Please provide a comprehensive—clear, logical, coherent, and empirically supported—answer to the following essay question:
Between the years 1915 and 1922 Great Britain embarked upon a series of conflicting initiatives and agreements that shaped the landscape of the Middle East and simultaneously became fertile grounds for intense and protracted conflicts. Identify and very briefly explain the factors underlying Great Britain’s behavior. List and explain these agreements, examine their impact on the nature and scope of Middle Eastern state boundaries, and analyze the extent to which these agreements have advanced or impeded the processes of state formation and nation building in the Middle East.
Government and Politics of the Middle East
The aim of this paper is to discuss the agreements that Great Britain made between 1915- 1922 which affected governance in the Middle East by creating a rift between Muslim nations in the region. A stable government is an essential element for a successful nation while an unstable one is characterized by weak governance. Nevertheless, as demonstrated by the history of the Middle East during the early twentieth century, a stable nation can become unstable especially if its members are divided along religious lines (Fisher 59). The agreements Great Britain made divided the Muslims of the Middle East, hence, thereby affecting nation-building in the region for years to come (Osman).
To begin with, oil was one of the factors that influenced Great Britain to come up with agreements affecting the Middle East nations. The British realized that by become an authority in the region, it easily be able to dominate other countries due to its control over the Middle East’s oil wealth. Moreover, control over the Middle East would lead to the development of British industries through the use of oil instead of coal for production of commodities. Furthermore, the British would expand their Middle East colony by controlling the Ottoman Empire given that they already had control over India and Egypt. Therefore, the British behavior was grounded primarily on the quest for power and the need to improve their status in the world in terms economic dominance. Unfortunately, the achievement of this objective came at the expense of the structure and lifestyle of the people of the Middle East.
To explain the developments in the Middle East, the British made three agreements: the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Arab Agreement, and the Belfour Declaration. The Sykes-Picot agreement was made between the British and the French. Its aim was to divide the Arab world between the two powers. Great Britain was to control the current nations of Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait, while France was to control Syria, Lebanon, and Southern Turkey. On the other hand, the Arab agreement was made with the rebel Arabs seeking to fight the Ottoman Empire. Upon winning the war, the Arabs would acquire their own kingdom while the British would achieve their goal of dominating the Middle East Empire. The final agreement the British made was with the Zionists, and was called the Belfour Declaration. Under this agreement, the Zionists would acquire the Palestine land and use it to establish a Jewish State. However, none of the parties acquired what they wanted in full; therefore, conflict erupted between different groups. However, Great Britain achieved many of its goals as it was given authority to control some parts of the Middle East by the League of Nations. Hence, although the agreements led to conflicts, British succeeded in becoming a dominant force in the Middle East (Simon and Terijan 54).
Additionally, the Arab agreement conflicted with the Sykes-Picot agreement as the Arabs could not acquire their kingdom at a time when the French wanted to dominate parts of the Middle East. Similarly, the Belfour declaration conflicted with the Arab agreement as the former provided for the introduction Zionism in the Middle East. Bring Zionism in the region would easily trigger religious conflict in the Arab world. The League of Nations also accentuated the conflict by creating borders without putting into consideration different cultural practices of local communities. Moreover, the League of Nations appointed Great Britain and France to control many parts of the Middle East, meaning Arabs were denied an opportunity to exercise authority over their native kingdoms (Louis 8).
All parties were greatly affected by the agreements, although Muslims living in the Middle East suffered the most. Separating members of the same communities brought about severe social disruption. Therefore, it was difficult to build states based on the boundaries that were set. The affected state boundaries led to the sluggish rate of development as well as the emergence of armed conflict the region. Moreover, the restrictions which were introduced in the states, for example, in the realm of trade, greatly contributed to economic decline. Prior to the establishment of these boundaries, the region was an epicenter of free trade that greatly contribution to regional financial stability. In efforts to rebel against the British, many Middle Eastern economies adopted socialism which hindered civic and political freedom. The development of the states was hindered by restrictions on the adoption of a capitalistic approach to business. Furthermore, the development of these countries in terms of political stability was slow due to restricted political freedom that characterized socialism. This curtailment of political freedom also contributed to political conflicts in the Middle East.
For these reasons, Great Britain played a critical role in the emergence of conflicts that have continued to affect the Middle East throughout the twentieth century. In this regard, of particular important is the series of conflicting initiatives and agreements that it introduced in the region between the years 1915 and 1922, which played an integral part in the political development of the countries in the Middle East for years to come. The three conflicting agreements affected the structure of the Middle East and the socio-economic and political development of the nations in the region. Today’s sluggish economic development of Arab nations in the region may be blamed on the rift that arose among the Muslims due to the implementation of those agreements.
Fisher, John. Curzon and British Imperialism in the Middle East, 1916-19. London: Franc Cass, 1999. Print.
Louis, William. The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945- 1951: Arab Nationalism, the United States, and Postwar Imperialism. Oxford University Press, 1984. Print.
Osman, Tarek. “Why Border Lines Drawn With a Ruler in WW1 Still Rock the Middle East.” BBC News. December 14, 2013. Web.
Simon, Reeva and Terijan, Eleanor. The Creation of Iraq, 1914- 1921. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Print.