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Empires and States in the Middle East

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The Ottoman Empire[edit | edit source]

It's an empire that is rapidly imposing itself on the three continents and will destroy Rome. It was founded at the end of the 13th century and conquered the first European territories in the middle of the 14th century. The Ottomans took the Balkans, then Istanbul (1453), captured Cairo in 1517 and Baghdad in 1533. In 1529, the siege of Vienna failed (another attempt in 1623, without success) and defeat at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, which marked the end of the Ottoman expansion. The end of the Russian-Ottoman war and the signing of the Kutchuk-Kainardji treaty in 1774 marked the first territorial losses and at the same time the insertion of the religious caliphate as a source of legitimacy.

In 1801, the British and the Ottomans drove the French out of Egypt to place an Ottoman pasha, Mehmet Ali. He proceeded to a growing empowerment knowing that the empire was in decline. He will revive the Nahda (the Arab renaissance). In 1836, his son, Ibrahim Pasha, attacked the Ottoman Empire head on, which was on the verge of collapsing. 3 years later, the Ottomans will carry an offensive, diverted by Ibrahim, who, following pressure from the British, Austrians and Russians, must sign the peace treaty. The British will detach themselves from the Egyptians, recognizing Mehmet Ali and his now legitimate descendants to govern Egypt.

The arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte made the Ottomans realize how far behind they were in terms of modernity. In 1839, the period of reforms - the Tanzimat, "reorganization" in Turkish - was put in place to combat the decline of the Empire. The organisation of the Dhimmis - non-Muslim citizens - was modernised and the Millet (a community with cultural autonomy) was created. Second wave of reforms, attempt to create citizenship, inter-community violence. Revolt within the army, as hostile to the reforms, leading to the formation of the "Young Ottomans" from the middle of the 19th century. In 1876, the culmination of the Tanzimat, the new Sultan Abdülhamid II promotes the first monarchical constitution of the Ottoman Empire. Appearance of pan-Islamism: he invites Muslim leaders and dignitaries and proposes to train their children in Istanbul. Two years later, the constitution is abrogated through the closure of parliament and the expansion of pan-Islamism resumes. Modernization is necessary, but it evolves according to the precepts of Islam. Salafism is strongly influenced by it (pan-Islamism, nahda), whose precursor is Al Afghani.

The decline of the Ottoman Empire led to what is known as the question of the East: how to manage the territories? Indeed, successive losses followed one another from 1830 until 1923. Growing Turkish nationalism and the non-Muslim territories in the East (now the Balkans) gradually detached themselves from the Ottoman Empire, raising the question of what would become of the Empire: why not constitute, in the manner of Europe, an international of Islam?

Germany's Weltpolitik will arrange the Ottomans to escape pressure from Russia and the British. Thus, Germany is going to finance the BBB: a railway passing through Berlin, Byzantium and Baghdad. Panturquists and supporters of the Empire are delighted with this alliance.

In 1908, the second constitutional period will be activated by the party of the Young Turks (Union and Progress), which will force the sultan to accept the second constitution. In 1909, traditional/conservative/religious circles tried to kick out the Unionists. In fact, the latter took advantage of a counter-revolution to crush any resistance. In 1913, the parliament was taken over. In 1915, the policy of the Armenian genocide is launched: deportations and massacres of the targeted population, between 800'000 and 1'500'000 people will perish.

The Persian Empire[edit | edit source]

When talking about the Persian Empire (Iran), the notion of continuity is important. The Medes (Media) created an empire at the beginning of the 7th century BC which was destroyed by Cyrus II of Persia around 550 BC. Several empires fought for this region until the period of the Sassanid dynasty, which lasted between 224 and 624 and concerned the reign of Great Iran (Iran, Iraq, Armenia, South Caucasus, ...) whose capital was Ctesiphon. From 642 begins the Islamic period of Iran.

In 1501, the Sefevid empire is created in Azerbaijan. The latter will proceed to the concretization of Shiism as a religion and thus to the Shiitization of Iran. In 1514, the Sephevists lost the war (Battle of Chaldiran) against the Ottoman Sultan, which would give rise to the first political demarcation line. On the other hand, the Ottomans regained the eastern half of Anatolia. The Alevis, supporters of the Shah, Ishmael I, are massacred during the decade following the defeat. Sultan Selim then took Cairo in 1517.

In 1796, creation of the Kadjar/Qajar dynasty, of Turkmen origin. In 1906, constitutional period and separation into different international orders (including an English one). But in 1908-9, oil is discovered which upsets the destiny of the territory. In spite of everything, Iran wants to be neutral.

The Ottoman Empire in the First World War[edit | edit source]

atlas-historique.net

After seeking alliances with the English and the French, the agreement was finally signed with Germany. But, aware of their difficulties, the Ottomans wanted to delay the entry into the war as long as possible. Between the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, several ships were stored, ships that the Ottomans would use to bomb the Russian coast. From then on, the British want to counter-attack directly inland. At the same time, the protectorate over Egypt was made official, to maintain control over the Suez Canal.

The Allies seek to open a new front in the south of the Ottoman Empire. The Arab revolt broke out in 1916 at the instigation of Hussein ben Ali, Sheriff of Mecca (after being pushed there by Lawrence of Arabia) to liberate the Arabian Peninsula from the Ottoman Empire. These were the beginnings of Arab nationalism, with Hussein wanting to create a unified Arab state from Syria to Yemen, a promise obtained from General Henry MacMahon. In June 1917, Faisal, Hussein's son, won the battle of Aqaba and, by uniting the Arab tribes of the Hijaz in 1917, succeeded in liberating Damascus and then proclaiming himself King of Syria in 1920.

In between, Russia withdrew from the war because of the internal revolution. This poses a problem for the British, because from now on, Germany only fights on one front, against France. They will therefore take advantage of the strong presence of the Bolshevik Jews to keep them in the war. Enver Pasha, a high Ottoman official with ties to Germany, who wanted to counter-attack against the Russians, was going to lose this operation: he was going to accuse the Armenians, which was going to trigger the genocide.

In January 1919, the Paris Conference was held. The future of the Ottoman territories was discussed. In fact, although countries were allowed to send delegations to put forward their point of view, some were refused: the Egyptian delegation was exiled to Malta, for example. Faisal was going to create a State in present-day Syria. The Clemenceau-Fayçal agreement is very favourable to the French. The Lebanese delegation obtains the right to create a State. The Kurds are promised the creation of Kurdistan. The whole thing leads to the Treaty of Sèvres.

The Ottoman Empire accepts the treaty, which signs the final point of the question of the East. In spite of everything, a nationalist resistance was formed and fought against the Armenians, the Greeks (driven out of Anatolia) and the Kurds. They will emerge victorious, create the Turkish Republic, which will lead to the reconsideration of the treaty. In 1924, the caliphate is abrogated - Hussein, king of Hedjaz since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, proclaims himself Caliph, but will be driven out by the Saudis. In 1920, the French cancel the Arab state in Syria, Faisal will be driven out to become Hashemite king of Iraq. The British will create the kingdom of Transjordan for Abdallah, another son of Hussein, in order to preserve Palestine.

The San Remo conference in 1920 mainly concerned the allocation of mandates over the former Ottoman provinces. The French will have the mandate on Syria and Lebanon, the British on Transjordan, Palestine and Mesopotamia (from Mosul to Basra), renamed Iraq. For their part, the Turks redefine their borders by crushing the Armenians. 4 years later, in 1923, Mustafa Kemal managed to go back on the Treaty of Sèvres in order to reconsider the fixed borders: the Treaty of Lausanne will replace it.

Allied promises and Arab claims[edit | edit source]

In the context of the First World War, many promises were made, particularly by the Western powers preparing the partition of Ottoman territories. This begins in 1915 in Constantinople: Great Britain, France and Russia meet to discuss it.

In 1916, diplomats Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot concluded an agreement of the same name to define precisely the division of Ottoman lands between France and Russia. This agreement explains, like a genesis, the collective memories concerning the geographical space in the Middle East: they influenced the creation of states, but did not really determine their borders - the balance of power having modified them.

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After the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks, in order to criticize the imperialism of the French and English, made the agreements public. These agreements represent the culmination of the process of the question of the East - not the beginning. The French zone serves as a buffer zone between the British and the Russians, having realized the difficulty of cohabiting in India.

The Armenian Genocide[edit | edit source]

During the First World War, recurrent violence led to a particularly serious event: the Armenian genocide.

This people has been present on the territory for a very long time - as early as 200 BC according to certain nationalist mythologies. In the year 301, Armenia created the first Christian state. It was not until 640 with the Arab conquests that the Armenians were divided between Byzantium and the Arab territories. The most important part was between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire. The Armenians had the status of Dhimmis with the Ottomans. Unfortunately, with the decline of the Empire, this population is also affected. The pan-Islamist phase of Adbülhamid II will lead to the highlighting of Muslim claims to the detriment of Armenian claims. In 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano marked for the first time that the Armenian question was internationalized: the Ottomans were asked to improve the fate of the Armenians living in the territory.

Between 1895 and 1896 there were terrible repressions against Armenian demonstrations - against taxes, Ottoman persecutions. The Young Turks were to be even more violent than the Ottomans, because they were convinced that they were fighting to purify the area from the Turks: they had to get rid of this issue, already internationalized, which represented a risk of territorial losses. The process of the genocidal campaign begins with the recurrent discrimination of Armenians, they are accused of betraying and fomenting together with Russia. The genocide began in 1915, including the arrest and deportation of Armenians to Syria through the ordeal of the death march. The people who arrived at the Black Sea were parked in boats that were sunk. While some Armenians became Islamists and others went into hiding with the Kurds, the same thing happened to the Assyrians between 1914 and 1920: the population was exterminated despite their status as Millet (autonomous cultural community).

Despite the fact that the Allies occupied Istanbul from 1919 and created a court martial to judge the crimes of the Ottomans, the situation did not calm down. The Kemalist nationalists were going to oppose the Allies as soon as the question of the Greek Orthodox populations in Turkey emerged. Mustafa Kemal, who is linked to the Young Turks, is the first to say that the Armenian genocide is "a shameful act" because he is fighting at the same time at the Dardanelles. He will change his position during the resistance for Anatolia.

The foundation of Turkey[edit | edit source]

The Allies, worn out by the war, went back on the Treaty of Sèvres to conclude the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, definitively closing the door to the Kurdish and Armenian questions - as well as the hunting of the Greeks out of Turkish territories. After this episode, the leaders of the Union and Progress Committee (Young Turks) were exiled and killed, and the movement was dissolved. Several nationalist associations are created and aim at protecting the invasion of Anatolian lands: the process will be partly done through religion (Christian West vs Muslim Anatolia).

In May 1919, Mustafa Kemal arrived in Anatolia, took the lead in the popular resistance and launched a war against the Armenians (1921). He will also oppose the French (signing of treaties on the borders) and the Greeks. For the British, the possibility of a war between Greeks and Turks on one front and between Turks and the British on the other was advantageous to focus on Iraq. The Turks will be interested in the Western front against the Greeks so that in 1922 they will withdraw from Anatolia, leaving room for the Treaty of Lausanne. Parallel to this treaty, a convention between Greece and Turkey for an exchange of populations was put in place. Once the French were expelled and the treaty signed, Mustafa Kemal proclaimed the Turkish Republic.

Despite everything, Antioch remains claimed and the border of Mosul is not determined: the UN must decide on the latter case and in 1925, a treaty is signed between Iraq, Turkey and Great Britain. It stipulates that part of the oil revenue goes to Turkey, but that Turkey must recognise Iraq and its borders.

In 1922, the Ottoman Sultanate was removed from the Turkish Parliament: the only political authority remained Ankara. Mustafa Kemal was to continue his process by abolishing the Caliphate in 1924, through a law which at the same time created a specific body: the Dyianet (Presidency of Religious Affairs). He then proceeded to authoritarian modernization and involved secularism - in the sense of absolute control over religious matters. Non-Turkish and non-Muslim elements are assimilated, morals change as well as laws. The policies of assimilation of minorities and different ethnic groups are manifold: the creation of Turkish surnames, a changed calendar, the closure of religious schools.

In 1925, after the creation of the Ministry of Education, the wearing of the European hat was imposed, legal reforms were implemented (Swiss civil code), metric systems were adapted, the calendar was changed (as was the day of rest). The alphabet also changes, history and the past follow the movement: the Institute of Turkish History is created in 1931. At the same time, a policy of language purification is pursued in order to strengthen the theory of the "Sun Language": to demonstrate the origin and superiority of the mother nation. In the same process, the question of the Kurds, who were assimilated as "mountain Turks" (to bring them back to their "true nature"), was settled. In 1938, repressions against Kurdish and non-Muslim populations took place.

As far as institutions are concerned, the State is centralized, nationalized and secularized. Society is Europeanized, the past of the Muslim empire is associated with a horrible imagination, that's why we have to look to the West. But as early as 1950, Turkey slowed down its westernization in the face of the multiparty system that it implies - at that time Turkey had only one party. So the conservatives are going to question the Kemalist reforms, which represents a real danger for the leaders in power and will lead to large-scale repression.

Turkey is an ally of the West and must therefore maintain a multi-party system. Approximately every 10 years, a coup d'état takes place, but elections are nevertheless called by the army. For some years now, the conservatives in power have been advocating a government that is not revolutionary and have therefore not suffered any setbacks from the army.

Moreover, assimilationist (Kurdish) policies will reinforce Turkish nationalism - these populations do not or no longer enjoy Millet's status. European anti-Semitism and racism will influence discriminatory policies in Turkey and lead to pogroms against Jews in Thrace. Furthermore, a wealth tax law will reinforce this discrimination and for (non-Turkish) individuals who cannot pay, camps will be set up.

Secularization is a long historical process in which the divine and the god cease to be the reference. Secularism is a policy: the state decides to separate itself from the church. So we can have secularized societies, but not secularized societies and vice versa.

After the war, the situation deteriorates even more: a bomb explodes in the house where Mustafa Kemal was born, pogroms are going to be carried out against the targeted populations. One thing leading to another, minorities are shrinking and no longer represent much of a problem nowadays.

The Alevis[edit | edit source]

The Alevis are happy to see the creation of the new Turkish republic, because it promises secularism and secularism. But as soon as the caliphate was suppressed, the Dyianet was created to promote Sunni Islam (construction of mosques ...) which was going to be a problem for them without making things very complicated - there was talk of murders during the time of the Ottoman Empire. In the 1960s, the first Alevi political party was created even though another political party of the communist left responded better to the demands of the Kurdish and Alevi electorate.

In the 1970s, an extreme right appeared and advocated discrimination against Alevi: massacres, pogroms (1978, 1980), beheadings, etc. The party was not a political party, but a political party of the extreme right. In 1993, Alevi intellectuals were burned alive in a hotel. In 1995, the Gazi district was hit by a massacre against this population. From 2002, the new power further promotes the Sunni cult and reinforces the policy of assimilation (Cf. Kemal): the community is thus forced to go to the mosque even though it does not practice Sunni Islam. The Alevis are Turkish and/or Kurdish speaking, even if their faith is totally determining for their community.

Iran[edit | edit source]

This country also represents another case of authoritarian modernization. Shortly before the First World War, in 1907, the country was on the verge of implosion: territorial losses, the army was unable to manage the state's influence, and the British were reluctant to establish a strong central power. The British concluded an agreement to share the territory with the Russian power, all within the framework of the Anglo-Russian agreement.

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In 1921, the soldier Reza Khan carried out a coup d'état and created a government, an administration and an army to form a central power. He also managed to reach an agreement with the British, particularly on the question of oil. In 1925, the Kadjar dynasty came to an end and a year later, Reza Kahn proclaimed himself Reza Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty. Khan was inspired by Kemal's reforms and carried out an authoritarian modernization: suppression of all intermediate powers, introduction of metric systems, development of transport networks, cultural and clothing reforms, strong nationalism (exaltation of the Iranian past, based on the Persian language). All these reforms will be made at the price of censorship, a decrease in freedom of expression, purification of the language, general repression, control of the political apparatus. Some codes (civil, penal, dress code) were also introduced towards the end of the 1920s.

In December 1934, Persia is no longer Persia, the country is now called Iran (a reinforcement compared to the West). The Nazi propaganda, resonating in the East, will convince the Shah who, in reality, only intends to rely on the Germans to counter the British power. Unfortunately, he will have to leave his place to his son, Mohammed Reza, who is still too young to govern. There is also the question of supplying the Soviet forces via the country, under the control of the Allied forces.

In 1951, the Prime Minister, Mossadegh, stated that the independence of the Iranians was dependent on the control of resources: he decided to nationalise the oil wells, which would cost him a great deal of money. The British succeeded in convincing the United States to intervene, via Operation Ajax (CIA), by removing the Prime Minister's government. In 1953, although democratically elected, Mossadegh was humiliated and left power. The Shah became increasingly powerful and planned to modernize Iran. Since 1955, the country belongs to the Baghdad Pact, which places it on the side of the Western bloc. Indeed, he wants to take advantage of the context of the Cold War to find allies (USA) and proceeds to the "White Revolution", a modernization in the form of Americanization: mode of production, consumption, ... American experts on the ground will benefit from privileges, which reinforces tensions in religious circles. At the same time, a reform of agriculture was carried out, which was oriented towards the benefits of the economy and no longer those of Islam (Cf. offerings of the Imams). Opposition is repressed just like the communist left, and through these reforms and the repressions that follow, the Shah will provoke, in spite of himself, the federation of all these oppositions into a common force.

On the 235th anniversary of the Persian Empire, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi will provoke a change of calendar: a few years later, we will change back to the old one.

Large demonstrations will take place and the Shah, who is ill, cannot meet the expectations of the people, which will lead to the Islamic revolution of 1979. He left power by going into exile the same year while the Ayatollah (the highest member of the Shiite clergy) Rouhollah Khomeini returned to Iranian soil after 15 years. The armed forces of the revolution proclaim neutrality and Khomeini declares the end of the monarchy and sets up a provisional government. The revolution will be supported by many intellectuals, like Michel Foucault. A Shiite theocracy is established. Somewhere, Saddam Hussein saves the revolution by declaring war on the country: it is the burst of national feeling as a factor of cohesion, via religious power, that allows the republic to be definitively anchored as a form of the Iranian state. The Republic was not proclaimed, but came into being with the Islamic revolution. Secularism is not enshrined in the constitution.

Egypt[edit | edit source]

This state was also created through a revolution. It is a cradle of civilizations, a succession of dominations (Persian, Roman, ...). From 1639, Egypt became Muslim and Ottoman from 1517 (capture of Cairo). From the 18th century, the country becomes very interesting for the British. The Nahda, the Arab renaissance, will take place on Egyptian territory under the regime of Mehmet Ali. Over time, the country will even go as far as challenging the Ottoman Empire (Cf. Ibrahim Pasha, son of Mehmet Ali). It became very important in 1869 following the opening of the Suez Canal. At the same time, we are witnessing a decline in economic issues and therefore modernisation (pressure from the Allies). Loans were taken out and from 1876, a Franco-British commission took charge of the administration of the country which was unable to repay its debts. Dissatisfaction was strong among the working classes and the British would establish themselves completely in power by 1880.

When the First World War broke out, the canal became a major issue, which led the British to proclaim their protectorate over Egypt (de jure). After the war, the Egyptians demanded their independence for having largely participated in the war (drudgery, famine), which provoked the ire of Great Britain, which will prevent by all means the Egyptian delegation from arriving in Paris to assert its claims: it will be stopped on the island of Malta. There, the notion of "Wafd" ("delegation") emerges in the history of Egypt.

The nationalist revolutionary movement grew stronger and pushed the British to abrogate their protectorate in 1922, but with reservations: the presence of British soldiers around the Suez Canal, occupation of the Sudan (source of the Nile), ... Sultan Fouad I quickly proclaimed himself king and is closely linked to Great Britain. In 1927, the Muslim Brotherhood is founded to maintain a society in accordance with the Muslim tradition (and against a westernization of the country). The political instability forces Great Britain to sign a new treaty with Egypt to prevent the fascist powers from getting their hands on the country: the country's independence is thus strengthened.

On 23 July 1952, the Free Officers took power, one of whom stood out: Nasser. His idea of pan-Arabism as well as the nationalization of the Suez Canal made his politics very nationalist and Third Worldist. Nasser's socialism is developmentalist, because it does not prevent the constitution of an Egyptian bourgeoisie. The Soviets will approach it, in particular for the realization of the Aswan dam.

To constitute a pan-Arab state, Israel must be eradicated: the Six Day War will be lost in 1966. Nasser will die in 1970. His successor, Sadat, will proceed with the nationalization of the country: economic revival, questioning of the pan-Arab concept and even rapprochement with Israel (Camp David agreements), which will lead to the exclusion of Egypt from the Arab League. For some experts, this marks the end of pan-Arabism. Sadat is killed by the Muslim Brotherhood, his successor is Hosni Mubarak. He will repress the Muslim Brotherhood but will be expelled during the Arab Spring to make way for Mohamed Morsi. General Sissi will carry out a coup d'état and take power in May 2014.

Saudi Arabia[edit | edit source]

The state is very young and of a different nature. We have to talk about one particular element to understand its constitution: it is the ideology of Wahhabism.

In 1744, a pact was concluded between Saud and Wahhab with the aim of making the reign of the word of God triumph: it is necessary to return to a purer form of Islam and to conquer territories in order to create a State. Many attempts will take place, the first as early as the 18th century. Shi'ism is considered foreign to Islam and in 1803 Mecca will be attacked. The attempt fails, because Mehmet Ali, sent by the Ottoman Empire, will have the Saudi general beheaded. The second attempt in 1820-1840 also failed. From 1900-01, part of the Saud family returned from exile and resumed its project to create a Saudi state.

In 1915, the British will contact Chérif Hussein (Hashemite) and, at the same time, his enemies, the Saudis. The Saudis will not revolt, Hussein is isolated. He ends up proclaiming himself Caliph, which leads the Saudis to attack him. In 1926, Ibn Saud proclaimed himself King of Hejaz, recognized by Russia, France and Great Britain. In 1932, the Kingdom of United Arabia is proclaimed which includes the Nejd and the Hejaz. Also, oil is going to be discovered, which will help the kingdom - all the more so in a context of world war. It thus becomes a privileged ally of the French and the British.

It is feared that the Islamic revolution in Iran will be exported to Saudi Arabia, which strengthens its position as an ally. Wahhabism becomes the spearhead of the anti-Soviet struggle. In 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council was created, in which Saudi Arabia would play an important role. Saddam Hussein will invade Kuwait: military bases will be created in Saudi Arabia to counter the Iraqi offensive. On the other hand, Al Qaeda is turning against the Americans, considering that they have desecrated the holy land of Islam during this process.

On November 20, 1979, Islamic fundamentalists took control of the Mosque of Mecca, their leader claiming the status of Madhi, considering the Saudis corrupt and enjoying luxury, opening up to Western society. Thousands of hostages are held until 4 December, the date of the liberation battle that killed more than 200 people.

Countries created by decrees[edit | edit source]

The League of Nations had several mandates (A, B, C), classified according to a degree of seniority and "civilization". The former territories of the Ottoman Empire were relatively well "civilized" and therefore were assigned an A mandate.

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At this point, the Americans are not in favour of maintaining territorial conquests and would like them to be accessible to everyone - which benefits their position from a commercial point of view. Nevertheless, the British and the French obtained considerable gains in land: a compromise was therefore decided through mandates which were followed by a long process (the San Remo conference, Cairo, the Treaties of Sèvres and then Lausanne).

In 1919, the territories were shared between the different powers. There was great hostility from the local populations towards the mandate and the majority of them wanted the creation of an Arab state. Fiercely opposed to the Westerners, they were less reticent towards the Americans.

Syria[edit | edit source]

Fayçal, son of Hussein ben Ali, on his way to the peace conference in Paris, understands that there is something wrong when the French oppose the creation of his kingdom - the British do not support it at all. To strengthen his position, he signs an agreement with Clemenceau to establish a protectorate over Syria, something he does not reveal to his supporters. For their part, the state is being created: education, reforms, army, administration. In 1920, the French wanted to recover the territories defined by the Sykes-Picot agreements. In July of the same year, the battle of Mayssaloun takes place: Fayçal's army is crushed and he is forced into exile. The mandate thus becomes a territorial conquest.

France proceeds with divisions and will separate the territories to create republics: that of Syria and that of Lebanon - although the territories belong to the same people historically speaking. Syria will be divided into several states, according to religious or ethnic criteria. All this will be done with the aim of preventing Arab mobilization over the entire territory ("divide and rule"). Moreover, through high representatives, France will run the republic as one of its departments (according to the centralized model). A direct administration is quickly put in place, which will aggravate Arab frustrations. In 1925, the great Syrian revolt broke out and lasted for more than 2 years. Indeed, the Druze are no longer the masters and lose their privileges. The repression is terrible: bombings, exposure of the bodies of the revolted, etc..

In the end, the people will not be helped, the management is very close to a colony. Nevertheless, the growing Syrian nationalism manages to gain independence. Nevertheless, in the context of the Second World War, Turkey, linked to Nazi Germany, becomes problematic. France will therefore offer a piece of territory (Antioch, Alexandria) to the Turks to avoid a dangerous alliance between these two powers. In 1939, a plebiscite finally accredited the transfer of this territory to Turkey.

During the Second World War, the Vichy government allowed the Germans to use the military infrastructures (airports) based in Lebanon. The British could not let this outrage pass and proceeded in such a way that, once the war was over, the French had to renounce their authority over the territory and declare the country's independence.

The latter will push in a pan-Arab and very nationalistic direction. Although weakened, Syria will participate in the 1948 war against Israel. Following the defeat, it will push the country to the brink and will open the door to a characteristic feature of the contemporary era in this country: coups d'état. Indeed, with the experience of protectorates, the control of the state is done through the army, the only lasting institution between changes of governance.

Ba'athism will develop even more. There is a growing feeling that an alliance with Nasser is more than interesting: in 1958, the two countries proclaimed the United Arab Republic. Soon, Nasser's leadership clearly emerged as the main vocation of this project - Syria would be reduced to the provincial state of Egypt. In 1961, a coup d'état took place to escape the United Arab Republic by regionalists, further destabilizing the country. In 1963, the Baathists carried out a new coup d'état: reforms, secularization, education, agriculture, etc., which was followed by a new coup d'état. We will call it Arab socialism. In 1966, the socialist tendency of Ba'athism also carried out its coup d'état. A year later, Israel won the Six Day War and weakened the Baath, which plunged the country into chaos. Hafez Al Assad carried out his coup d'état in 1970, accentuating the national character.

He realized that a social base or legitimacy was needed to retain power and became interested in the Alawites: the most important positions were given to them. Although the discourse on pan-Arabism has not completely disappeared, the nation is still relevant today. He will proceed to the same methods as the French in 1920: co-opt, divide, repress. The government will "confessionalize" itself. All the opposition will be purged except the Islamist part, which has a real social base among the people. In 1982, Al Assad razed an Islamist city to the ground in order to impose large-scale repression, all with a symbolic dimension.

Assad requires a person of religious authority as a Fatwa (specialist in Islamic law), something that cannot be assumed by Alawites, considered as non-Muslims. Hafez died in 2000 and it is his son, Bashar Al Assad, who has been in power since then.

Lebanon[edit | edit source]

Depuis le 16ème siècle, le territoire est sous contrôle ottoman. Il fait preuve d'une diversité particulière, au niveau ethnique et religieux : les druzes et le maronites (chrétiens) ont joué un grand rôle dans l'histoire de ce pays, surtout à cause de leur opposition.

Durant son mandat, la France va tenter de jouer le rôle de médiateur entre les deux populations. On applique une division administrative (Mutasarrifiyyah) sur le territoire, le mont Liban échappe au contrôle des ottomans. Par ailleurs, la France va dépêcher deux délégations libanaises à la conférence de paix de Paris pour contrecarrer les revendications de Fayçal.

L'État libanais est créé en 1921, une république avec un système politique particulier: le système communautaire. Ainsi, chaque communauté aura un poids sur la fonction étatique par rapport à son poids démographique. Les élites, déçues de ce système, se regroupent pour tenter d'imposer leurs revendications. Le système reste faible, car se base uniquement sur un recensement de population : la migration palestinienne tout comme le panarabisme vont provoquer des fluctuations dans la démographie libanaise. En 1970, les Jordaniens chassent les Palestiniens de leurs territoires, qui vont donc s'établir au Liban. Suite à ces événements, le Liban va être plongé dans une guerre civile, avec une occupation israélienne au Sud-Liban dès 1975.

La Syrie, dans une volonté d'annexer le Liban, va soutenir et s'associer avec les différentes communautés. En 1989, elle organise la conférence de Taëf : le Liban sort de la guerre civile, sous administration syrienne. On refuse de faire un recensement, de peur de déséquilibrer le pays. En 2005, Rafiq Hariri, Premier ministre libanais, est assassiné à Beyrouth, ce qui provoque des instabilités et de larges mouvements protestataires, conduisant à la révolte du Cèdre et au retrait des troupes syriennes du pays. Parallèlement, le Hezbollah, parti islamiste chiite fondé en 1982, ne veut pas se désarmer et le conflit de 2006 contre Israël va lui permettre de renforcer sa position sur l’échiquier de la résistance arabe.

Jordan[edit | edit source]

We have to go back to the British Mandate on Palestine to understand the formation of Jordan. One of the first things Britain was going to do was to divide the mandate in two: Palestine (Cairo conference, 1922) and the mandate on the Transjordan emirates. The son of Sheriff Hussein, Abdullah, was the leader of the revolts in one part of the territory: to contain it, he became emir of Transjordan. The Zionist opposition, on the other hand, manifests itself on the fact that Jewish immigration is forbidden by the British in Transjordan. The Jordan River determines the notions of Trans and West Bank.

The Jordanians will create the Arab Legion, an army under the control of a high British officer. In 1946, Jordan became independent. Two years later, following the civil war, Israel proclaims its independence, the Arab states oppose: the emirate of Transjordan will occupy, therefore annex, the West Bank.

In 1950, half of the parliamentary seats are occupied by Palestinian deputies: the concrete project is in fact the annexation of the West Bank. Palestinian nationalists, aware of a secret agreement between the Israelis and the Transjordanians on questions of authority/sovereignty/territory, opposed this law and Abdallah was assassinated in 1952. Palestinian territory is lost in the 1967 war.

King Hussein, Abdallah's grandson, will reign over Transjordan until his death, failing to resolve the Palestinian ambiguity - not least because of his pan-Arab ambitions. In 1971, the king carried out "Black September": Palestinian fighters were driven out of the territory in a violent manner. The headquarters of the Palestinian leaders are moved to Lebanon. On a matter of principle, even by participating in the Israeli-Arab wars (Yom Kippur), the Jordanians maintain a close relationship with Israel, on subjects in opposition to the other Arab states. Upon his death, Hussein was replaced by his son, Abdullah II.

In the end, the Hashemites, who had been promised an Arab state, would only rule over Transjordan. At the Oslo Conference (Oslo Agreements), Jordanian diplomats are forced to renounce all ambitions on Palestinian territory.

Moreover, Jordan benefits from American aid, with which the country is on very good terms.

Iraq[edit | edit source]

The state is composed of three former Ottoman territories (villaet = provinces): Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. The British have always been interested in the latter, mainly for its direct access to the Gulf - a challenge to protect the oil exploitation in Persia. The territory, especially Mosul, is very interesting for several reasons: - Discovery of oil - Source of the rivers - Control over the north to ensure the stability of the rest of the territory.

Gertrude Bell, an archaeologist, will campaign to give the Arabic name "Iraq" rather than Mesopotamia (Greek). From then on, the foundations were laid for all the problems, contained in the Iraqi question according to Pierre-Jean Luisard. There is talk of massacres, instability and violence, which can be explained simply by a relationship of Sunni domination over the Shiites and Arab domination over the Kurds.

According to the colonialist method, the minority is placed in power so that it remains subordinate to the metropolis. Thus, the Sunni elites, a minority, found themselves at the head of Iraq: Faisal became Hashemite sovereign of the country in 1920. By 1925, Shiite and Kurdish disputes were settled (with the help of the Royal Air Force) and the state was stabilized.

In 1932, Iraq was the first state created by decree to become independent by joining the League of Nations. Nevertheless, the government administration remains under British control - each minister will have a British assistant. In 1941, a coup d'état is attempted, Britain intervenes to put a new king in power. History repeated itself during the Cold War, with Iraq having a decisive weight in the Baghdad agreements in 1955: the latter sought to carry out the American policy of "containment", aimed at creating a "cordon sanitaire" to counter the rise in power of the USSR. In 1958, the revolution overthrew the monarchy, the republic was proclaimed and Abdel Karim Kassem was elected. It is also the period when the Syrian and Egyptian governments found the United Arab Republic, a body that Kassem decides not to join: he gets closer to the Kurds and the Shiites. In 1963, Kassem is killed live in a coup d'état, with Abdel Salam Aref replacing him at the head of power. The latter was Ba'athist and, unlike Kassem, was in favour of the United Arab Republic. Upon his death, his brother will replace him as president. Ba'athism was thus established in Iraq thanks to brother Aref in the early 1960s.

In 1979, Saddam Hussein became the new master of Iraq. The process of statehood of the tribe will be reinforced, always with a Baathist perspective: the support of the Tiplit is sought. Saddam will launch modernization programs: school, economy, housing, etc. to finally achieve the nationalization of oil. Nevertheless, the economy will be based on a clientelistic society and not on a modern approach. In 1980, Saddam Hussein declared war on Iran in the face of Khomeini's provocations and to prevent the spread of his revolution. An alliance is set up between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah against Iraq. In the end more than half a million soldiers will have died for each side. The war will not give rise to any reparations and does not induce any territorial change. In 1988 Iran accepted the ceasefire proposed by the Security Council, the use by Iraq of chemical weapons as a first step in the escalation of the violence of the conflict.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein declares war on Kuwait based on territorial claims. The UN war is in fact American, the embargo has terrible consequences. With the Bush presidency, the imaginary of Iraq as a point of the "axis of evil" is reinforced, all the more so with the attacks of September 11. This chaos will be the cradle of the new jihadism represented by Daesh/Al Quaida. The Americans are going to "debatise" Iraq by dismantling the entire administration and the army: the country is plunged into chaos. The Shiites begin to regain control of the country, the other populations are marginalized as soon as the Americans withdraw in 2009.

Israel[edit | edit source]

The country was created by decree or by revolution, depending on one's point of view. The Balfour Declaration is central to understanding the founding of this state. The origin of the conflict can be traced back through it according to historians, which could even be dated: November 2, 1917, the date of writing. In this document, the non-Jewish populations are not named. British interests played a predominant role in the process.

Nevertheless, the conflict did not begin in a vacuum. Jerusalem has always had a Jewish population, as has the north of the territory. From 1800-1830, more and more Jewish populations were leaving Europe for Palestine: the process was accelerated by the persecutions under the Tsarist Empire aimed at repressing the Jewish revival, Askala (Ashkenazi. The community wishes to revive culture and tradition, with a particular interest in language, since Eliseth Beskeouda is the origin of modern Hebrew.

Part of the population will emigrate to the United States. Léon Pinsker, a doctor, thought a lot about the question and laid the first foundations for the idea of founding a national home. Theodore Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist and writer, pushed this idea even further by imagining founding this home in France: the Dreyfus affair tainted his plans, proof of the recurrent anti-Semitism at that time.

According to religious history, Jews have been held responsible for centuries for the death of Jesus ("the deicide people") by Christians. Manifestations of anti-Semitism take place in a very specific socio-economic context: in the Middle Ages, Jews could not work with Christians. As early as the 19th century, anti-Semitism became "modern" because it had its roots on a racial basis only.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the programme "Rovere Zion" (Lovers of Zion) is created, the congress in Basel is organized in 1897: Herzl's ideas are discussed, there is talk of migrating to Palestine. Between 1903 and 1914, 30,000 Jews arrive and create the city of Tel Aviv. The Kibbutz are imagined at this period: small autonomous villages, whose security is very important. Between 1921 and 1931, 150'000 people arrived in Palestine.

Tensions began to rise as soon as the Balfour Declaration was declared, and numerous massacres took place between the populations. This led to the creation of a Zionist armed force, the Hagana. Zionist circles will collaborate with the proxy powers, which provokes the anger of the Arabs. In addition, the Jewish Agency is set up to coordinate the process - the purchase of land properties in particular.

As early as 1937, Great Britain acknowledges its inability to manage the situation on the spot: these are the first signs of disengagement. The League of Nations takes over and proposes the first partition plan that emerges from the Peel Commission. This led to new tensions, the emergence of extremist groups and the fomenting of attacks. A new partition plan was proposed in 1947, rejected by the Arabs because it did not respect their demands.

In May 1948, Israel declared its independence while the British left the territory. An armed coalition of Arab countries (Transjordan, Syria and Egypt) declares war on the Jewish state. While the Arabs took the advantage, the balance of power is exchanged - the USSR supporting Israel to drive the British out of the territory for good. The conflict ends with the cease-fire concluded between February and July 1949.

In June 1967, the Six Day War broke out between the same protagonists in addition to Lebanon, with Israel emerging victorious from the conflict, tripling its territorial hold. - Egypt losing the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. In 1973, the Yom Kippur War. In 1979, the Camp David Accords are negotiated in secret between Israel, Egypt (Sadat) and the United States as mediators (Jimmy Carter) and lead to the first peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Currently, one of the central points of the Palestinian struggle is the recognition of the right of return for refugees.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]