To know the context of what follows start with the overview here, and for reference list of personalities involved here.

As we have seen the Sykes-Picot negotiations of 1916, had agreed to cede most of greater Ottoman Syria to the French zone of influence, although only the coastal area (i.e., today’s Lebanon) was supposed to be under direct French rule, with the inland portions under 'independent' Arab administration, which in practice meant Faisal and crowned ‘King’ Hussein’s other sons. Theoretically, there was to be a kind of border between the two zones stretching along a line drawn through Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, each allotted to the Arab side— though these cities were still squarely in the French 'zone of influence.' But how was France to exert predominance over areas now occupied by British troops? Complicating these questions further was the Woodrow Wilson factor. Because of the possibly decisive contribution of American troops to the collapse of German morale on the western front, along with the financial leverage U.S. banking institutions now enjoyed vis-à-vis the Allies indebted to them, the American president was believed to be nearly all-powerful on the eve of the peace talks that would open in Paris in January.

Starting in February 1917, and right up to the eve of the Paris peace conference, the British attempted to cancel their agreement with the French.

In the early spring of 1918, Sir Percy Cox travelled to London for consultations with the India Office and the Eastern Committee on the future of Mesopotamia. He made a stopover in Egypt, where on 23 March a conference was held at the Residency to discuss the situation between Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud. Cox explained that ‘Ibn Saud was exceedingly jealous and suspicious of King Hussein and he […] was personally convinced that Ibn Saud would never acknowledge the King as his temporal overlord, though he would always pay him, as he does now, the great respect due to his religious position’. The conference agreed that ‘the Imam of Yemen, Idrisi of Asir, and Ibn Saud were unlikely to accept King Hussein as their temporal overlord’, but that this might change if Faisal’s forces were successful in Syria, although admittedly ‘the inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia were at one in their determination to allow no direct interference in their affairs from the part of the King’. As far as British policy in Central and South Arabia was concerned, little else could be done than ‘to keep the peace between the different Amirs and to fulfil [our] treaty terms with each’.¹

British policy towards the Arab chiefs remained one of not favoring any one of them at the expense of the others, and preventing their jealousies and rivalries escalating into open warfare. It was to be severely tested as a result of what became known as the Khurma affair. On 9 July, Sir Reginald Wingate wired that ‘relations between King Hussein and Ibn Saud are becoming increasingly strained and may lead to hostilities by their respective adherents or even open rupture’. It was ‘not possible accurately to appreciate various points at issue between them, but I think warning against giving provocation addressed impartially to each would be salutary’. He proposed a message in the following sense:

That His Majesty’s Government note with regret the ill-feeling between King Hussein and Emir Ibn Saud as shown in their [?recent] correspondence and regard it as seriously prejudicial to their interests and Arab cause. His Majesty’s Government would view with great disfavour any action by either party or their followers liable to aggravate situation or to provoke hostilities.

In a further telegram Wingate warned that Hussein was greatly worried about his position vis-à-vis Ibn Sa’ud and the other Arab chiefs, and that ‘his present state of mind might lead him to a nervous breakdown or ill- considered action’.²  Sykes was all in favor of making ‘the very strongest appeal’ to Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud ‘to compose their differences and at least agree to a truce for the duration of the war’, but he did not believe that a crisis was at hand, since ‘the Arab mind always runs to negotiation and compromise. It should not be impossible to get the two to appoint delegates to meet on some neutral ground and there discuss the matter.’³

The Eastern Committee subsequently reformulated Wingate’s proposed message so that it sounded less peremptory, and offered the British government’s good offices ‘in coming to an agreement by negotiations’.⁴

The town of Khurma was situated some 120 miles to the northeast of Taif, and in Aiteiba territory. It had been part of Hussein’s domains, but the governor appointed by the king had gone over to Ibn Sa’ud after a quarrel with Abdullah. The situation escalated when Hussein decided to send troops to Khurma to reassert his authority. Although Hussein assured Wilson that ‘matter is purely one of internal administration and that no hostile action of any sort against Bin Saud is in- tended’, and that he expected ‘to settle it without fighting’, Philby warned that it was ‘fairly clear if expedition referred to materialises in Khurma the tension between Ibn Saud and Sharif, already acute, will develop into open hostilities. It would seem desirable therefore to request Sharif to defer action.’⁵

Given this danger, the Foreign Office decided to send a sterner message to both chiefs. The British government could not ‘tolerate dissension between their friends, and they must insist, on pain of their severe displeasure, that neither party shall take any action likely to lead to open breach’. Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud were also requested to send conciliatory messages to one another, and to come to ‘amicable exchange of views with object of arriving at settlement of outstanding differences’.⁶ After Cyril Wilson had communicated this message to Hussein, it led to the kind of illconsidered action Wingate had warned against. The king requested the British government ‘to accept his abdication as he feels he may be regarded as an obstacle to Arab movement and an unwilling obstructor of His Majesty’s Government’s policy’. According to Sir Reginald, Hussein considered ‘his scheme of unification as the only satisfactory solution of Arabian question’. He also suspected the British of ‘partiality to Bin Saud’, and insisted that ‘our attitude towards his action at Khurma is an evidence of this. He would prefer to re- sign now than to wait and see the collapse of his policy.’ Wingate suggested sending a pacifying message to the king.⁷ The Foreign Office replied the next day. Wilson was instructed to tell Hussein that the British government could not:

Regard seriously a decision to abdicate […] under a mistaken impression that Your Highness had lost the confidence of His Majesty’s Government […] far from this being the case His Majesty’s Government regard your leadership of the Arab movement in the war as vitally necessary for the Arab cause and can- not think that Your Highness will withdraw at such a juncture.⁸

The same day, the India Office informed the viceroy and Cox that Khurma clearly fell ‘under King Husain’s sphere and outside that in which intervention by Bin Saud is warranted. Philby should impress this view of the case on Bin Saud.’ The Indian and Mesopotamian authorities should realize that as far as Ibn Sa’ud was concerned ‘neither his services or commitments in the past, nor his potential utility in the future, will bear any comparison with those of King Hussein’, and that there- fore ‘we cannot allow latter’s interests to be prejudiced […] by ill-timed activities of Bin Saud’.⁹

On 7 August, Arnold Wilson transmitted a report by Philby, in which the latter explained that Ibn Sa’ud had little room for maneuver in the question of Khurma. When he gave in to Hussein, this might fatally weaken his position vis-à-vis his Ikhwan warriors.¹⁰ Sir Reginald was receptive to Philby’s argument. Although Britain must ‘uphold [Hussein’s] right to punish a rebel Sheikh’, and that ‘Mr Philby’s ready acquiescence in Bin Saud’s assertion that King’s action is aggressive’ was ‘most regrettable and ill-advised’, at the same time Wingate fully appreciated ‘necessity of returning friendship of Bin Saud whom I understand represents strongest if not only Anglophile element in Nejdean politics’. He therefore agreed that Ibn Sa’ud ‘should be treated liberally in the matter of funds which may also exercise a pacifying influence on hostile public opinion referred to by Mr Philby’, but he also urged that ‘other sinews of war should not be supplied’.¹¹

Sir Reginald saw no other option to resolve the Khurma dispute than ‘continuing representations to both parties that it is to their common and individual interests to prevent outbreak of hostilities and by trying to induce them to correspond (either direct or through us) with a view to discovering a modus vivendi’.¹² The Foreign Office showed greater creativity. On 28 August it suggested that ‘good might result if a meeting between King Hussein and Ibn Saud could be arranged under careful management. A discussion between them, held under our auspices and direction might clear the air and facilitate a settlement.’ If these discussions were to fail, then at least time would have been ‘gained, as both would be likely to remain quiescent pending the meeting’. A ‘strong and impartial’ commission – consisting of Philby, Lawrence or Cyril Wilson, with an impartial chairman − should prepare and oversee the negotiations between the two chiefs.¹³ Wingate, however, disapproved of the plan. Hardinge suggested that a meeting between Abdullah and Ibn Sa’ud’s brother might be a viable alternative. Cecil only regretted that Cairo failed to appreciate that the plan, ‘even if it came to no result […] would hang up the controversy for the time being’.¹⁴

After Allenby’s rout of the Turkish forces at Megiddo (see ‘Allenby’s Offensive and the Capture of Damascus’, below), and the rapid advance of his troops to the north, Sykes hoped that the whole intractable question would sink into oblivion. When Wingate reported on 23 September that Hussein had rejected the proposed meeting between Abdullah and Ibn Sa’ud’s brother, Sir Mark noted that ‘the great danger has hitherto been that under stress of internal dissensions either the king would abdicate or Ibn Saud would go over to the Turks. There are now no Turks to go over to, and if Medina surrenders the King’s position will be much more stable […] In any event central Arabian politics have returned to the normal condition of unimportance.’¹⁵ A few weeks later, Sykes minuted that the Arabian situation after Allenby’s victory had ‘subsided to its chronic and normal unimportance’.¹⁶ However, the question simply would not go away. On 6 December, Wingate wired that the Ikhwan had attacked a Hashemite supply base some 45 miles north of Taif, and that ‘a collision appears imminent’.¹⁷                                          

Four days later, he reported that the Ikhwan were advancing further on Hijaz territory. Sir Reginald therefore strongly recommended ‘immediate despatch by His Majesty’s Government of peremptory instructions to Bin Saud to withdraw all militant Ikhwan from neighbourhood, making it clear to him that failure or delay in compliance will entail reprisals’.¹⁸

On 23 December the Army Council made a startling proposal. In a letter to the Foreign Office they explained that they were ‘doubtful whether this matter can be settled by putting pressure on Ibn Saud personally, as the latter may be unable to exercise control over the fanatical elements among his subjects, many of whom regard his friendliness towards Europeans as unorthodox and degenerate’. The Army Council therefore believed that ‘more open measures are required to shew Arabia definitely that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is to support King Hussein, against all aggression’. If the foreign secretary concurred, they were prepared to dispatch ‘immediately to Mecca, such equipment as the Sherif may ask for and be able to use, as well as a suitable force of Mohamedan troops’.

Shades of Rabegh, although not for Sir Eyre Crowe, who proposed to concur, and the India Office was so informed immediately.¹⁹ The India Office also appeared to have no recollection of the Rabegh crisis. It saw ‘no objection to the proposals of the War Office’. George Kidston of the Foreign Office had, however, asked Lawrence for his opinion, and the latter was very much against it. He used the same argument that had been so effective in killing the plans to send a brigade to Rabegh in the autumn of 1916, namely that the deployment of British troops in the Hijaz would fatally discredit Hussein in the eyes of the Arabs. It would be ‘regarded as the crowning phase of the policy of which we are accused in hostile Moslem circles in Asia – the gradual reduction of Mecca to the status of a British protectorate’. In view of Lawrence’s objections, Kidston thought that it was ‘difficult to act as proposed […] The only thing, therefore, that we can do is to warn the War Office of the danger of offering Hussein Mahommedan troops for Mecca.’ It was not until 10 January 1919 that the Foreign Office informed the Army Council that, ‘after full consideration’, it was ‘averse from the proposal to despatch Mohammedan troops to Mecca, since such a step might be made use of by unfriendly persons to spread in Moslem circles the impression that the policy of His Majesty’s Government with respect to the Arab State implies undue interference in the holy places of Islam’.²⁰ That same day, the garrison of Medina finally surrendered to the Hashemite forces. In view of this development, so Montagu wired to Arnold Wilson on 16 January, ‘nothing is to be gained by further intervention in dispute between King Hussein and Bin Saud’.²¹


Mitigating or Abolishing the Sykes–Picot Agreement

The very first attempt to persuade the French that the terms of the Sykes–Picot agreement should be reconsidered was made by Sykes. On 28 February 1917, he explained to Georges-Picot that an international administration for the ‘brown area’ – as laid down in article 3 of the agreement – would ‘inevitably drift into a condition of chaos and dissension’. It would be far better if Palestine should become an American protectorate. Picot, however, refused to consider this alternative. Prime Minister Lloyd George was very much in favor of a British protectorate, but at the conference of Saint Jean-de-Maurienne his hints in this direction ‘had been very coldly received’ by the French and the Italians. When the War Cabinet reviewed the results of the conference on 25 April 1917, they therefore concluded that although they ‘inclined to the view that sooner or later the Sykes–Picot Agreement might have to be reconsidered […] No action should at present be taken in this matter.’²²

David Hogarth was in London at the beginning of July 1917. He drew up a memorandum in which he advocated ‘some reconsideration of the Agreement’. He claimed that it had favored France, but presumed that there must have been ‘sufficient reasons of general policy […] to so favour France’. These, however, appeared no longer to apply, especially because ‘the position of one beneficiary – ourselves – has been very greatly strengthened both by the part we have played among the Arabs in the Hejaz and in Mesopotamia, and by the open and insistent preference declared by the Zionist Jews’, while at the same time ‘a strong and increasing feeling has manifested itself in opposition to French penetration of any part of the Arab area’.²³ Even though Hogarth observed to Clayton that in London he had ‘found no one who both takes the S.P. Agreement seriously and approves of it – except M.S. himself’,²⁴ Sykes could cheerfully report to Clayton some two weeks later that Hogarth ‘got trounced by the Foreign Office for meddling in affairs without consulting proper authorities, he being an Admiralty employee. This departmentalism for once served my ends.’²⁵

On 13 July, Harold Nicolson completed a memorandum, written at the request of Balfour, on British ‘contractual’ and ‘moral’ obligations towards Russia, France, Italy and the Sherif of Mecca with respect to the territory of the Ottoman Empire. Nicolson’s observations on the Sykes–Picot agreement made Sir Mark produce a memorandum of his own, in which he sub- mitted that Nicolson had not attributed ‘sufficient importance to the moral side of the question and to the ideals for which the best elements in this war are fighting, viz: the liberation of oppressed peoples and the maintenance of world peace’. Sykes admitted that the Sykes–Picot agreement allowed the signatory states to annex certain areas, but claimed that ‘formal annexation’ was ‘quite contrary to the spirit of the time, and would only lay up a store of future trouble’. Two central axioms should guide British action in the Middle East. One was the ‘unalterable friendship of Great Britain and France’, the other ‘the duty of Great Britain and France towards oppressed peoples’. It was Sykes’s firm belief that if ‘Great Britain and France stick to these two grand principles then we may gain our temporal requirements without endangering our good name or running counter to the ethical sense of mankind as a whole’. What was needed was a ‘frank discussion between the British and French governments’, in which it was ‘essential’ to get the French to ‘play up to Arab nationalism with loyalty and purpose, and give definite instructions to their local officers to act accordingly’. Sir Mark also reminded his colleagues that France was ‘a better neighbour than Turkey or Germany’, and that (in a clear snipe at Hogarth) ‘no petty consideration that France is getting more than her share should stand between Great Britain and the beating of the enemy’.²⁶

In a further memorandum Sykes reiterated that the frank discussion between the allies should concentrate on ‘the attitude they intend to adopt towards the populations inhabiting those regions’. First of all, the avenue that had been ‘left open to annexation’ had to be closed off. Annexation was ‘contrary to the spirit of the time, and if at any moment the Russian extremists got hold of a copy they could make much capital against the whole entente’. France and Britain should come to an agreement ‘not to annex but to administer the country in consonance with the ascertained wishes of the people and to include the blue and red areas in the areas A and B’. If France boldly came out ‘with a recognition of […] Arab nationality in Syria as a whole they would sacrifice nothing and gain much’. With respect to Palestine, France should agree that Britain was ‘appointed trustee of the Powers for the administration’ of the country. Naturally, this would ‘be very objectionable to the French, but they really must be induced to settle matters up in their own interest’. They also should accept that Syria and the Lebanon became autonomous states, ‘under French patronage, but under a national flag’. If the French would ‘not agree to such a joint policy’, then Britain should abide by the agreement, but then it would be for the French ‘to make good – that is to say that if they cannot make a military effort compatible with their policy they should modify their policy’.

George Clerk was rather taken aback by the boldness of Sykes’s proposals. He noted that ‘the conclusion of this paper seems to be that, having got the Sykes–Picot Agreement […] we are to propose scrapping the whole thing. “Since I am so early done for, I wonder what I was begun for!”’ He also observed that a policy of no annexation would ‘make Basra rather a problem’. Although some of Sir Mark’s proposals were ‘excellent’, ‘desirable’, or ‘possibly salutary’ they would not ‘enhance our popularity’. Sir Ronald Graham agreed that, ‘with the possible exception of Basrah, it is preferable for us to “protect” or “influence” rather than formally annex. But it is a delicate matter to approach the French […] on the subject and we are likely to be misunderstood.’ He suggested that Georges-Picot, ‘who is now over here and will go further in the direction pro- posed than any other Frenchman I know of, should be consulted’. Balfour, however, rejected Graham’s suggestion. Until the War Cabinet had considered the matter there was ‘little use in interesting Picot’.²⁷

At Sykes’s request, his memorandum was circulated to the War Cabinet, but was not put on the agenda. At the end of September 1917, Clayton nevertheless felt confident enough to reassure Lawrence – who had written a violently anti-French, anti-agreement letter to Sykes that Clayton thought inadvisable to send on²⁸ – that from all he had heard:

The S–P agreement is in considerable disfavour in most quarters […] The change in the Russian situation has wounded it severely and the general orientation of Allied policy towards ‘no annexations’, ‘no indemnities, etc.’, militates still further against many of its provisions. I am inclined, therefore, to think that it is moribund. At the same time we are pledged in honour to France to give it the ‘coup-de-grace’ and must for the present act loyally up to it, in so far as we can. The S–P agreement was made nearly two years ago. The world has moved at so vastly increased a pace since then that it is now as old and out of date as the battle of Waterloo or the death of Queen Anne. It is in fact dead and, if we wait quietly, this fact will soon be realised. It was never a very workable instrument and is now al- most a lifeless monument. At the same time we cannot expect the French to see this yet, and we must therefore play up to it as loyally as possible until force of circumstance brings it home to them.²⁹

A further impetus to the idea that the Sykes–Picot agreement was obsolete and could not stand was provided by a flurry of declarations and speeches on war aims by, respectively, the Bolsheviks, the Central Powers, Prime Minister Lloyd George and President Wilson in the last weeks of December 1917 and the first of January 1918. On 22 November 1917, Leon Trotsky, commissary of foreign affairs, had addressed a note to the ambassadors at Petrograd ‘containing proposals for a truce and a democratic peace without annexation and without indemnities, based on the principle of the independence of nations, and of their right to determine the nature of their own development themselves’.³⁰ Peace negotiations with the Quadruple Alliance – Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey – started at Brest- Litovsk one month later. During the opening session of the conference, the Russian delegation read out a declaration on the six principles on the basis of which the negotiations should be conducted. The third of these stated that national groups that had not been independent before the war should be ‘guaranteed the possibility of deciding by referendum the question of belonging to one State or another, or enjoying their political independence’, and the fourth that minorities should have the right to an autonomous administration. On behalf of the Quadruple Alliance, the Austrian minister for foreign affairs, Count Czernin, replied on 25 December. The Russian principles formed ‘a discussible basis […] for peace’. With respect to principles three and four, Czernin declared that the ‘question of State allegiance of national groups which possess no State independence’ should be solved by ‘every State with its peoples independently in a constitutional manner’, and that ‘the right of minorities forms an essential component part of the constitutional right of peoples to self- determination’.³¹

Lloyd George and other members of the War Cabinet felt that Czernin’s speech could not be left unanswered. At the end of December and during the first days of January there were a series of discussions on the contents of a British declaration on war aims. At a meeting of the War Cabinet on 3 January, the Prime Minister expressed his willingness ‘to accept the application of the principle of self-determination to the captured German colonies […] Mesopotamia […] and […] Palestine’.³² In the final version of Lloyd George’s speech, which he delivered on 5 January, there were several references to the right of self-determination. The most important was that a ‘permanent peace’ could only be secured through a territorial settlement ‘based on the right of self-determination or the consent of the governed’. With respect to the non-Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire, the Prime Minister scoffed at Czernin’s third principle, which implied that ‘the form of self- government […] to be given to Arabs, Armenians, or Syrians is […] entirely a matter for the Sublime Porte’. The British government for their part were agreed that ‘Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine are […] entitled to a recognition of their separate national conditions’, but ‘what the exact form of that recognition in each particular case should be need not here be discussed, beyond stating that it would be impossible to restore to their former sovereignty the territories to which I have already referred’. Lloyd George could not deny that much had recently ‘been said about the arrangements we have entered into with our Allies on this and on other subjects’, but that the conditions under which these had been made had changed, and he expressed his readiness ‘to discuss them with our Allies’.³³


Enter President Wilson

Three days later it was President Wilson’s turn to answer Czernin’s challenge. In a speech to a joint session of the American Congress he stated that:

What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world, as against force and selfish aggression.

Wilson subsequently enumerated the 14 points on which ‘the program of the world’s peace must be based’. The 12th of these was that ‘the Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an un- doubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development’. The President did not explicitly invoke the principle of self- determination, but in a further speech to Congress on 11 February, Wilson observed that ‘self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their own peril.’³⁴

Predictably, Sykes was the first to recognize the implications of these declarations and speeches for the Sykes–Picot agreement. He minuted on 16 February that ‘the Anglo–French Agreement of 1916 in regard to Asia Minor should come up for reconsideration’, and deplored that ministers were placed ‘under the necessity of having to uphold agreements which are out of harmony with the expressed policy of the Entente and the United States, and which are based on a state of affairs which no longer exists’. Hardinge, also rather predictably, disagreed. He warned that ‘to do this would only open the door to further discussion with the French and Italians, and unless it be necessary from a Parliamentary point of view I would deprecate such action’.³⁵

Sykes wrote to Clayton on 3 March 1918 that ‘ever since Kerensky’s disappearance’, he had regarded the agreements ‘as completely worn out and that they should be scrapped. When they were made the United States of America was not in the war, Russia existed and the Italians had not been defeated.’ He claimed that ‘for the time at which it was made the Agreement was conceived on liberal lines’, but admitted that ‘the world has marched so far since then that the Agreement can only be considered a reactionary measure […] the stipulations in regard to the red and blue areas can only be regarded as quite contrary to the spirit of every ministerial speech that has been made for the last three months.’ He enclosed a letter to Georges-Picot in the same vein, and observed that he ‘should be very glad if you would talk this matter over with Monsieur Picot. I do not think he quite realises how far things have gone or how little interest outside a very narrow circle in France people take in the question of Syria and Palestine.’³⁶

Clayton was simply delighted. On 4 April he replied that Sykes’s ‘clear statement of the state of affairs in regard to this question’ had helped him ‘greatly’. He confessed that he had always felt this way, but until the receipt of Sir Mark’s letter he ‘had not been quite sure that H.M.G. had come to a definite decision in the matter’. He presumed that the French government had not yet been informed of it, as he saw ‘no sign from Picot that he has any idea that such a policy is in contemplation and he still regards the agreements as his bible’. Clayton assured Sykes that he would ‘take an early opportunity of discussing the whole question with him and sounding him on those lines, probably giving it as my own personal opinion that the agreements are out of date, reactionary, and only fit for the scrap heap’.³⁷ He reported this conversation to Balfour on 19 May 1918. He had intimated to Picot ‘my opinion that the Sykes–Picot agreement, if not absolutely dead, is at any rate an impracticable instrument as it stands’. The latter had ‘allowed that considerable revision was required in view of changes that had taken place in the situation since agreement was drawn up’, but nevertheless considered that ‘agreement holds, at any rate principle’.³⁸

 At the beginning of April, on the eve of Sir Percy Cox’s visit to London, the India Office wrestled with the implications of ‘the spread of the doctrine of “self- determination” under the powerful advocacy of the President of the United States’ for the future status of Mesopotamia. It was not suggested that the government’s policy ‘should be modified in essence’, as it was ‘scarcely thinkable that we should suffer the results already achieved to be entirely thrown away’, but one could not ignore ‘the general change of outlook […] which the war has brought about’. The India Office therefore proposed to ask Cox ‘what elements in the population is it specially desirable to strengthen and encourage, with a view of ensuring that, if and when the moment for “self-determination” arises, there will be a decisive pronouncement in favour of continuing the British connection?’ Sir Percy for his part was not disturbed by the principle that ‘the peoples of the countries interested or affected should be allowed to deter- mine their own form of government’. He assumed that ‘if at the end of the war we find ourselves in a sufficiently strong position, and in effective administrative control, we should still hope to annex the Basrah Vilayet and exercise a veiled protectorate over the Baghdad Vi- layet’. At the same time he recognized that ‘the question of annexation has become exceedingly difficult vis-à-vis the President of the United States, who will presumably exercise the most potent influence at the Peace Conference. Our original proposals must consequently be regarded as a counsel of perfection, and we must be prepared to accept something less.’ A policy of an ‘Arab façade’ should offer ‘no insurmountable difficulties’.

Sykes was shocked by Cox’s adaptation of the principle of self-determination to the Mesopotamian situation. He angrily noted:

We should come to a clear decision as to what is the basis of our Mesopotamian policy. Is it to be camouflaged Imperialism or is it a policy of development with Democratic and World objectives? I have always objected to the expression Arab Façade as typifying an out-of-date point of view.

He urged the Eastern Committee not to take Egypt or India as models, as in ‘both places our basis of occupation is Imperialistic, and in both places we are going to be confronted with revolutionary democratic movements which will probably have the support of the future governments of this country when the re-action comes after the war’. These difficulties could only be avoided ‘if our policy is logical and public and does not conceal a second policy of hidden annexation and ascendancy’.³⁹ Sir Mark, however, got nowhere at the meeting of the Eastern Committee where the question was discussed in his presence and Cox’s on 24 April 1918. Although Curzon agreed that British policy ‘might have to be adapted to certain formulae, such as that of “self-determination,” increasingly used as a watchword since President Wilson’s entry into the war’, that was as far as he was prepared to go. In Mesopotamia ‘we should construct a State with an “Arab Façade”, ruled and administered under British guidance’, and where Basra was concerned, ‘it might be desirable to keep Basra town and district entirely in British hands’. Balfour believed that:

President Wilson did not seriously mean to apply his formula outside Europe. He meant that no ‘civilised’ communities should remain under the heel of other ‘civilised’ communities: as to politically inarticulate peoples, he would probably not say more than that their true interests should prevail as against exploitation by conquerors. If so, an Arab State under British protection would satisfy him (and with him the American public, though less enlightened), if it were shown that the Arabs could not stand alone. Doubtless the Arabs, if offered the choice, would choose what we wished.  He therefore thought it ‘unlikely that President Wilson would oppose the policy suggested’. After Curzon had expressed the hope that ‘should the word “annexation” appear too inauspicious (as suggested by Sir Mark Sykes) […] a terminological variant, such as “perpetual lease,” or “enclave,” might be found, both to safeguard the reality which we must not abandon, and to save the appearances which the occasion might require’, the Eastern Committee ‘approved Sir P. Cox’s Memorandum, and desired him to proceed with the development of the administration in Mesopotamia on the lines that had been laid down’.⁴⁰

During their conference at the beginning of July 1918, Sykes and Picot also discussed the situation with respect to the agreement. Sykes repeated once more his argument that it ‘had been profoundly affected by the exit of Russia, the entrance of the United States and the accentuation of the Democratic nature of allied War Aims in general’. Picot countered by explaining that ‘the Agreement could not be abolished, as such an act would raise violent opposition and ill feeling among the Colonials in France, and would give great strength to the financial pro-Turkish elements both of which would be most fatal developments, and helpful to the enemy’. After ‘some discussion and careful examination’, they drew up two papers. The first of these was a proposal for a joint declaration to the King of the Hijaz. The second, paper B, concerned a statement of Anglo–French war aims in the Middle East:

1. In the opinion of the governments of Great Britain and France there can be no prospect of a permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East so long as non-Ottoman nationalities, now subject to Ottoman rule, or inhabiting areas hitherto subject to Ottoman rule now occupied by the Allied forces, have no adequate guarantee of social, material, and political security.

2. That the only guarantee of permanent improvement is to be found in the securing of self- government to the inhabitants of such areas.

3. That in view of the condition of these areas arising from misgovernment, devastation, and massacre, it is the opinion of the two Powers, that a period of tutelage must supervene before the inhabitants of the areas are capable of complete self-government, and in a position to maintain their independence.

4. That the Powers exercising such tutelage should exercise it on the sanction of the free nations of the world, and with the consent of the inhabitants of the areas concerned.⁴¹

Paper B was coolly received in the Foreign Office. Sir Eric Drummond doubted ‘very much the wisdom of B. I do not think we ought to bind ourselves definitely to the principles laid down in paragraphs 3 and 4’, and Hardinge was ‘very doubtful as to the value of such declarations. We have already made several […] and they may, as has often happened in the past, prove inconvenient in the future.’⁴²

Paper B was to be discussed at the Eastern Committee’s meeting of 15 July, but on Sykes’s request the discussion was adjourned. At the next meeting, discussion was again postponed at his request, this time, as it turned out, for good.⁴³ The idea that it was desirable to publish an Anglo–French declaration on war aims in the Middle East had, however, set. On 6 August, Cecil told the Italian ambassador that ‘there was considerable anxiety in Arab circles lest we should be going to annex districts which were populated by Arabs, and it was partly to allay these anxieties that we were considering whether we should formally propose to the French government some declaration of this kind’.⁴⁴ At the Eastern Committee’s meeting of 8 August, Cecil moreover emphasized that the point of such a declaration ‘was to ensure beforehand that the French if and when we entered Syria, should not make use of our military forces in order to carry out a policy which was at variance with our general engagements’.⁴⁵

The next day, Hogarth submitted a memorandum on the Arab question to the Foreign Office in which he again pressed home the point that:

The belief, amounting, since Bolshevik revelations, to certainty, that we have pledged great part of Syria to France, for her occupation or her exclusive influence, is the greatest stumbling-block we have to encounter […] Outside a small denationalised minority, which however is more articulate than the majority, the feeling of all classes of Syrians against entry into the French colonial sphere is of the strongest and most irreconcilable sort.⁴⁶

Hogarth’s memorandum led to an interview with Lord Robert on 17 August. The next day, Hogarth submitted the draft of an Anglo–French declaration to the King of the Hijaz, as an alternative to the one proposed by Sykes and Picot. Cecil heavily edited Hogarth’s draft, which resulted in the following text:

Great Britain and France undertake severally and jointly to promote and assist the establishment of native governments and administrations in all parts of the Arab-speaking areas of Arabia, Syria, Jazirah and Upper Iraq, and to recognise them as effectively established. Further, they pledge them- selves, after the areas have been liberated from the Turks, not to annex any part of them, provided they be not invited expressly to do so by the majority of the inhabitants or by the native government of any of such areas, unless the native governments should become unable or unwilling to prevent annexation, protection, or occupation by any other foreign power.

George Lloyd was also invited to give his views on a joint Anglo–French declaration. He observed that it was ‘generally agreed that in view of what has occurred since’, the Sykes–Picot agreement was ‘a source of embarrassment at the moment’, but rather doubted the wisdom of making yet another declaration, especially considering that ‘America may well be in a position to disturb and perhaps break any agreements we now make, and if this occurred we should suffer serious damage in regard to Eastern confidence in our under- takings’. He therefore advised that ‘fresh declarations made by ourselves and France to the Arabs or made between France and ourselves about the Arabs are undesirable if they can by any means be avoided’. However, in case it was decided that a declaration could not be avoided, then it should be ‘clearly understood that it is not made as a rider or an addendum to the Sykes–Picot agreement, but in definite substitution of it and of all those agreements with Italy or others that resulted from it’. Cecil quite agreed, but lamented ‘how are we to mitigate or abolish the S.P. agreement? It is I fear impossible to induce the French to agree to its abrogation.’⁴⁷

On 4 September 1918, the French Embassy reminded the Foreign Office of its demarche of 1 August on the administration of occupied enemy territory in the French sphere of influence (see ‘French Participation in the Administration of Palestine’). Sykes minuted that the best thing was to ask Georges-Picot ‘to come over here and put the matter on a settled basis’. He still adhered to his ‘original idea that we should do two things together. (A) In return for arrangements as to French position west of Syria being occupied by us, get (B) French statement as to the policy they would follow.’⁴⁸ A few days later, Sykes received a letter from Picot complaining that ‘the embassy has several times demanded a reply to its demarches on the administration of the territories in our zone; but failed to get one’, and warning that in France ‘people do not understand this silence at all; malicious spirits see hidden intentions, others are worried. As far as I am concerned, I cannot return before the question is settled and the prolongation of my stay threatens every day to lead to a scandal.’

In his reply, Sir Mark almost pleaded with Picot that France should relent and at last acknowledge ‘the spirit of the age’. If French colonialists insisted on ‘supporting an annexationist policy’, then ‘disaster alone’ could ensue. France really had no other option than ‘to come out with a declaration supporting Syrian and Lebanese independence on national lines. To say that France is ready to give all assistance and protection to Syria, but does not desire to impose institutions on the country, nor to insist on an unsolicited occupation thereof after the war.’ Sykes threatened that even he, France’s last champion in England, was thinking of giving up on her, and ended his letter on a note of exasperation:

My point is this, getting France to make a concession in policy is like getting blood out of a stone. I don’t ask you to modify the area of your interest, but the extent of it […] Just as Syrians ask me for a single proof that France means to do other than back minorities, annex Blue Syria, and paralyse the hinterland, so British people ask me for a single proof that Syria is going to be developed on other than ordinary French colonial lines, and any real indication that anything else is to be expected.⁴⁹

‘a little imperium in imperio

Cecil chafed under the Eastern Committee’s dominant position in the formulation of Middle East policy. He very much resented the Committee’s, and especially its chairman’s, constant meddling in matters he firmly believed to be the preserve of the Foreign Office. The day- to-day execution of Middle East policy should be in the hands of his department. The Eastern Committee should limit itself to discussing matters of high policy and to arbitrate and coordinate when the policies pursued by the departments concerned − the India Office, the War Office, the Foreign Office and, occasionally, the Treasury – threatened to come into conflict. In the middle of July 1918, Cecil’s chances to push through this vision appeared to be greatly increased by his appointment as assistant secretary of state for foreign affairs – a constitutional novelty – with special responsibility for, among other subjects, the Middle East (he continued as parliamentary under-secretary for foreign affairs).

From a memorandum Montagu had submitted on 5 July, it appeared that he thought on the same lines as Cecil. He was sure that action had ‘been delayed by the necessity for awaiting decisions of the Eastern Committee’. The committee ‘should not attempt actual executive action, but […] should be a Cabinet Committee, discussing, on behalf of the Cabinet, Cabinet matters, questions of policy, leaving details of the conduct of the policy to the Departments concerned’. Montagu also suggested the establishment of a sub-committee of three, ‘consisting of an Under-Secretary of State or an Assistant Under-Secretary of State from the Foreign Office and from the India Office, with the Director of Military Intelligence from the War Office’. This sub- committee would then have the duty ‘to thresh out everything, and to give decisions except on matters of high policy or of such great importance as should go before the Ministers of the Committee for decision’.

Sir Henry Wilson also chimed in. The CIGS claimed that ‘Mr Montagu’s statement that the present organisation inevitably leads to action being frequently delayed cannot be disputed’. Action was not only ‘delayed owing to the necessity of obtaining the sanction of the Committee to every step taken in the execution of policy already laid down by the Committee’, but also ‘a ruling as to important questions of policy has on several occasions been postponed from one meeting to another owing to the fact that the Committee is overburdened with executive action’. The War Office therefore were ‘in general accord’ with the changes ‘of great importance’ suggested by Montagu.

Cecil naturally could not but agree. He noted on 20 July that ‘for executive purposes the Eastern Committee is not a convenient instrument. It necessarily meets comparatively seldom, and even so is a great burden on the time of the very busy men who constitute the Committee.’ Executive matters therefore should be dealt with, ‘as far as possible […] either by the individual departments immediately concerned or by informal consultations between two or more departments, and I trust that this system will be increasingly adopted in the future’. Only in important matters ‘the Chairman of the Committee should be consulted just as the Prime Minister is, or ought to be’.

The Foreign Office, however, did not speak with one voice. On 17 July the department had circulated its own note on the subject, which was far less critical of the Eastern Committee. It admitted that ‘action in important matters meets occasionally with some delay’, and agreed that ‘a considerable number of questions of  secondary importance relating to the situation in the East which are now submitted to the Committee are capable of inter-departmental adjustment without re- course to the Committee’, but on the whole it could ‘hardly be denied that the Eastern Committee in its present form has proved a very useful branch of the War Cabinet’, and it was ‘doubtful whether the conduct of affairs now under the control of the Committee would either in the present or the future be improved by any material change in its present form of organisation’. Ten days later, Balfour sided with the department. He, too, thought that the critics of the Eastern Committee ‘exaggerate its shortcomings’. Balfour moreover completely turned around Montagu’s suggestion to set up a small sub-committee that would deal with day-to-day affairs. Instead of the sub-committee deciding which matters should be sent up to the Eastern Committee, it should be Curzon as chairman deciding which questions could be handled by the sub-committee.

Curzon therefore had an easy time in parrying the three-pronged attack by Montagu, Wilson and Cecil. In a memorandum, dated 1 August, he declared that he was not ‘aware of any question of importance, the decision of which has been delayed by the procedure or constitution of the Committee’. Certainly there had been delays, ‘as, for instance, the discussion of the present subject’, but these had been caused not by the Committee, ‘but by the slowness of the departments in submitting their views’. Curzon added that:

In practice the departmental devolution that is recommended in some of these papers already exists […] Action is taken upon the great majority of the telegrams that come in both to Foreign Office, India Office, and War Office, without any reference to the Committee (or, I may add, to the Chairman) at all. The Departments have found no difficulty in discriminating between what I may call departmental cases and Committee cases.

He also saw ‘no reason for the constitution of a Sub- Committee, with powers either of decision or action’. He could only ‘concur in Mr Balfour’s view that we are dealing not unsuccessfully with a complex situation, and that for the present no substantial changes are required’.⁵⁰

Curzon was not allowed to savor his moment of triumph for very long. He had ‘only just completed [his] note on Montagu’s proposals’ when he received a letter from Cecil in which the latter announced his intention, ‘unless you see some objection’, to ask ‘Oliphant, Shuckburgh, and Macdonogh to meet frequently, so that all routine matters arising out of the Persian and Middle East telegrams and involving more than one of the offices can be rapidly disposed of without interdepartmental correspondence’. These officials would meet in Cecil’s room ‘two or three times a week, or oftener if necessary, and then I could see that they did not dispose of any really important matter without consulting you, or if necessary the Eastern Committee’. Curzon replied right away. He was shocked that Cecil ‘without waiting for any decision’ contemplated setting up this committee, and viewed this move ‘with considerable suspicion’. The committee would ‘almost certainly develop into a little imperium in imperio, whose tendency will be to act on his own account, and to usurp the powers of the Eastern Committee’. Curzon therefore hoped that ‘after this explanation […] you will not think it necessary to pursue the idea’. Lord Robert hastily assured Curzon the same day that ‘of course no meeting of the kind to which you object shall take place, pending a discussion of the whole matter by the Eastern Com- mittee’.⁵¹

The discussion on the Eastern Committee and its functions finally took place on 13 August 1918. Montagu, Cecil and Curzon extensively rehearsed their arguments. At the end of the discussion, Curzon found it necessary to warn that, if the Eastern Committee would overrule him and approve the establishment of ‘a formal sub- committee’, then he would have ‘to ask to be relieved of his present duties’. General Smuts came to his rescue. He had been ‘much impressed with the case made out by the Chairman, who had, it was universally admitted exceptional qualifications for his present position as President of their Committee. It would be a very serious matter to set up a smaller body which might encroach upon the functions of the Committee.’ He moreover opined that the Eastern Committee was not free to decide this matter; ‘if any considerable change were con- templated he thought the matter would have to go before the Cabinet’.⁵²

Even though Curzon visited Hankey one week later ‘to explain to me his difficulties with Montagu and Lord R. Cecil at the Eastern Committee’,⁵³ this was more or less where the affair ended, also because Montagu decided not to pursue the matter any further. As he explained in a letter to Cecil, he had found that ‘you, and I noticed at dinner Eric [Sir Eric Drummond; R.H.L.], are not a little inclined to consider my desire to get a better form of administration in Eastern matters as being personal in their application to Lord Curzon’. This was ‘so inaccurate and has caused me such deep concern, that I propose to abandon the matter and to acquiesce, rather than to be further misunderstood […] I therefore propose to drop the subject and shall inform Lord Curzon of this decision when he returns to London.’⁵⁴

In August 1918, Cecil was also busy setting up a department within the Foreign Office that would deal with the Middle East, Egypt and Persia. Almost three years previously, Sykes had already urged upon him the establishment of such a department, and at the end of July Lord Robert had requested Sir Mark to draw up ‘a rough draft of the scheme of organisation for Middle Eastern affairs’.⁵⁵ In a note he sent to Hardinge one month later, Cecil explained how he envisaged the new department. He laid particular stress on the fact that the problems Britain confronted in Egypt, Arabia, Palestine and Mesopotamia were ‘mainly administrative and not diplomatic […] they should be dealt with by a special Department of the Office, which should be largely staffed by persons with administrative experience’.⁵⁶

Hardinge supported the idea that a Middle East Department should be established as soon as possible, but disagreed with Cecil on who should be the under- secretary in charge of it. Lord Robert had first considered Sir Arthur Hirtzel, but had reached the conclusion, so he explained to Balfour, that Hirtzel ‘for various reasons, including your dislike of I.O. officials […] would not do’. He had subsequently opted for Crowe.⁵⁷ Hardinge agreed that Hirtzel was ‘not at all suitable’, but according to him Crowe would not do either, because the latter had neither Middle Eastern expertise nor experience. He proposed Graham instead. The latter had spent many years in Egypt, and was ‘the soul of loyalty and would, I am convinced, make the new department a success’.⁵⁸ Lord Robert, however, held on to Crowe. He informed Hardinge the next day that he had telegraphed to Balfour, who was away on holiday, on the subject ‘telling him what you have suggested and explaining quite definitely my view that I would rather not attempt the scheme at all unless I am permitted to have in charge of the department someone with whom I can work satisfactorily’.⁵⁹ Balfour was rather puzzled by Cecil’s attitude. He had ‘no reason to question your estimate of Crowe – you have seen more of his work than I have. But surely you underestimate Graham? He has industry, good sense, and […] ability; and though I think Crowe is probably the cleverer man is it so clear that he has the sounder judgment?’ Balfour also pointed out that ‘so far as actual experience is concerned, Graham is the better man’.⁶⁰

In a long reply written the next day, Lord Robert set out his ‘case against Graham’. When Cecil had discussed the matter with him, Graham had been ‘against the whole proposal’, and he was still ‘almost passionately anxious to retain Egypt as part of the ordinary Foreign Office organisation’. Graham really had the ‘diplomatic mind’ and would ‘never be a good administrative official’. He added for good measure that Graham had ‘been quite useless to me in Middle Eastern affairs during Hardinge’s absence. Indeed he really knows less about them than I do.’ What it all amounted to was that Graham did ‘not suit [him] as a subordinate’, while with Crowe it was the opposite. The ‘Hardinge–Graham mind’ was no use to him, ‘whereas Crowe’s suits me exactly’. Cecil observed in conclusion that ‘as you have asked me to do this work I do very earnestly beg that I may be allowed to have the assistance which I believe to be essential to me’.⁶¹ Balfour gave in. On 28 August, he informed Drummond that he had telegraphed to Cecil  that Crowe should be appointed.⁶² Three days later, Cecil reported to Balfour that ‘the Crowe incident is closed. I gather the appointment has given very general satisfaction in the Office.’⁶³

None of the protagonists in the conflict had thought of making the acting adviser on Arabian and Palestine affairs head of the new Middle East Department. During the greater part of the month of August, Sykes had been away from the Foreign Office. He had stayed for a few weeks at his home at Sledmere to recuperate. When he returned and was confronted with the creation of this new department for which he had drafted a first outline but of which Crowe was in charge, he lodged a feeble protest with Lord Robert. He thought it ‘only right that I should point out that under this arrangement I drop down in the scale. I advised Lord Hardinge who passed the stuff on to the Secretary of State. Under the present arrangement I advise Sir Eyre Crowe who advises Lord Hardinge, and when the stuff comes back it will have to go back to Sir Eyre Crowe,’⁶⁴ but left it at that.


Allenby’s Offensive and the Capture of Damascus

On the morning of 19 September 1918, the EEF opened an attack on the Turkish lines in what became known as the battle of Megiddo. As Archibald Wavell, who served on the staff of Allenby’s XX Corps, noted in his book on the Palestine campaigns, Allenby ‘had massed on a front of some fifteen miles […] 35,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry and 383 guns. On the same front, the unconscious Turk had only 8,000 infantry with 130 guns […] The battle was practically over before a shot was fired’.⁶⁵ The Turkish defeat was complete by 21 September. Five days later, Allenby ordered the advance on Damascus.

The occupation of Damascus offered another opportunity to get the French to accept that changes in circumstances prevented the execution of the Sykes– Picot agreement, this time by creating facts on the ground. If an Arab administration had been established in area ‘A’ before French officials and soldiers arrived, then France would have no other option but to accept the fait accompli, and to give up her imperialistic designs. On 23 September, Ormsby Gore urged Sykes that Faysal, whose force operated on the right flank of Allenby’s army, should be proclaimed ‘Emir in the event of our capturing Damascus. We should recognise Arab government there at once.’⁶⁶ A first step was to recognise the belligerent status of Faysal’s troops. On 24 September, the Director of Military Intelligence was informed that the Foreign Office had wired to Lord Derby − Bertie’s successor at the Paris embassy − that ‘the time has come for formally recognising the belligerent status of the friendly Arabs operating in the Palestine– Syrian theatre against the Turks’. In a subsequent letter four days later, the Foreign Office went one step further by proclaiming that:

In pursuance of the general policy approved by His Majesty’s Government, and in accordance more particularly with the engagements into which they have entered with the King of Hedjaz, the authority of the friendly and allied Arabs should be formally recognised in any part of the Areas A and B, as defined in the Anglo–French agreement of 1916, where it may be found established, or can be established, as a result of the military operations now in progress.

This implied that these territories should be treated as ‘allied territory enjoying the status of an independent state, or confederation of states, of friendly Arabs which has in consequence of its military successes and the organisation of a government (or governments) established its independence of Turkey’. The Foreign Office also reminded the Director of Military Intelligence that:

If and where the Arab authorities request the assistance or advice of European functionaries, we are bound under the Anglo–French agreement to let these be French in Area A. It is important from this point of view that the military administration should be restricted to such functions as can properly be described as military, so as to give rise to no inconvenient claim to the employment of French civilians where unnecessary. It is equally important to keep our procedure in that part of Area B, which lies East of the Dead Sea and of the Jordan-Valley, on the same lines, so as not to give the French the pretext for any larger demands in Area A.⁶⁷

Allenby could not have agreed more. On the day he had ordered the advance on Damascus, he also issued a ‘Special instruction’ to the Australian Mounted Division, which spearheaded his offensive, that ‘while operating against the enemy about Damascus care will be taken to avoid entering the town if possible. Unless forced to do so for tactical reasons, no troops are to enter Damascus.’⁶⁸ Damascus should not surrender to British troops, but to Faisal’s Northern Arab Army. Tactical reasons, however, forced the Australian Mounted Division’s hands. The attempt ‘to pass around Damascus’ in pursuit of the retreating Turkish army had to be abandoned because ‘the terrain was too rugged’.⁶⁹ This had the result that in the early morning of 1 October 1918, the 10th regiment Australian Light Horse entered Damascus on its way to Homs. According to Cyril Falls, the official historian of the campaign:

Once in the streets the horsemen were compelled to pull up to a walk, for they found themselves surrounded by a population gone mad with joy […] Major Olden dismounted for a few minutes at the Serai or Town Hall, where he found sitting a committee, under Mohammed Said [Sa’id al-Jazairi; R.H.L.], a descendant of Abd el Kader, the famous Algerian opponent of the French, who declared that he had been installed by Jemal Pasha as Governor the previous afternoon, and formally surrendered the city to him.⁷⁰

Lawrence arrived in Damascus around 9:00 a.m. That same day he sent a telegram to General Headquarters in which he reported his reception ‘amid scenes of extraordinary enthusiasm on the part of the local people. The streets were nearly impassable with the crowds, who yelled themselves hoarse, danced, cut themselves with swords and daggers and fired volleys into the air.’ He and his companions had been ‘cheered by name, covered with flowers, kissed indefinitely, and splashed with attar of roses from the house-tops’. Lawrence also mentioned that Shukri al Ayubi, a local supporter of Faisal, had been installed as military governor, but failed to mention that he had dismissed the Arab administration appointed by Djemal Pasha that had surrendered Damascus to the British troops.⁷¹ Only one week later, the Foreign Office learned from Clayton that he had:  Ascertained [that] a certain Ammed Sayed and Abd Elara Kader el Jezari [Abd al-Qadir, the brother of Sa’id al-Jazairi; R.H.L.] attempted to usurp civil control in Damascus during Turkish withdrawal on September 30th but were dismissed by Emir Feisal’s representative and Abd el Kader imprisoned on October 2nd after his attempt to inflame local Moslem opinion against the Christian and Shereffian occupation which had led to rioting by Moors and Druses in Damascus.

Clayton apologized that he had not reported this incident sooner, but he ‘did not consider it advisable to telegraph vague rumors and unsubstantiated reports’.⁷²

Allenby wired to the War Office on 6 October that he had visited Damascus three days before, and that ‘Sharif Feisal made his entry amid the acclamation of the inhabitants same day’. During an interview he had informed the Emir that he ‘was prepared to recognise the Arab administration of occupied territory East of the Jordan from Damascus to Maan inclusive as a military administration under my supreme control’. He had further told Faisal that he would ‘appoint two liaison officers, between me and the Arab Administration, one of whom would be British and the other French and that these two officers would communicate with me through my Chief Political Officer’.⁷³ Allenby did not mention that Faisal had ‘objected very strongly’ to this arrangement, ‘as he knew nothing of France in the matter’, and that he had felt it necessary to remind Faisal that the latter was under his command and had to obey orders. Faisal had finally ‘accepted this decision and left with his entourage’.⁷⁴

On 7 October, Allenby did report that trouble had arisen with respect to Beirut. The French political officer Captain Coulondre had officially protested to Faisal about the latter hurriedly sending Arab troops to occupy that city. Faisal had claimed that he had sent these troops ‘for purely military reasons to prevent disturbance’, and had ‘indignantly denied charge of any ulterior motive and bad faith’. Allenby, however, had no hesitation in pointing out that ulterior motives were involved. The Arab nationalists were intent on exploiting the formula for the second type of areas distinguished in the Declaration to the Seven, which referred to ‘areas emancipated from Turkish control by the action of the Arabs themselves during the present war’, where Britain recognized ‘the complete and sovereign independence of the Arabs inhabiting these areas’. This clause applied to the past. It covered the areas that had been liberated since the beginning of Hussein’s revolt. Syria was covered by the fourth type of areas that had been distinguished, those that ‘were still under Turkish control’, and in respect to which the British government had only expressed their wish and desire that ‘the oppressed peoples of these areas should obtain their freedom and independence’. According to Allenby, the Arab nationalists interpreted the formula adopted for the second type of area as a promise that Britain would recognise the complete and sovereign independence of all areas liberated by the Arabs themselves.⁷⁵ This was the reasoning behind Faisal’s rush to Beirut. After Faisal’s troops had reached Beirut, Shukri al- Ayubi had been installed as governor, and the Sherifian flag hoisted. This was unacceptable to Allenby. Beirut was in the blue area and he therefore appointed a French military governor, while Faisal was ordered to withdraw his forces. Faisal initially refused to do so. On 11 October, Clayton wrote to Wingate that he must ‘go to Damascus and give Faisal a talking to, as he is getting rather out of hand’. Faisal should understand that he would ‘surely prejudice his case before the Peace Conference if he tries to grab’. It would be far better if the latter ‘should devote his energies to forming a sound and reliable administration in Damascus and the “A” and “B” areas, so that he may have something tangible to show at the Peace Conference’.⁷⁶

Clayton had his talk with Faisal on 14 October. The latter had tendered his resignation the day before, in protest against the lowering of the Arab flag at Beirut, but had been persuaded to postpone it.⁷⁷ Faisal explained to Clayton that he regarded himself as ‘a guardian who has pledged his honour to secure the freedom and independence of the Arab people of Syria’, and emphasized that ‘the people of Beirut and other coastal towns took the first possible opportunity of  declaring for Arab government’. He nevertheless acquiesced in Shukri’s removal, and when he was informed that ‘no flags will be flown in Beirut’, he was also ‘satisfied regarding the lowering of the Arab flag’ there.⁷⁸ In a further telegram, Clayton took the opportunity to drive home once more that ‘the crux of the situation’ still was the ‘necessity for definitive declaration of policy by the French and British governments to the effect that there will be no question of annexation whether open or veiled in any part of Syria. Arabs will not wish to accept French assistance without this declaration.’⁷⁹ Allenby fully agreed. He warned the War Office that ‘the general feeling of uneasiness on the parts of the Arabs can only be dispelled by public declaration of policy by the French and British governments’.⁸⁰ Both Clayton and Allenby were not aware that, as Crowe minuted on Clayton’s telegram, ‘the public declaration of policy desired by General Clayton is being prepared in consultation with the French’.⁸¹


The Foreign Office’s Window of Opportunity and the Joint Declaration

Four days after the launch of Allenby’s offensive, Balfour, who substituted for Cecil as the latter was away on holiday, received Paul Cambon. The French ambassador reminded the foreign secretary that Syria was ‘by the Sykes–Picot Agreement, within the French sphere of influence, and it was extremely important from the French point of view that this fact should not be lost sight of in any arrangements that General Allenby, as Commander-in-Chief, might make for the administration of the country’. Subsequently, they had ‘a conversation of considerable length, in which Sir Mark Sykes, the joint author of the Sykes–Picot Agreement took a part’. In the end, completely bypassing the Eastern Committee, Balfour:

Drafted for M. Cambon’s guidance the following statement of policy, which seemed to me to be required by the letter and spirit of the Agreement:– Private.

The British government adhere to their declared policy with regard to Syria: namely that, if it should fall into the sphere of interest of any European Power, that Power should be France. They also think that this policy should be made perfectly clear both in France and elsewhere.

The exact course which should be followed by the two governments in case General Allenby takes his forces into Syria should be immediately discussed in Paris or London. But it is understood that in any event, wherever officers are required to carry out civilian duties, these officers should (unless the French government express an opinion to the contrary) be French and not English; without prejudice of course to the supreme authority of the Commander-in-Chief while the country is in military occupation.

Balfour in one stroke regained for the Foreign Office the initiative in formulating British policy towards the Middle East. He also confirmed the policy that Cecil and Sykes had been advocating for months that Britain should without reserve recognize the French claims in Syria and the Lebanon that flowed from the Sykes–Picot agreement, but which had time and again been thwarted by the Eastern Committee. For the moment, however, the Eastern Committee remained unaware of Balfour’s initiative. The day after the interview, the Foreign Office did inform the Director of Military Intelligence that Bal- four had telegraphed to Derby that ‘if General Allenby advances to Damascus it would be most desirable that in conformity with the Anglo–French Agreement of 1916 he should if possible work through an Arab Administration by means of French liaison’. It also suggested that ‘this telegram should be repeated to Sir E. Allenby for his guidance’.⁸² It was only at the Eastern Committee’s meeting of 26 September that Balfour related that he had drawn up ‘a brief statement of policy’, which ‘had been cabled the same evening to our Ambassador in Paris’. He assured the committee that copies of his note would be circulated, but suggested that ‘the further discussion of the subject should be postponed until members were in possession of these papers’. Curzon was quite taken aback. He declared that ‘he regarded the question as one of the utmost importance. The Foreign Office appeared now to be relying upon the Sykes–Picot Agreement from which the Committee had hitherto been doing their best to escape.’⁸³

On 27 September, on the eve of Georges-Picot’s visit to London (see ‘Mitigating or Abolishing the Sykes–Picot Agreement’, above), Cambon called upon Cecil. The ambassador explained that ‘in the existing state of things it would scarcely do to leave the negotiations in the hands of Sir Mark Sykes and M. Picot exclusively’, and proposed that ‘M. Picot might be accompanied by somebody from the French Embassy, and Sir Mark by someone from this office’. Cecil agreed that ‘it was desirable that the negotiations should be rather more formal than they had been’, and suggested that Cambon and he should both preside.⁸⁴

The Anglo–French conference took place on 30 September. On the proposition of Lord Robert, and ‘subject to the confirmation of the British and French governments’, it was agreed that:

In the areas of special French interest, as described in the Anglo–French Agreement of 1916, which are or may be occupied by the Allied forces of the Egyptian expeditionary force, the Commander- in-Chief will recognise the representative of the French government as his Chief Political Adviser. The functions of the Chief Political Adviser will be as follows:

1. Subject to the supreme authority of the Commander-in-Chief, the Chief Political Adviser will act as sole intermediary on political and administrative questions between the Commander- in-Chief and any Arab government or governments, permanent or provisional, which may be set up in Area ‘A’, and recognised under the terms of clause 1 of the Agreement of 1916.

2.  At the request of the Commander-in-chief, and subject to his supreme authority, the Chief Political Adviser will be charged by the Commander- in-Chief with the establishment of such provisional administration in the towns of the Syrian littoral situated in the blue area, and in the blue area in general.

3.  Subject to the approval of the Commander- in-Chief, the Chief Political Adviser will provide […] Such European advisory staff and assistants as the Arab government or governments set up in Area ‘A’ may require under clause 1 of the Anglo–French Agreement of 1916 […] Such personnel as may be necessary for civil duties in the littoral towns or other parts of the blue area.

The conference also decided that the ‘above arrangement shall remain in force until such time as the military situation justifies reconsideration of the question of civil administration and political relations’, and to recommend to their respective governments that they:

Take an early opportunity to issue a declaration, or declarations, defining their attitude towards the Arab territories liberated from Turkish rule. Such a declaration should make it clear that neither government has any intention of annexing any part of the Arab territories, but that, in accordance with the provisions of the Anglo–French Agreement of 1916, both are determined to recognise and uphold an independent Arab State, or confederation of States, and with this view to lend their assistance in order to secure the effective administration of those territories under the authority of the native rulers and peoples.⁸⁵

The policy urged by Sykes and Cecil of faithfully adhering to the terms of the Sykes–Picot agreement, but at the same time preventing the French from realizing their imperialistic plans by binding them through a joint declaration to a policy of no annexation and Arab independence, seemed finally to have been vindicated. When the Foreign Office received Allenby’s telegram to the War Office of 30 September, in which he set out his proposed administrative arrangements with respect to the blue area and the areas ‘A’ and ‘B’ – appointing ‘French Military officers wherever administration may be necessary in the French “Blue” area’, and in area ‘A’ recognising the local Arab administration and appointing a ‘French liaison officer as required’ – Crowe noted with satisfaction that this was ‘practically what we suggested’.⁸⁶ A further indication that things at last were going the Foreign Office’s way was that the French government concurred in recognizing ‘the belligerent status of the Arab forces fighting as auxiliaries of the Allies against the common enemy in Palestine and Syria’,⁸⁷ but Cecil still had to brave the storm in the Eastern Committee.

The committee met on 3 October to discuss the agreement. Curzon immediately opened the attack. The Eastern Committee ‘had for a long time been proceeding on the hypothesis that this Anglo–French Agreement of 1916 was out of date and unscientific, and that it was desirable to get rid of it’, but he feared that the committee was ‘now presented with something like  a fait accompli in Syria’, and that this ‘new provisional agreement seemed to fix even more firmly on our shoulders the agreement of 1916, the terms of which he, for one, deplored’. Montagu’s first concern was the future status of Baghdad and Basra. He wished to know whether the proposed declaration announcing that ‘neither Great Britain nor France has any intention of annexing any part of the Arab territories’ also applied to these vilayets. Cecil stated that it ‘undoubtedly’ did, and that ‘the paragraph alluded to by Mr Montagu was specially inserted at our instance, and not very willingly agreed to by the French’. As far as Basra was concerned, he reassuringly added that ‘in practice it would always be possible for us to control it, whether we annexed it or established a protectorate’. However, Montagu was not in search of reassurance; on the contrary, he ‘urged very strongly that the Committee should accept’ the pro- posed declaration, but he did so for the same disingenuous reason that had previously led Cox to embrace self-determination (see section ‘Mitigating or Abolishing the Sykes–Picot Agreement’, above). According to Montagu, and Smuts concurred, Britain ‘stood to lose nothing by pledging itself not to use the word “annexation”. We could maintain the Arab façade and yet ensure British paramountcy.’

Lord Robert informed the committee that the duration of the military administration had been another issue that had involved hard bargaining. General Thwaites, Macdonogh’s successor as DMI, explained that the French had been anxious to have in writing that this ‘should only last up to the cessation of hostilities’, but the War Office had insisted that ‘a civil administration should not be established until the cessation of military occupation’. The clause on the subject inserted in the agreement implied that the ‘matter, therefore, had been left over without decision’.

Cecil laid great stress on the provisional nature of the agreement, that it ‘did not in any way pledge us at the Peace Conference’, but he had to admit that ‘it would probably be desirable to call the attention of the French government to this fact’. He also promised to suggest to the French government that ‘the Agreement of 1916 ought now to be revised’. He further observed that it ‘was most important that the French should not be allowed to annex any portion of the blue area’, considering that the British ‘wished to secure the cooperation of the Americans in settling the future of the occupied territories and in order to do this we must declare against annexation’. What it all boiled down to regarding the proposed joint declaration was that there should be ‘no annexation in the red and blue areas, and that in “A” and “B” there should be an independent Arab administration with European advisers’. In the end it was agreed that ‘every possible endeavour should be made to induce the French government, in view of the changed circumstances, since the French–Syrian Agreement was signed, viz., the elimination of Russian and the extravagance of Italian claims, to consent to its abrogation outside the limits of Syria proper’.⁸⁸

Curzon resumed his attack on the agreement during a meeting of the War Cabinet – which was attended by Balfour but not by Cecil – that same afternoon. This ‘hush’ meeting had been called to discuss Turkish peace feelers and Lloyd George’s forthcoming conference with his French and Italian colleagues Clemenceau and Orlando at Paris. When it was ‘pointed out that in any question of peace discussions with Turkey the French would constantly refer to the Sykes–Picot agreement’, Curzon related what had happened since Cambon’s visit to Balfour, and criticized the agreement as it ‘had been based entirely on the supposition that the Agreement of 1916 still held good’. He stated that Smuts and he were ‘greatly concerned’ about this because ‘the French had received far more out of this Agreement than they had ever hoped for’. The Prime Minister now joined the fray, and introduced yet another argument why the Sykes–Picot agreement could not stand. He explained that he:

Had been refreshing his memory about the Sykes– Picot Agreement, and had come to the conclusion that it was quite inapplicable to present circumstances, and was altogether a most undesirable agreement from the British point of view. Having been concluded more than two years ago, it entirely overlooked the fact that our position in Turkey had been won by very large British forces, whereas our allies had contributed but little to the result.

Lloyd George, too, was angry with the Foreign Office’s handling of the matter: ‘the whole question ought to have been discussed at the War Cabinet before the Conference took place at the Foreign Office’. Balfour chose to ignore this criticism, but doubted whether Clemenceau and Orlando would be susceptible to Lloyd George’s argument. He reminded the War Cabinet that:

The original idea had been that any territories that the Allies might acquire should be pooled and should not be regarded as the property of the nation which had won them. The theory had been that the fighting in one theatre of war, where there was little to gain, might be just as important a contribution to the cause of the Allies as much easier fighting in other theatres where great successes were achieved.⁸⁹

Lloyd George left for Paris on 4 October. Cecil joined him two days later. On 5 October, the German government sent a telegram to President Wilson, in which they requested his good offices in bringing about an immediate armistice. They also accepted the Fourteen Points as a basis for peace negotiations. On 6 October, after dinner, so Hankey related in his diary, there was a ‘very interesting discussion about the cutting up of Turkey. Ll G. took a very intransigeant attitude and wanted to go back on the Sykes–Picot agreement, so as to get Palestine for us and to bring Mosul into the British zone, and even to keep the French out of Syria’. It also became clear that Lloyd George and Cecil disagreed on tactics. Where the Prime Minster was ‘anxious to arrange the division of Turkey between France, Italy and G.B. before speaking to America’, Lord Robert ‘was for sticking to the Americans at all costs, and for bringing them into the controversy at once, as he thought they would pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us with the French and Italians’.⁹⁰

From the memorandum Cecil sent to Pichon on 8 October, it appeared that Lloyd George for the moment had accepted Cecil’s plan of campaign. The memorandum – ‘to which the Prime Minister agrees. It has not yet been approved by the Cabinet, and until that has taken place it must be treated as to that extent provisional’ − stated that the British government were  ‘prepared to accept the arrangement reached at the conference held at the Foreign Office on the 30th September’, on the understanding that it only provided ‘for the situation caused by the recent advance of General Allenby’s force into Syria, and is to be deemed to refer only to the territories occupied, or to be occupied by that force’. Regarding the Sykes–Picot agreement, Cecil observed that its provisions ‘do not in all respects appear suitable to present conditions’, considering that ‘the United States have come into the war and Russia has gone out’, and that the ‘military position in Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria’ had completely altered. Lord Robert finally claimed that ‘America cannot be ignored in any settlement of the future of these countries, and particularly of Syria and Palestine’, and that therefore in the coming months ‘fresh conversations’ should take place, ‘in which the governments of Italy and the United States as well as the French and British governments should be invited to take part’.⁹¹

That same day, President Wilson replied to the German note. He had not bothered to consult the British, French and Italian governments, something the latter much resented. The President stated that he could not answer the German request until he was sure that the German government really accepted the Fourteen Points, and understood that negotiations on an armistice could only start if the Central Powers consented to withdraw their forces from all invaded territory. On 12 October, the German government confirmed their acceptance of the Fourteen Points,⁹² and declared that they were ready to evacuate their troops on foreign soil.

An indication that Cecil was on the right track and that the Americans considered getting involved in the post-war settlement of the Ottoman Empire’s territories was that Irwin Laughlin, the American chargé d’affaires in London, called upon Crowe ‘to enquire whether it was the case that a secret agreement was in force between us and France for the partitioning of certain Turkish territories, and if so whether we should object communicating the contents of such agreement to the US government’. Sir Eyre told Laughlin that ‘at a much earlier stage of the war, long before the US came into it, we agreed with our several allies upon a modus operandi in dealing with the problem of the non-Turkish portion of the Turkish Empire which might in the course of the war succeed in effecting their liberation’. He also explained that ‘the withdrawal of Russia, the entry of the US, and the course of our military operations had combined to alter entirely the basis on which the agreement with our Allies had been built up, and that the allies were practically agreed as to the necessity of its fundamental revision’.⁹³

Lord Robert received Laughlin on 14 October. He informed the latter of the contents of the memorandum to Pichon, and declared that the Sykes–Picot agreement needed revision considering that ‘America had come into the war and Russia had gone out of it’, and that ‘America should certainly be given an opportunity to intervene in any discussions on that subject if she de- sired to do so − indeed I rather urged that it was of great importance that she should be consulted about it’.⁹⁴ Cecil’s triumph seemed complete when that same day the War Cabinet discussed the memorandum to Pichon, this time with Cecil in attendance, and Curzon stated that the Eastern Committee ‘had hesitated to recommend’ the agreement of 30 September, but now that it was clearly expressed in the memorandum that the agreement only applied to territories occupied by the EEF, and that the British government considered the agreement of 1916 as ‘out of date’, he approved of it. The War Cabinet agreed, and Cambon was informed of the War Cabinet’s decision right away.⁹⁵

Cecil, too, would not savor his moment of triumph very long. The very next day, Sykes reported that Jean Goût had telegraphed the text of a joint declaration. The first part was more or less a translation into French of Cecil’s revised version of Hogarth’s draft for a declaration to the King of the Hijaz (see ‘Mitigating or Abolishing the Sykes–Picot Agreement’, above), which Lord Robert had handed to Georges-Picot at the Conference of 30 September. This was all to the good, but the French had added a seemingly innocuous paragraph, full of rhetorical flourish on the allies’ noble intentions in assisting the long oppressed peoples liberated from the Turkish yoke, but which ended with a disquieting explicit reference to the Sykes–Picot agreement, a clear indication that in Paris policy makers did not believe that the agreement no longer applied, however much circumstances might have changed. According to the French addition, the two governments would take up the role assigned to them ‘in the zones where they are called upon to act by their agreements of 1916’. This portent of future trouble did not alarm Sir Mark. He merely suggested without further comment to substitute ‘in the regions above mentioned’ for the French clause.⁹⁶

The French signal also escaped the members of the Eastern Committee’s notice when they discussed the joint declaration on 17 October. Crowe, in consultation with Sykes, had prepared a revised version, the main difference being ‘the excision of any negative declaration against annexation by inserting in its place a positive statement in favour of the establishment of independent rule’. France and Great Britain were ‘agreed to encourage and assist the establishment of indigenous governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia’. Curzon would have preferred that the declaration only applied to Syria, but according to Cecil this was ‘impossible, and that unless we made a selfdenying declaration in regard to Mesopotamia, the French would not make a similar declaration in regard to Syria’, a point that Curzon accepted. The ‘important thing’ was ‘to put Arab independence in the forefront of the declaration, and to bring in any reference to the French and British governments later’. The Foreign Office was requested to prepare yet another draft in the light of the Eastern Committee’s discussion.⁹⁷

Cecil submitted the fresh draft to Curzon, and added that Balfour was anxious that the American government ‘should be informed of this declaration before it is actually made’. Curzon believed that the new formula was ‘very good’, and submitted that ‘it should satisfy even the critical and democratic taste of President Wilson. Short of an actual disclaimer of annexation I do not see how we could go further.’ The British text was communicated to Cambon on 17 October. In the covering letter Balfour explained that the British modifications of the French text had been made ‘chiefly with the view of accentuating the desire of the two governments to aid in setting up and recognising in Syria and Mesopotamia national governments resting on the expressed will and consent of the native inhabitants’. He added that the British government believed that it was desirable ‘that the text of the declaration should be brought to the notice of President Wilson for his information before it is actually published’.⁹⁸

The French ambassador called upon Lord Robert the next day. Cambon first of all told Cecil that Pichon accepted the memorandum of 8 October, and that the French government agreed that President Wilson should be informed of the Sykes–Picot agreement and ‘subsequent arrangements’. He then turned to the subject of the declaration, and introduced a new difficulty, which constituted a further indication that the French were not prepared to give up their rights under the Sykes–Picot agreement without a fight. Pichon’s counter-move was that he accepted the British text ‘as it stood, except that he wanted it to extend not only to Syria and Mesopotamia, but all territories liberated from the Turks’. The intent of the proposed modification was readily grasped by Cecil. He ‘pointed out that there might be a difficulty about Palestine where the present idea was to set up an international government’, but he ‘promised to consider M. Pichon’s proposal’.⁹⁹ From the official letter that Cambon delivered the next day, it appeared that Pichon was not above putting things on their head, by explaining that he wanted the more general formula, ‘in the territories liberated from the Turkish yoke’, because by confining the declaration to Syria and Mesopotamia, the French and British governments ran the risk of ‘arousing President Wilson’s suspicions’. Lord Robert was quite at a loss how to respond to Pichon’s move. He adhered to his view that ‘the declaration should be confined to Syria and Mesopotamia’. If it was ‘extended beyond the countries named’, then it would be ‘difficult to square with our declared policy in Palestine’.¹⁰⁰ The French government refused to budge. They kept insisting on a generally worded reference to the territories covered by the declaration.¹⁰¹

On 22 October 1918, the French government increased the pressure when the French embassy delivered a note that plainly stated that France did not accept that the altered circumstances to which Cecil had referred in his memorandum of 8 October – America in, Russia out, British military victories in Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria − implied that the Sykes–Picot agreement could no longer stand. They did allow that there had been momentous changes, and that in view of these the French, British and Italian governments might together re-examine their rights and interests under the existing agreements, and also agreed that, when these negotiations had been brought to a successful conclusion, the results should be communicated to President Wilson, but they were also of the opinion that, as long as this new agreement had not been reached, the Sykes–Picot agreement and the agreement of St Jean-de- Maurienne remained ‘good and valid’. It was, moreover, the French government’s point of view that Britain and France should first come to an accord before they  approached Italy on the matter. This time Sykes was alarmed. He regarded ‘certain points in the French note as very disquieting. A certain amount may be put down to ordinary diplomatic play, that is to get the utmost and to give way as little as possible. This is not to be objected to, but there are certain insinuations which are indicative of something far more menacing.’ Besides, the French proposal ‘to enter into conversations “à deux”’ was ‘manifestly impossible’ after President Wilson ‘with the approbation of the whole world [had] declared against secret diplomacy’. According to Cecil the question was ‘what reply should be made to the French Note’, and he believed that it would be best if it was confined to ‘the contents of the Note itself’, and not to address its wider ramifications. The British reply there- fore merely discussed several inaccuracies in the French memorandum, and remained completely silent on the French position that the Sykes–Picot agreement still held good. It also rejected the proposal that France and Britain should first reach an agreement before Italy was approached.¹⁰²

The deadlock on the wording of the joint declaration was finally broken on 30 October. Cecil and Cam- bon agreed that the declaration would apply to ‘Syria and Mesopotamia presently liberated by the Allies and in the territories they continue to liberate’. The declaration was telegraphed to Washington the next day, where French ambassador Jusserand and British chargé d’affaires Barclay would communicate it to Wilson. In view of the difficulties ‘with the French government over the wording of the second paragraph giving the areas in which we undertake to encourage and aid in the establishment of native governments and administrations’, the Foreign Office instructed Barclay to ‘make sure that the version telegraphed to your French Colleague is worded as above’.¹⁰³ It was only on 3 November, so Barclay reported, that ‘text of Anglo–French declaration was presented to President’. Wilson had praised  ‘sentiments which had inspired declaration and which he said were the same as those he had expressed so often himself’. Barclay had also verified that ‘wording of passage mentioned by you was as stated in your telegram’.¹⁰⁴ The declaration was finally published simultaneously in Great Britain, France and Egypt on 8 November 1918. Publication had been held up for another few days, because the French insisted that Georges-Picot should personally present the declaration to Faysal.¹⁰⁵ The British and French governments declared that:

The goal that France and Great Britain envisage while pursuing in the East the war unleashed by German ambition, is the complete and definitive enfranchisement of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks, and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.

In order to carry out these intentions, France and Great Britain are agreed to encourage and assist the establishment of indigenous governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia presently liberated by the Allies and in the territories they continue to liberate, and to recognise at once those that will effectively be established. Far from wanting to impose on the populations of these regions this or that institution, they have no other worry than to assure by their support and effective assistance the normal functioning of governments and administrations to which they will freely dedicate themselves. To insure an impartial and equal justice for all, to facilitate the economic development of the country, to realise and encourage local initiatives, to promote the spread of education, to put a stop to the divisions too long exploited by Turkish policy, such is the role the two Allied governments claim in the liberated territories.¹⁰⁶

It soon became apparent that the declaration, the wording of which had taken up so much time, could be interpreted in ways its advocates, Sykes and Cecil in the first place, had not foreseen. At the Eastern Committee’s meeting of 17 October, Lord Robert had stated that ‘the main object of the declaration […] was generally to reassure the Arabs’,¹⁰⁷ but only three days after its publication, Hogarth observed that the declaration would not reassure any of the Arab leaders ‘by any means. They will see that France can find an easy loophole to protectorate or annexation in the phrase “effectively established”, and that wholesale tutelage is assumed in the wording of the last part.’¹⁰⁸ On 16 November, Clayton sent a telegram to London from which it appeared that Cecil’s exertions to exclude Palestine from the territories to which the declaration applied had also been to no avail as far as Palestinian Muslims and Christians were concerned. To them, Palestine was part of Syria, and therefore they were ‘relieved at what they consider a check to extravagant Zionist aspirations’.¹⁰⁹ Arnold Wilson telegraphed from Baghdad that same day that he had received a deputation of the Jewish community. They had wished ‘to express keen apprehension at tenour of Anglo–French Declaration of 8th November’. This was something Wilson could well understand, considering that ‘local Mohammedan gentry, whose unbalanced minds have been excited by Anglo–French Declaration, are already announcing to Jews and Christians that they will shortly see themselves once more under Mohammedan domination etc.’ This made George Kidston sigh that ‘our pet Declaration which was only born after such lengthy pains, does not seem to be an un- qualified success’.¹¹⁰


The Foreign Office Admits Defeat

On 15 October 1918, Wingate wrote to Allenby that he had:

Had an interesting talk yesterday with Lawrence who evidently intends to talk plainly when he gets to London – they should welcome the views of such an expert as he is, though I expect our French Allies would find them not exactly palatable and I shall be surprised if H.M.G. go as far as he recommends. There is much ignorance at home in these matters and those who really do understand are not always listened to.¹¹¹

Allenby agreed that Lawrence would ‘be able to do much good at home, and he will, no doubt, be listened to as having knowledge and authority to speak’.¹¹² Lawrence was received by Cecil on 28 October. The latter reported to the department that Lawrence had ‘denounced in unmeasured terms the folly (or, as he called  it, the levity) of the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the boundaries of which were, he said, entirely absurd and un- workable’. Lord Robert had shown Lawrence ‘the pro- posed joint declaration by the French and the British, which he thought quite satisfactory, but inconsistent with the Sykes–Picot Agreement: as undoubtedly it is’. Cecil also recorded that Lawrence was ‘violently anti- French’, and that he had ‘suggested that, if there were to be fresh conversations, it would be well to have both Arab and Zionist representatives present, as well as Americans and Italians’.¹¹³

Lawrence attended a meeting of the Eastern Committee the following day in order to enlighten its members on ‘the views that were entertained by the Arab chiefs concerning the settlement of the conquered territories and Franco–Arab relations in particular’. Lawrence concentrated on the situation in Syria, the Lebanon and upper Mesopotamia, and claimed that the Arabs ‘had deduced from the attitude of the French during this war, wherever they had come into contact with them, that the French were inimical to the Arab movement for national independence’. However, he expected that Faisal ‘would probably be content to leave Beirut and the Lebanon to French tutelage provided that there was no question of French annexation’, but warned that ‘Tripoli is the part the Arabs will make a fight for’. In conclusion, he related that he had met Picot in Rome, and that the latter had made it clear that ‘the French intended to impose French advisers upon Feisal’, but that the Emir ‘took the view that he was free to choose whatever advisers he liked’, and ‘was anxious to obtain the assistance of British or American Zionist Jews for this purpose’.¹¹⁴ Curzon was sufficiently impressed to warn the War Cabinet that:  Serious trouble […] was likely to arise – if it had not already arisen – in regard to French aspirations in Syria. Syria was likely to be the scene of great  anxiety to us in the future. We had conquered the country, and the French wanted the spoils. This would necessarily bring us in as third parties to any dispute between the French and the Arabs.¹¹⁵  Lloyd George was not present at the meeting of the War Cabinet. He was in Paris for an informal conference with Clemenceau and Orlando, which was attended by foreign ministers Balfour, Pichon and Sonnino, as well as Edward ‘Colonel’ House, President Wilson’s personal representative. In preparation for the conference, the Prime Minister had a private talk with House, in the course of which he sketched his ideas on the partition of the Arab-speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain ‘would have to assume a protectorate over Mesopotamia and perhaps Palestine. Arabia he thought should become autonomous. France might be given a sphere of influence in Syria.’¹¹⁶ At the conference the next day, Lloyd George experienced how right Balfour  had been in warning him that his argument that France and Italy must accept that the terms of an eventual settlement with Turkey should reflect the fact that Great Britain had done all the fighting while France and Italy had done next to nothing, would not get him very far. The bone of contention was that British Admiral Calthorpe had been conducting armistice negotiations with the Turks without consulting French Admiral Gauchet, who was the commanding officer for the Mediterranean. The French demanded that in further negotiations Calthorpe be joined by Admiral Amet, as Gauchet’s representative, and that they together sign the armistice. Lloyd George flatly refused to consider this:

Except for Great Britain no one had contributed anything more than a handful of black troops to the expedition in Palestine. He was really surprised at the lack of generosity on the part of the French government. The British had now some 500,000 men on Turkish soil. The British had captured three or four Turkish armies and had incurred hundreds of thousands of casualties in the war with Turkey. The other governments had only put in a few nigger policemen to see that we did not steal the Holy Sepulchre. When, however, it came to signing an armistice all this fuss was made.

The French rejected Lloyd George’s argument, but in the end, ‘in a spirit of conciliation’, they accepted the fait accompli. Calthorpe could continue the negotiations and sign the armistice first.¹¹⁷ The ceremony took place at Mudros the following day.

On the day of the publication of the joint declaration, Cambon asked permission to send Consul Roux and Commander Sciard on a humanitarian mission to Mosul. Crowe would have none of it:

We should reply to this by reminding M. Cambon that he and his govt. have themselves agreed that the agreement of 1916 requested revision because the conditions on which it rested have entirely changed, and that in accordance with the agreement since arrived at with him we look forward at an early date to the contemplated discussions with the U.S., France and Italy, the purpose of which is to arrive at a revised agreement.

In these circumstances it is to be regretted that the French government apparently demands the immediate putting into force of the old agreement as it stands, just as if the whole discussion respecting revision had never taken place.

A letter in line with Crowe’s minute was sent to the French Embassy on 14 November.¹¹⁸ When it was sent, the Foreign Office had already been informed by the DMI that the French had approached the War Office on yet another project, the dispatch of a battalion of the French ‘Légion d’Orient’ to Mosul. Thwaites assumed that Hardinge would ‘consider the possible employment of a French contingent at Mosul as undesirable, as do the War Office’. Hardinge – who had only recently returned to the Foreign Office, having been away for several weeks after suffering a broken leg certainly agreed, but warned that ‘we had better go steady in this matter. I gathered from M. Cambon that we have not heard the last of the question of relief at Mosul.’ Cecil for his part admitted that ‘we are undoubtedly on a very awkward position and unless we receive help from the Americans I do not see how we can get out’.¹¹⁹

Cecil’s policy, enthusiastically supported by Crowe, to get the French to admit that the Sykes–Picot agreement was no longer valid, considering that circumstances had radically changed and that France and Britain were now bound by a declaration in which they expressed their support for self-determination, was on the verge of collapsing with American help nowhere in sight. Cambon administered the coup de grace in his reply to the Foreign Office letter of 14 November. He re- minded Balfour that his government had admitted that ‘conversations on the subject of the agreements of 1916 were desirable, but, when admitting this, M. Pichon has specified that these arrangements remained “good and valid” until further order’. He therefore insisted that the Roux–Sciard mission ‘was authorised immediately’. Hardinge was not above rubbing it in. He minuted that it seemed to him that ‘the French have a strong case, especially as M. Pichon seems to have made the condition, while accepting the idea of revision, that the Sykes–Picot agreement remains in force until a new arrangement has been come to. And there is no doubt that Mosul is in the French area, according to that un- happy agreement.’ Cecil admitted defeat. He doubted ‘whether anything is gained by continuing the controversy and I should simply, with all proper wishes for cooperation with the French, express regret if anything in the previous note has given rise to misunderstanding and add that we have consulted the military authorities and are awaiting their reply’.¹²⁰

On 18 November, Cambon also communicated a note by Pichon, who had felt it necessary ‘to state precisely the French views regarding the Anglo–French agreements of 1916 […] and the provisional arrangement of 30 September 1918’. He declared that France was pre- pared to discuss with her allies the ways in which the agreement of 1916 should be adapted to the changed circumstances, and noted that the British government had rejected the French suggestion to discuss these matters together before Italy and the United States became involved. He also begged the British government ‘to take note that France does not accept at a single point, whether it is at Damascus, Aleppo or Mosul, the diminution of what are her rights under the agreement of 1916’.But they acknowledge that in the Orient there is reason to assist the populations in order to avoid that they tyrannise one another,’ and France therefore counted on ‘maintaining her tutelage over the Arab populations living in the zones that have been assigned to her through the agreement of 1916’.

The French simply refused to move even one inch. Crowe dejectedly noted on 21 November that:

This amounts in fact to the withdrawal of the assent which we thought we had obtained from the French government to the revision of the territorial agreements embodied in the 1916 agreement.

The French government here definitely announces that they refuse to contemplate any arrangement differing substantially from the 1916 agreement.

Our recent discussion and arrangements with M. Cambon and M. Pichon are practically disavowed and consigned to the official paper basket.

I confess that I have always expected this.

All we can do now is to leave the peace conference to go into this matter. If France insists, we cannot easily repudiate our signature at the bottom of the 1916 agreement. We can however use every effort to demonstrate both to France and to the United States that in view of the radically changed situation, we do not see how effect can be given to the agreement without provoking both injustice to the population concerned and grave danger to future peace.

If further controversial correspondence is to be avoided […] we might restrict ourselves to acknowledging receipt and expressing our sincere regret at the spirit in which the French government have met our desire to adjust the arrangements of 1916 to the entirely changed conditions now prevailing.

Hardinge agreed that ‘it would be useless to argue. This note is absolutely uncompromising.’ He also approved Crowe’s suggested reply, to which Cecil proposed to add that ‘we trust the French may not find their Allies equally unaccommodating on points to which the French attach importance’.¹²¹

That same day, Lord Robert offered his resignation to Lloyd George. This had nothing to do with the utter failure of his policy to get the French government to accept that the Sykes–Picot agreement was no longer ‘good and valid’, but with the disendowment of the Church of England’s property in Wales as a consequence of the Church of Wales Act of 1914, which had been suspended until the end of the war. The trigger had been a letter, published on 2 November 1918, from Lloyd George to the leader of the conservative party Bonar Law, which had been ‘the product of extensive drafting between the two’.¹²² In this letter the Prime Minister had called for an early general election, and proposed that the existing coalition should campaign on a common platform, one minor element of which was that the Church of Wales Act should come into force. Cecil wrote to Lloyd George that he was:

Deeply pledged by word and conduct to the defence of the Church in Wales […] If your letter to Bonar Law were the programme of a new government, as in substance it is, I should be clearly precluded from joining it. It seems to me equally clear that I ought not by retaining office in the present government to make myself responsible for a policy which I am unable to approve. With very real regret therefore I must ask you to transmit my resignation to the King.

Lloyd George replied the next day that he ‘most unwillingly’ complied with Cecil’s ‘request to submit your resignation to His Majesty’,¹²³ but failed to do so. On 16 December 1918, ‘now that the Election is over and Ministers are free to turn to their ordinary business’, Balfour urged Lloyd George to put an end to this anomalous situation, and ‘to appoint Bob Cecil’s successor without delay’,¹²⁴ but Lloyd George still did not take action. It would be almost another four weeks be- fore, on 10 January 1919, Cecil Harmsworth was appointed parliamentary under-secretary in Lord Robert’s place. That same day, Curzon became acting foreign secretary. Two days after ‘Bob’s most regrettable departure,' Curzon had already offered his services to Bal- four.¹²⁵ At the beginning of January 1919, Lloyd George had finally asked Curzon ‘to take over the control of the Foreign Department’ during the time that Balfour was away in Paris to attend the peace conference.¹²⁶ Curzon was all too happy to oblige. The Eastern Committee  ceased to exist as a War Cabinet committee.¹²⁷

On 22 November 1918, Faisal sailed from Beirut for Marseilles. He was on his way to Europe to represent his father at the coming peace conference. His mission was a British initiative. The French had only been in- formed that Faisal was coming on 19 November. They had not been consulted on the advisability of this mission. The French government naturally resented this very much. On 30 November, Cambon handed in yet another memorandum, in which the French government lodged a strong protest against this fresh example of British disingenuousness. The French government reiterated that they had been prepared to discuss ‘a loyal adjustment of the common interests between the two countries alone’, but that:

Even this agreement, which we proposed, has been refused us, and everywhere, in Palestine, in Mesopotamia, in Syria, our agents and rights are treated with little respect; and on top of that, without any conversation with us, not even a prior notice, Emir Faisal is directly sent to France, as the representative of a general Arab kingdom in fact effectively placed under English protection, a clear demonstration of a policy to remove us even from Syria.

In conclusion, the French government once again enjoined the British government to agree that their common interests were best served by ‘a direct and completely frank discussion of each other’s wishes’. According to Kidston, the memorandum therefore should first of all be seen as ‘a renewed appeal to us to come to some arrangement with the French before the Americans can have their say’. Crowe was rather fed up with ‘these intemperate notes by M. Cambon’, and went on to rehearse all the arguments that had been marshaled  in the previous months to convince the French why the Sykes–Picot agreement was obsolete, and that the text of the joint declaration ‘promised to the native population concerned arrangements very different from those contemplated in the agreements of 1916’. He also drafted a reply, but could imagine that ‘Mr Balfour would prefer to ignore the offensive note and talk the matter over with M. Cambon direct’. Hardinge found ‘the tone of the French note […] irritable and irritating’, but he did not think that ‘it infringes the recognised rules of diplomatic courtesy’. He agreed, however, that if a reply to the memorandum was made it should be verbal and not a written one. In preparation for this interview, Drummond summed up the situation for Bal- four in the following manner:

I think the United States are going to take the line that all these treaties and conventions are over- ridden by the acceptance of the Allies of the 14 points as the basis of peace […] The French are frightened of the United States combating their claims in the Middle and Near East and are there- fore going to try to rule the United States out of the settlement on the ground that they never went to war with Turkey. The United States view, I believe, suits us much better than that of the French, and we should therefore do nothing to commit ourselves against it. The time for international discussion is approaching and I think we ought to try not to send any formal reply to the French Note.

Balfour, however, refrained from discussing the matter with Cambon. On 29 December 1918, Drummond laconically minuted that ‘these papers have been slumbering in the S. of S. box for some considerable time. Perhaps the sleep should be continued in the Department.’¹²⁸

All British attempts since the early spring of 1917 to get the French to agree that the Sykes–Picot agreement could not stand had failed. Appeals that circumstances had changed (Russia’s collapse, America’s entry into the war, Britain practically doing all the fighting in Palestine and Syria), the issue of a joint declaration in which France and Britain embraced the principle of self- determination, as well as the encouragement of Arab nationalists to create facts on the ground had all failed to move the French. They still stood by the terms of the agreement of 1916. With an eye to the approaching peace conference, only two viable options remained. The first was to do what the French wished and to come to a separate agreement in the Middle East before the conference started. The second was to play the American card, to induce the Americans to take up the British case, and when they did, considering France’s overwhelming dependence on the United States, the French would finally have to face the fact that in the era of self- determination proclaimed by President Wilson, the Sykes–Picot agreement was obsolete. Prime Minister Lloyd George chose the first option, all other British policy makers involved the second.

The ‘Arab revolt’, Britain, and the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.

Mark Sykes returned to England where, almost immediately, he was thrust into negotiations with M. Charles François Georges-Picot, French counselor in London and former French consul general in Beirut, to try to harmonize Anglo-French interests in ‘Turkey-in-Asia’. Picot on the other hand had ‘expressed complete incredulity as to the projected Arab kingdom, said that the Sheikh had no big Arab chiefs with him, that the Arabs were incapable of combining, and that the whole scheme was visionary. 'The Arab question and the ‘shocking document’ that shaped the Middle East.

The rebellion sparked by the Hussein-McMahon correspondence; the Sykes-Picot agreement; and memoranda such as the Balfour Declaration all have shaped the Middle East into forms which would have been unrecognizable to the diplomats of the 19th century. The Menace of Jihad and How to Deal with It.

French rivalry in the Hijaz; the British attempt to get the French government to recognize Britain’s predominance on the Arabian Peninsula; the conflict between King Hussein and Ibn Sa’ud, the Sultan of Najd; the British handling of the French desire to take part in the administration of Palestine; as well as the ways in which the British authorities, in London and on the spot, tried to manage French, Syrian, Zionist and Hashemite ambitions regarding Syria and Palestine. The ‘Arab’ and the ‘Jewish’ question.

The below mentioned Foreign Office (FO) documents can be searched and read online, here:


1. Account of a Meeting Held at the Residency at 6 p.m. on 23 March 1918, Cab 27/25.

2. Tels Wingate to Balfour, no. 1050 and 1055, 9 July 1918, Cab 27/28.

3. Sykes, minute, 10 July 1918, FO 371/3389/121095.

4. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 885, 15 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

5. Tel. Baghdad to Cairo, no. 6065, 23 July 1918, Cab 27/29.

6. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 938, 27 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

7. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1156, 1 August 1918, Cab 27/29.

8. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 961, 2 August 1918, FO 371/3390/133790.

9. S.S.I. to viceroy (rep. Cox), no. P. 3327, 2 August 1918, FO 371/3390/135458.

10. See tel. Civil Commisioner to S.S.I., no. 6489, 7 August 1918, Cab 27/30.

11. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1209, 12 August 1918, FO 371/3390/139940.

12. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1265, 26 August 1918, Cab 27/31.

13. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1051, 28 August 1918, FO 371/3390/147594.

14. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1308, 4 September 1918, minutes Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3390/152559.

15. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1405, 23 September 1918, and minute Sykes, 25 September 1918, FO 371/3390/161898.

16. Tel. Civil Commissioner to S.S.I., no. 8532, 9 October 1918, minute Sykes, not dated, FO 371/3390/171797.

17. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1827, 6 December 1918, FO 371/3390/202098.

18. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1857, 10 December 1918, FO 371/3390/203387.

19. Army Council to Foreign Office, no. 152/4920 (M.I.2), 23 December 1918, minute Crowe, 25 December 1919, FO 371/3390/210939.

20. I.O. to F.O., no. P. 5788, 28 December 1918, minutes Lawrence, not dated, Kidston, 1 January 1919, and Foreign Office to Army Council, 10 January 1919, FO 371/3390/213143.

21. Tel. S.S.I. to Civil Commissioner, no. P. 84, 16 January 1919, FO 371/4144/9966.

22. Minutes War Cabinet, 25 April 1917, Cab 23/2.

23. Hogarth, Note on the Anglo–Franco–Russian Agreement about the Near East, encl. in Director of the Intelligence Division to Foreign Office 13 July 1917, FO 371/3054/138899.

24. Hogarth to Clayton, 11 July 1917, Hogarth Papers.

25. Sykes to Clayton, 22 July 1917, Sykes Papers, box 2.


27. Sykes, MEMORANDUM ON THE ASIA- MINOR AGREEMENT, 14 August 1917, minutes Clerk, 16 August 1917, Graham, 17 August 1917, and Balfour, not dated, FO 371/ 3059/159558.

28. See Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia. The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence (London, 1989: Heinemann), pp. 442−5.

29. Clayton to Lawrence, Strictly Private, 20 September 1917, Clayton Papers, G//S 513.

30. Government Printing Office, Proceedings of the Brest–Litovsk Peace Conference (Washington, 1918: Government Printing Office), p. 8.

31. Ibid., pp. 40−1.

32. Minutes War Cabinet, 3 January 1918, Cab 23/5.

33. Minutes War Cabinet, 4 January 1918, ANNEX, 4 January 1918, Cab 23/5.

34. Robert Lansing, The Peace Negotiations: A Personal Narrative (Boston and New York, 1921: Houghton Mifflin), pp. 95−6.

35. Sykes, Anglo–French Agreement (Asia Minor) 1916, 16 February 1918, minute Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3399/31030.

36. Sykes to Clayton, private, 3 March 1918, Sykes Papers, FO 800/221.

37. Clayton to Sykes, private, 4 April 1918, FO 371/ 3391/76678.

38. Clayton to Balfour, no. P. 74, 19 May 1918, Bodleian Library, Milner Papers.

39. India Office, ‘Future of Mesopotamia’, Note by Political Department, India Office, on points for discussion with Sir Percy Cox, no. B. 281, 3 April 1918 (underlining in original), Cox, ‘The future of Mesopotamia’, 22 April 1918, MINUTE BY SIR MARK SYKES ON SIR PERCY COX’S NOTE ON “THE FUTURE OF MESOPOTAMIA”, not dated, Cab 27/25.

40. Minutes Eastern Committee, 24 April 1918, Cab 27/24.

41. Sykes, Memorandum, 3 July 1918, FO 371/3381/117108 and Paper B, not dated, annex to minutes Eastern Committee, 18 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

42. Minutes Drummond, 6 July 1918, and Hardinge, not dated, FO 371/3381/117108.

43. See minutes Eastern Committee, 15 and 18 July 1918, Cab 27/24.

44. Cecil, memorandum, 6 August 1918, Cecil Papers, Add. Mss. 51094.

45. Minutes Eastern Committee, 8 August 1918, Cab 27/24.

46. Hogarth, THE ARAB QUESTION, 9 August 1918, FO 371/3381/146256.

47. Hogarth to Cecil, 18 August, Cecil, draft Joint Declaration, not dated, Lloyd, Joint declaration by Great Britain and France to promote and assist the establishment of native independent governments in Arabia, not dated, minute Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3381/143456.

48. Sykes, minute, not dated, FO 371/3383/152395.

49. Georges-Picot to Sykes, 6 September 1918, and Sykes to Georges-Picot, Private and Confidential, 16 September 1918, Sykes Papers, FO 800/221.

50. Montagu, The War in the East, 5 July 1918, Wilson, Note on Mr Montagu’s Memorandum ‘The War in the East’, 15 July 1918, Cecil, Note, 20 July 1918, Foreign Office, Departmental Note, 17 July 1918, Balfour, Note, 27 July 1918, and Curzon, ‘The War in the East’ (Functions of the Eastern Committee), 1 August 1918, Cab 27/24.

51. Cecil to Curzon, Curzon to Cecil, and Cecil to Curzon, 1 August 1918, Cecil Papers, Add. Mss. 51077.

52. Minutes Eastern Committee, 13 August 1918, Cab 27/24.

53. Hankey, diary entry, 20 August 1918, Hankey Papers, vol. 1/5.

54. Montagu to Cecil, Private & Confidential, 3 September 1918, Cecil Papers, Add. Mss. 51094.

55. Sykes to Hardinge, 29 July 1918, Sykes Papers, box 1.

56. Cecil to Balfour, August 1918, encl. in Cecil to Hardinge, 21 August 1918, Cecil Papers, FO 800/198.

57. Cecil to Balfour, 23 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49738.

58. Hardinge to Cecil, 20 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49748.

59. Cecil to Hardinge, 21 August 1918, Cecil Papers, FO 800/198.

60. Balfour to Cecil, 22 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49738.

61. Cecil to Balfour, 23 August 1918, ibid. Tel. Wingate to Balfour, no. 1153, 2 November 1917, and minutes Clerk and Graham, 3 November 1917, FO 371/3048/210013.

62. See Balfour to Drummond, 28 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49748.

63. Cecil to Balfour, 31 August 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49738.

64. Sykes to Cecil, 9 September 1918, Cecil Papers, Add. Mss. 51094.

65. Colonel A.P. Wavell, The Palestine Campaigns (London, 1931: Constable), p. 203.

66. Ormsby Gore to Sykes, 23 September 1918, Sykes Papers, FO 800/221.

67. Foreign Office to Director of Military Intelligence, no. 162014/W/44, 28 September 1918, FO 371/3389/162014.

68. Wilson, Lawrence, pp. 556, 1103, and Matthew Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy in the Middle East 1917–1919 (London, 1999: Frank Cass), pp. 97−8.

69. Hughes, Allenby and British Strategy in the Middle East 1917–1919 (London, 1999: Frank Cass), pp. 98−9.

70. Captain Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the End of the War, Vol. II (London, 1930: H.M. Stationary Office), pp. 588–9, see also Elie Kedourie, England and the Middle East: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire 1914–1921 (London, 1987: Mansell), pp. 120–1, and Hughes, Allenby, p. 102.

71. Tel. Lawrence to General Headquarters, 1 October 1918, Wingate Papers, box 150/1.

72. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 97, 8 October 1918, FO 371/3383/169078.

73. Tel. G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to C.I.G.S., no. P.690, 6 October 1918, FO 371/3383/169524.

74. Chauvel, ‘Meeting of Sir Edmund Allenby and the Emir Feisal at the Hotel Victoria, Damascus, on October 3rd. 1918’, 22 October 1929, St Anthony’s College, Allenby Papers.

75. Tels G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to C.I.G.S., nos. P.700 and P.695, 7 October 1918, FO 371/3383/169524.

76. Clayton to Wingate, private, 11 October 1918, Wingate Papers, box 150/2.

77. See tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 117, 13 October 1918, FO 371/3384/171754.

78. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 122, 14 October 1918, FO 371/3384/172663.

79. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 127, 15 October 1918, FO 371/3384/173729.

80. Tel. G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to C.I.G.S., no. I 6901/ P, 17 October 1918, FO 371/3384/175418.

81. Minute Crowe, 18 October 1918, on tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 127, 15 October 1918, FO 371/ 3384/173729.

82. Balfour to Derby, no. 805, 23 September 1918, and Foreign Office to Director of Military Intelligence, 24 September 1918, FO 371/3383/162968.

83. Minutes Eastern Committee, 26 September 1918, Cab 27/24.

84. Cecil, minute, 27 September 1918, FO 371/3381/164551.

85. Foreign Office Memorandum, 30 September 1918, FO 371/3383/164945.

86. Tel. G.O.C.-in-C., Egypt to C.I.G.S., no. E.A. 1707, 30 September 1918, minute Crowe, not dated, FO 371/3383/165376.

87. Tel. Balfour to Wingate, no. 1200, 1 October 1918, FO 608/92/4704.

88. Minutes Eastern Committee, 3 October 1918, Cab 27/24.

89. Minutes War Cabinet, 3 October 1918, Cab 23/14.

90. Hankey, diary entry, 6 October 1918, Hankey Papers, vol. 1/5.

91. Cecil to Pichon, Confidential, 8 October 1918, FO 371/3384/170193.

92. The British government had not accepted Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Because the naval blockade was Britain’s most powerful weapon, they particularly objected to the Second Point, which demanded ‘the absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international convenants’.

93. Crowe, minute, 10 October 1918, FO 371/3384/170193.

94. Cecil, note, 14 October 1918, FO 371/3384/172808.

95. Minutes War Cabinet, 14 October 1918, Cab 23/8.

96. Sykes, memorandum, 15 October 1918, Cab 27/34. Sykes’s feeble reaction must surely be attributed to his decision that same day to quit the Middle East decision-making game in London. He suggested to Cecil that he better be sent out to Syria to act as a liaison between the British military authorities, the French and the Arabs, and to promote better relations  between the three. On 24 October the Eastern Committee approved Sykes’s mission. Hogarth explained to Clayton that he should not ‘take Mark at his own valuation. His shares are unsaleable here and he has been sent out (at his own request) to get him away […] you can take what line you like about him without fear of being let down.’ Sykes, memorandum, 15 October 1918, Cab 27/34, Minutes Eastern Committee, 24 October 1918, Cab 27/24, and Hogarth to Clayton, private, 1 November 1918, Hogarth Papers.

97. Minutes Eastern Committee, 17 October 1918, Cab 27/24.

98. Cecil to Curzon, not dated, and Curzon to Cecil, not dated, and Balfour to Cambon, 17 October 1918, FO 371/3381/174471.

100. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 19 October 1918, minute Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3381/ 174697.

101. See Cecil, notes, 21 October and 22 October 1918, FO 371/3381/177047.

102. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 22 October 1918, Sykes, Memorandum, not dated, Cecil, minute, not dated, Balfour to Cambon, Confidential, 25 October 1918, FO 371/3384/ 176523.

103. Tel. Balfour to Barclay, no. 6526, 31 October 1918, FO 371/3384/179246.

104. Tel. Barclay to Balfour, no. 4963, 3 November 1918, FO 371 /3384/182490.

105. Kidston, minute, 6 November 1918, FO 371/3384/183683.

106. Draft Declaration respecting the Near East, 30 October 1918, FO 371/3384/180528.

107. Minutes Eastern Committee, 17 October 1918, Cab 27/24.

108. Hogarth, memorandum, 11 November 1918, FO 371/3385/191249.

109. Tel. Clayton to Balfour, no. 185, 19 November 1918, FO 371/3385/189886.

110. Tel. Civil Commissioner to S.S.I., no. 9906, 16 November 1918, minute Kidston, 22 November 1918, FO 371/3385/191847.

111. Wingate to Allenby, private, 15 October 1918, Wingate Papers, box 150/3.

112.Allenby to Wingate, private, 18 October 1918, Wingate Papers, box 150/2.

113. Cecil, note, 28 October 1918, FO 371/3384/ 181025.

114. Minutes Eastern Committee, 29 October 1918, Cab 27/24.

115. Minutes War Cabinet, 29 October 1818, Cab 23/8.

116. House to Wilson, 30 October 1918, Government Printing Office, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1919, The Paris Peace Conference, Vol. I (Washington, 1942: Government Printing Office), p. 407.

117. Notes of a Conference, 30 October 1918, I.C.- 84, Cab 28/5.

118. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 8 November 1918, and minute Crowe, 10 November 1918, FO 371/3385/185939.

119. D.M.I. to Foreign Office, no. 771/13 (M.I.2), 13 November 1918, minutes Hardinge and Cecil,not dated, FO 371/3385/188562.

120. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 16 November 1918, minutes Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, see also Foreign Office to French Embassy, 23 November 1918, FO 371/3385/190910.

121. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 18 November 1918, minutes Crowe, 21 November 1918, and Hardinge and Cecil, not dated, FO 371/3385/191068.

122. Martin Farr, ‘Waging democracy. The British general elections of 1918 reconsidered’, Cercles,21 (2011), p. 72; see also Kenneth O. Morgan, Consensus and Disunity. The Lloyd George Coalition Government 1918–1922 (Oxford, 1979: Clarendon Press), p. 34.

123. Cecil to Lloyd George, 21 November 1918, and Lloyd George to Cecil, 22 November 1918, Lloyd George Papers, F/6/5/49 and 50.

124. Balfour to Lloyd George, 16 December 1918, Lloyd George Papers, F/3/3/50.

125. Curzon to Balfour, 23 November 1918, Balfour Papers, Add. Mss. 49734

126. See: minutes Eastern Committee, 7 January 1919, Cab 27/24.

127. Instead of the Eastern Committee, an Inter-Departmental Conference on Middle Eastern Affairs was instituted, in which the Foreign Office, the India Office and the War Office participated. This name was clearly too cumbersome. Within a few months people began to refer to it as the Eastern Committee.

128. French Embassy to Foreign Office, 30 November 1918, minutes Crowe, 4 December 1918 and Hardinge, not dated, Drummond, note, 5 December 1918, and minute Drummond, 29 December 1918, FO 371/3385/199469.