Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
What happened to the Middle East after World War I?
The answer to this can be summed up in one sentence: The Middle East was butchered and dispersed to the large European Powers. As the Ottoman Empire fell apart, the Allies swooped in to begin dissecting. Their own needs and wants were not as easily dealt with as during the war Britain “made commitments to third parties outside the European system”. (1) With the war over, everyone wanted what was coming to them. There was no way anyone was going to be happy. The Russians expected to get “the northern side of the Sea of Marmora, Istanbul, control of the straits, and the eastern section of Anatolia.” (2) The French had desires that were “beyond their capacity to achieve.” (3)
It would all come down to the secret Sykes-Picot agreement on how the Ottoman Empire would be disassembled and even that agreement would not be sufficient for everyone. The agreement divided “Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French and British-administered areas.” (4) This would not set well with those that were promised more during the war. The agreement stated that the Arab state(s) that would be created would have Britain and France as the overseers, or protectors, who would be in charge of the economic life and even the development of the countries. (5) In essence, Britain and France became indirect owners of the Middle East.
Over the years, this agreement would be criticized by all as it was seen as a move that did not in the end give anyone the advantage, but laid the groundwork for many problems. Countries, such as Palestine, were seen as being “inconsiderately mutilated.” (6) Nobody was happy with the results as everyone grabbed pieces of the Ottoman Empire with greed dripping from their hands.
The results of World War I was complete chaos and the groundwork for many years of bloodshed.
(1) D.K. Fieldhouse, Western Imperialism in the Middle East 1914-1958, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 44.
(2) Ibid, 46.
(3) Ibid, 47.
(4) “The Sykes-Picot agreement,” BBC, November 29, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2001/israel_and_the_palestinians/key_documents/1681362.stm.
(5) “The Sykes-Picot Agreement: 1916,” Yale Law School, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/sykes.asp.
(6) “Sykes-Picot Agreement,” Jewish Virtual Library, 2008, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0019_0_19421.html.