Friday, December 7, 2012

Essay on the Middle East

French and British Mandates in the Arab World
The topic of the events in the Middle East is always in the news. What is more is that it has been in the news for over eight decades already, since the first intervention of the European Powers in the region  The following paper will deal with a topic related to the Arab countries of the area as well as the state of Israel by implication. However, the purpose of this paper is not to dwell upon the Arab-Israeli conflict, but to give an insight into the mandates exercised by Great Britain and France in the Middle East over the course of the 20th century.
In the early 1920s the world powers were still devastated by the results of the WWI. However, something had to be done with the problems that have arisen from the war as well the question of the territories in the Middle East was a topic of active discussion. When the Ottoman Empire was split by the Treaty of Versailles, four mandate territories were created. According to the mandate structure, the territory, aside from Turkey, was placed under monarchies. Without a shadow of doubt, as Great Britain and France, which were the dominant powers in the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) convinced the new League of Nations to grant them quasi-colonial power over former Ottoman territories (Fromkin, 288)1. Thus, France obtained a mandate over Syria and Britain obtained a mandate over the areas which now include Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan (Gilbert, 318)2.
Having stated how the Middle Eastern countries were divided between the world powers I would like to continue with describing how the two countries operated the obtained mandates on their territories. During the French mandate, a number of states were created in the Greater Syria. These states were as follows:  State of Greater Lebanon State of Alawites, State of Jabal Druze, State of Aleppo, State of Damascus and Sanjak of Alexandretta. However, it does not have to be said that the Syrians were hostile to the French mandate and to the division it created. Such attitude can be proved by the great amount of revolts that the French encountered in all of the Syrian states. Though, it must be said that Lebanon as the exception between the newly formed states. This is due to the fact that the Maronite Christians of Mount Lebanon were a community with a dream of independence that was being realized under the French (Fromkin, p. 289).
According to the British mandate the area was divided in two parts: the east of the Jordan River became the Emirate of Transjordan, and was ruled by Abdullah, and west of the Jordan River became the Palestine Mandate. The later territory would in the future become the state of Israel. It is significant to mention that with the division of territories Great Britain decided to undertake Palestine became a unified political entity for the first time in modern history. Naturally, the Arabs in the area were infuriated as well as petrified by the actions of the Great Britain. What had heated their anger was not only the step by step politics of the Brits targeted on the creation of the state of Israel, but also the fact that Great Britain failed to fulfill its promise to create an independent Arab state (Dominus, p. 97)3.
Thus, as it was made clear in the previous passages, the Arab people living on the territories on both British and French mandates were unsatisfied with the situation and opposed the powers’ control. However, while under the French mandate the Arab countries were mostly concerned with self determination and independence, in Palestine the situation was complicated by many other factors (Little, pp. 159-160)4. The population of the Palestine area was horrified by the promise of the Great Britain to support the creation of a Jewish national home. Thus, the people did not accept any of the proposals incorporated into the politics of Britain, fearing that this would only tie the knot of the creation of the Jewish state (Dominus, p. 93).
In March 1924, Great Britain had granted an elected assembly in Iraq. Certainly, this fact brought Syrian Arabs into even bigger distress and urged them to take actions. The main objective of the Syrian Arabs was to create a nationalist party that would be dealing with the questions concerning independence and national identity. In February 1925 the French permitted the nationalists to form the People's Party that was led by Faris al Khuri. The party was created, however nothing had really changed, in my opinion, this step by the French can be described simply as a placating move they took to quiet down the people for a while. Yet, Syrian nationalists, motivated, by the permission to create their party, continued to declare that there should be a treaty with France presenting French aims (Mandel, p 38)5. When negotiating this issue the Syrian nationalists stressed the fact that Great Britain and Iraq had already signed such treaty. It is obvious, that the French were not eager to sign a treaty of that kind, thus they did not respond to the Syrian petition on the matter. This led to unrest and strikes. To make a long story short, the treaty was reviewed, however, the French parliament never ratified it (Mandel, p. 39).
Earlier in the paper I have briefly introduced the French and British politics in the Middle East. In order to conclude the paper I would like to present the main difference between the French and British mandate in respect to the Arab world. According to the mandate of the French, the communities living on the acquired territories had to be recognized as independent nations (Dominus, pp 93-94). On the other hand, in the British mandate there was no recognition given to the Arab community living there. In reality they were only promised local autonomy “so far as circumstances permit” (Mouchy, p. 745)6.