Lasting Impacts of the Treaty of Versailles and Self-Determination in the Middle East
Secret deals made before-and-after World War I led the Arab people to not trust the British, French and American governments. According to Glencoe World History there was an agreement between the Arabs and the British in World War I. In exchange for military support the Western Allies needed the allies promised to recognize the independence of Arab states. The allies needed air support against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. The Western Allies nations lied and when the war was over did not recognize the independence of many Arab states. After the war France controlled Lebanon and Syria. Britain controlled Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The backlash from this decision would have serious ramifications in the future for the Middle East. Many people inside the borders of these countries were divided and they had no strong identification with their designated countries.
British and French diplomats forged the secret Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The agreement would cut up the Ottoman Empire after World War I ended. The agreement effectively gave control of Syria, Lebanon and part of Turkey to the French. The agreement gave Palestine, Jordan and areas around the Persian Gulf and Baghdad to Britain. The agreement also allowed huge areas of land around Syria and Mesopotamia to be under French influence and land in the Jordan Valley and Arabia to be under British influence. The Arabs expected to be able to run their own countries after helping the allies fight the Turks during World War I.
Another great lie from the European leaders was the Balfour declaration. Britain's foreign secretary James Balfour wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild a leader of the Jewish community in Britain. This letter was eventually published in the Times of London. The British government wanted Jewish support for the allies and the letter expressed support for a national home for the Jews in Palestine. The declaration made more Jews move to Palestine. When the Nazi regime in Germany led to the Holocaust 6 million Jews were killed and even more Jews fled to Palestine. The violence between the Jews and the Muslims increased in Palestine. Britain declared in 1939 that only a certain number of Jews would be allowed to move into the area and that caused even more bloodshed.
After World War I when countries acquired foreign land they called it the mandate system in the Middle East. According to the system a nation officially governed another nation as a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations but did not own the territory. The mandate system was simply colonialism in disguise. Britain controlled Iraq, which was artificially created out of three former Ottoman provinces. Iraq had been politically stable when different ethnic and religious groups live together but when one country is built out of three provinces Britain found that the people would have preferred to rule themselves rather than be ruled by the Arabs. A Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority until quite recently. The British ignored the problems because Iraq is an oil rich nation that they now controlled.
It is not surprising that after so many lies and false promises there is very little trust between the Europeans, Americans and the Middle East. There are long-lasting effects in the Middle East because of these broken promises. The lasting impact on relationships not only between Arab and Israel but Arab and Western countries have been strained since. Middle Eastern states were drawn by European powers in ways that would benefit themselves and didn't take into consideration the wants and desires of the people inside of these borders. There were cultures that became instant minorities and had no real power to rule themselves. They could not elect their own leaders because they did not have the numbers. Many countries still claim ancestral territories including Israel and Palestine with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arab nationalism has grown because although the Arabs were not a nation they are united by language, Islamic culture and religious heritage. The Arab Israeli war of 1948 was caused because both sides believe they have rights to a single piece of land. Each had deals with Western Allies to own this land and both were lied to. Secret deals made before-and-after World War I have lasting effects in the Middle East to this day.