Way back in one of our first Extra History series, on the beginning of World War I, we talked about how at the end of the war the victorious powers carved up the Middle East—men in drawing rooms deciding the fate of peoples they did not understand, and in some cases, lands they had never visited.
This is the story of how that came to happen, a tale of revolts, secret treaties, betrayal, a struggle for homelands, and a British counterinsurgency operation in Iraq.
The Allies thought that defeating the Ottoman Empire would be an extremely simple matter but it was, in fact, not simple (this will be a reoccurring theme for the allies). As they try to take Constantinople, the surf will turn red with the amount of blood spilled from the landing parties. Luckily, they're about to get a boost from the internal strife of the Ottoman Empire. So long as the British promise to help establish an Arab kingdom. A promise they definitely intend to keep. Right???
Ah good. The war is over and now everyone can get exactly what they wanted in a neat orderly fashion... yeah you all know that's not how it went. The double-dealing of the British finally comes to light and the same people who helped secure victory in the ottoman empire were quickly being pushed out of the negotiations.
Now that the Middle East has been divided and turned into a jumble of new countries and nations by the British and French, we take a look at how the citizens reacted. After all, drawing borders on a map doesn't mean anything if you can't enforce it. Revolts will rise and be violently put down. Infighting with pop up between the shariffian faction and the Saudis. A solution will be found, but that solution will only promise more bloodshed.
Winston Churchill is convinced that his Cairo Conference has solved all of the problems of the Middle East but he is going to be proven wrong. The British find themselves trapped between two allies who will not stop fighting. The Balfour Declaration makes everything... tricky. Thousands of lives are lost in various uprisings and brutal retaliations. And the kingdom of Saudi Arabia emerges. It's not a conclusion so much as an endpoint for how our modern maps look.