Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kingmakers - Meyer & Brysac

A long, well written analysis of how the modern middle east was developed. It's a scholarly work describing the people and reasons the middle east is divided as it is. The book got off with a slow start but became more interesting at Chapter 6 which introduced Lawrence of Arabia. From that Chapter forward it also became easier to read.

Years ago I read "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and remember it still. Between then and now I held old Lawrence in high esteem. Interestingly, the authors of this book could not make up their mind whether Lawrence was a fraud, a crack-pot, or for real. They burst my hero bubble.

At the Cairo Conference several key decisions were made. The British Army was replaced by the Royal Airforce. The move was made by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, Winston Churchill and Lawrence, and the intent was to govern Mesopotamia "with hot air, airplanes and Arabs."

The Balfor Declaration was born in 1918 and Palestine was then an ugly confusion of war-like terror. With the Balfor the British were trying to reunite the Jews and Arabs on land they both considered sacred. Sound familiar. The Brits finally gave up and were replaced by the Americans who are still trying almost 100 years later.

During the mid 1920s Jack Philby was a  key character in Iraq, Trans Jordan, Palestine and Syria. Ibn Saud was rising The entire region was restless. It was during the 1930s that Britain had a serious problem. Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan were considering joining the Axis and India was threatening a revolt. British oil supplies were threatened. Churchill dictated that the British would do all in their power to control the pipeline.

Britain's 1941 victory in Iraq  stopped German access to Iraqi & Iranian oil.

The British election in 1945 resulted in another new policy for Palestine. It was to avoid partition by creating a bi national state that would guarantee political and economic rights for a Jewish minority in an Arab country. Zionists considered this arrangement completely unacceptable and began acts of terrorism - including the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 by the Irgun under Menachem Begin.

British leaders were aware that the world perceived Britain as waging war against Holocaust survivors. President Truman appeared to favor the Zionists.  Looking for a way to "save face" the British referred the problem to the United Nations.

more to follow

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