Palestine and Iraq

Churchill’s speech: The State of Irak (click to view image – pdf)

23 June 1921

This news item refers to a speech by the Secretary of State for the Colonies Winston Churchill. Following the defeat of Ottoman Turkey in World War I in 1918, Britain, France, Greece and Italy (and to a lesser extent the United States) were in a race to exercise their dominance and control on the Ottoman heartland of Asia Minor, as well as Ottoman European (Smyrna and Thrace) and Arab provinces (Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsular – jazirat ul-Arab – itself). Churchill was at the centre of decision-making and worked closely with T.E. Lawrence in balancing Britain’s contradictory alliances and pledges (i) to the Zionists (the Balfour Declaration – Churchill’s sympathies are apparent in this extract, as well as the cynicism towards the majority Arab population in Palestine (ii) to the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein, and his sons – one of whom was Feisal, also referred to in the above extract (iii) to the Nejd warlord Ibn Saud – later King Abdul-Aziz, who was in receipt of a sizeable sweetener (iii) to France (the Sykes-Picot agreement ) – Feisal was initially enthroned as King of Syria, but French objections led to the Iraq option (iv) to the Muslims of India (first Lord Hardinge’s pledge that the “sacred regions of Arabia, the shrines of Mesopotamia and the port of Jedda would be immune from attack or molestation by the British Naval and Military Forces” – this opened the way to Indian recruitment into the British army but was a pledge broken by the undercover involvement of Col. Lawrence in instigating the Sherif of Mecca to armed insurrection against the Ottomans – and second Prime Minister Lloyd George’s pledge that Ottoman Turkey would not be deprived of Constantinopole – Istanbul – and Asia Minor, yet in 1921 Britain was supportive of Greek advances in the Ottoman heartlands, mainly due to Lloyd George’s anti-Turk sentiments) 


Click here: “A top secret Colonial Office file from 1943 shows that Mr Churchill favoured a plan to bribe King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud with £20m and the leadership of a new Arab confederation, in exchange for the Saudi monarch’s help in handing over Palestine to the Jews”.