Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jeremy Salt's "The Unmaking of the Middle East"

Jeremy Salt teaches in the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University in Ankara and is author of Imperialism, Evangelism, and the Ottoman Armenians, 1878-1896.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands, and reported the following:
From page 99: ‘On October 10, 1922, the king and the government of Iraq were finally persuaded to sign a twenty-year treaty of alliance with Britain’. The king was Faisal I, put on the throne a little over a year earlier, but already out of favor because of his refusal to endorse any treaty that validated British mandatory rule over Iraq. Britain has created the country, had decided on the form of government (a constitutional monarchy) and had a king, Faisal, the son of the Sharif Husain of Mecca. Useful to Britain during the war, for his help in arousing an Arab uprising against the Ottoman government (‘the Arab Revolt’), the sharif was dumped as soon as it was won. Abdicating as King of the Hijaz in 1924, the sharif fled to Aqaba, where he was kept waiting while the British decided what to do with him. In June, 1925, under protest, he was moved on to Cyprus. There he stayed until November, 1929, when, gravely ill after a stroke, he was allowed to spend the last 18 months of his life with Abdullah. Of the sharif’s other sons, Ali ruled the Hijaz for a year before being driven out by the invading Saudis in 1925. Abdullah was assassinated in 1951. Faisal was chosen as king of Syria in 1921 before fleeing Damascus ahead of the advancing French army. A useful king now being without a throne, the British created one for him in Iraq, which brings us back to the quote which opened this blog and the king’s refusal to do what the British wanted except under duress. Fortuitously, for their interests, Faisal died in 1933. Fortuitously, also, his son and successor, Ghazi, who was strongly sympathetic to Arab nationalism, was killed when he drove his car into an electric light pole in 1939. The British finally got what they wanted, Abdulillah, a regent ruling in place of Ghazi’s son, who was still too young to rule, but their choices were not the choices of the Iraqi people. In the revolution of 1958 the monarchy was destroyed and the British driven out. Now, what the revolutionaries created has in turn been destroyed, following the US-led invasion of 2003, paving the way for an Iraq no one can yet imagine.
Learn more about The Unmaking of the Middle East at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue