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Arabia after World War I

Created by Sal Khan.

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Video transcript

Narrator: As we entered in to World war I the British already had a presence in the Middle East. Egypt was already a British protectorate and it formalized this as we entered in to World War I and they don't get their independence until 1922. The British don't just hand it to them, they fight for this, they have a revolt against the British rule and they win, so you have an independent Egypt in 1922. The British also had Kuwait as a protectorate and this is from the 1800's and they don't get their independence until 1961. We also know that the British were eager to get the help of the Arab's, to essentially convince the Arab's to revolt against the Ottoman's so that they could successfully fight the Ottoman's on the Sinai and Palestine fronts and on the Mesopotamia front. In particular, they tried to convince this gentleman, Hussein bin Ali, who at the time, at the beginning of World War I is the Sharif of Mecca. In order to convince him they made promises to him. We have a whole video on the McMahon-Hussein correspondence. They say look if you help up us we will give you and independent state, an independent Arab state that would include all of this territory except for maybe, except for maybe this region right up here. So, with those British assurances he agrees to commit his forces to fight in the Arab revolt, to rise up and to help the British. From that point on in 1916 where you have the Arab revolt, he declares himself as the King of the Hejaz. Just as a little bit of a geography tangent right over here, this is the Hejaz. It's kind of the west coast of the Arabian peninsula and it contains the very influential towns of Mecca and Medina. You might say, well whatever happened to the Hejaz? Isn't all of this region right now Saudi Arabia? And you are correct. What happened shortly after, so in 1916 he declares himself King of the Hejaz but then you had another group, the Saudi's in the Nejd region, which is this area right over here. They are able to, in 1925, successfully, successfully, successfully conquer the Nejd and you have Ibn Saud who declares himself King of the Nejd and Hejaz from 1926 to 1932. He later merges them into Saudi Arabia and he's the first King of Saudi Arabia all the way until 1953. That's how you get Saudi Arabia. Now, let's continue, let's rewind back to World War I. You have the Arab revolt. Hussein bin Ali declares himself the King of the Hejaz. Two of his sons are very active in collaborating with the British to fight against the Ottoman's. This right over here is Faisal bin Hussein. Bin Hussein literally means son of Hussein. This right over here is Abdullah. By the end of the war, and we covered this in the Sinai, Palestine and Mesopotamia Campaigns, the combined British and Arab forces are able to move all the way into, all the way into what is now northern Syria. They're all able to move into what is now northern Iraq. You can imagine at this point, the Arab's are eager in a post world environment to have their state. The reason why they're a little bit unceratin about their future is based on what some of the things that came out during the war. We now know that while the British were trying to convince Hussein bin Ali to get his forces to rise up against the Ottoman's they were dealing with the French in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement to essentially carve up this whole territory between the British and the French. They really weren't talking about independent states for the Arab's. A few years later in 1917, this was still during the war, while the war was happening, you have the Balfour Declaration, which declared the British intent to create a homeland for the Jewish people. Then a month later, really the end of that month, November 1917, the Russian's make the Sykes-Picot Agreement public, so all of these things made the Arab's very uneasy. They got assurances from the British that oh that wasn't that serious of an agreement, just keep fighting with us. So, at the end of the war they were eager to get, what they thought, was their just claim. So you have Faisal bin Hussein, he attends the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. (writing) So in 1919 you have the Paris, Paris Peace Conference and just to be clear at that point in time it wasn't obvious that you necessarily had to have this, what we now have, is this conflict between what is now Israel and the Arab people. Faisal bin Hussein was actually eager to kind of reach out to the World Zionist Organization, to the Zionist movement to hopefully get their help in establishing an independent Arab state. He didn't think that they would, that it would establish an independent Jewish state, but he said hey look if they can have a homeland here but in order to get that homeland, they're willing to support me for an independent Arab state then I might kind of send out an olive branch to them. This right over here is a quote by Faisal bin Hussein. This is while he was trying to get support for an independent Arab state, one that he would argue, was promised to him by the McMahon Correspondences with his father. So, this is Faisal. "We Arabs, look with the deepest sympathy "on the Zionist movement. "Our deputation here in Paris is fully "acquainted with the proposal submitted yesterday "by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference "and we regard them as moderate and proper. "We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned "to help them through, we will wish the Jews "a most hearty welcome home. "I look forward, and my people with me look forward "to a future in which we will help you and you will "help us so that the countries in which we are "mutually interested may once again take their "places in the community of the civilized peoples "of the world." But he did throw in this caveat, he was doing this because he wanted their support for an independent state and he did throw in the caveat, look this only applies, I'm only supportive, essentially, of the Balfour Declaration if we get our independent state. He really wanted ... he really wanted an independent, (writing) independent state. He explicitly said, hey look if we don't get an independent state all the stuff I said here, doesn't really apply. So you end of with the Treaty of Sev in 1920. It turns out that the Sykes-Picot Agreement held a lot more weight than the assurances between McMahon and Hussein because in the Treaty of Sev, this area was divided, essentially, according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Up here, this whole region was given to France, they called it a mandate, which is essentially it was allowed to be occupied by France but they called it a mandate. The allies wanted it to be called a mandate so it didn't look like France was getting something. A mandate is kind of, hey you have to come help these people to transition them to establish a state, to help them transition institutions so eventually they can get independence. The allies wanted it to appear that, look central powers, look Ottoman's, you're not giving us something, you're not giving us this territory, you're giving us a responsibility. Needless to say, they were eager to occupy this territory, so eager that when Faisal bin Hussein, in 1920, declared himself King of Syria, they booted him out. He was in really no power to contest that booting out. This area right over here, this was pretty much in line with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, became a British, this whole area right over here became a British mandate. Now, in what is now Iraq, you essentially have an uprising in 1920, they don't appreciate, they thought that they were going to become independent now. They were free of the Ottoman's, but now all of a sudden the British come and say that they are in charge. So you have this revolt against the British in 1920. The British start to realize, gee this is kind of expensive trying to keep control of this maybe we should install someone, and we'll still kind of keep this as a protectorate as a mandated territory, but why don't we install someone, an Arab leader, as the King of this region. So, the install Faisal bin Hussein as a King of Iraq. He is a King of Iraq, essentially under protection, or under influence of the British from 1921 until 1933 and that's when they finally get independence of the British, in 1932. When they get booted out of Syria, his brother Abdullah, son of Hussein bin Ali, he's allowed to become King of trans Jordan. They later get independence in 1946 after World War II at which point he becomes the King of Jordan. Syria and Lebanon, they don't get independence until during or after World War II. Lebanon gets independence in 1943, Syria gets independence from the French in 1946. And we know that the mandate of Palestine, which the British kept, this would continue to be a sore point through World War II and then with the establishment of the state of Israel shortly afterwards, it becomes a very, I guess we could say, hot point in international affairs.