaranteed. For this reason McMahon was both polite and careful in his words when he wrote Hussein. In the first line of the
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IRPAPER! - Document Analysis: Britain's Diplomacy For a...

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