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First posted on May 13th 2008







The Pacific Region : Decolonization


1914 By the time World War I broke out, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and most of Morocco were French, the Spanish Sahara and Spanish Morocco Spanish, Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica (since 1932 : Libya) Italian, Egypt British, the Sudan Anglo-Egyptian protectorate. The Ottoman Empire ruled Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Greater Syria the Hejaz and (northern) Yemen. The hinterland of Aden, the Sultanate of Oman and a number of emirates along the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Trucial Oman) were British protectorates. The interior of Arabia eluded the rule of the powers, was controlled by various Bedouin tribes.
1914-1918 World War I : The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in 1914; had to fight the Russians on the Anatolian front, the British at Gallipoli, at the Gaza front, in Iraq. Viewing the Armenian residents of the Empire a Russian fifth column (Turks were targeted by Armenian guerillas), the Ottoman authorities implemented what they called a deportation of the Armenian population element (Armenian Genocide). Until 1916 the Ottomans held (or in case of the Anatolian front regained) their ground. In the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1915, the British and French had agreed on partitioning the Ottoman possessions in Arabia amongst themselves. The Arab Revolt (Lawrence of Arabia) caused the Turkish position in the Hejaz to crumble; the British pushed into Palestine and Iraq. In 1917 the British government promised "to view with favour the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine" (Balfour Declaration). In the Husayn-Mac Mahon Correspondence, territorial promises had been made to the Sherif of Mecca. In 1918 the Ottoman Empire surrendered.
1919-1929 Conflicting territorial promises by the powers, conflicting interests of the powers and conflicting political concepts of the peoples in the region resulted in the state of political unrest to continue long after World War I ended. The Treaty of Sevres (1920, for the Ottoman Empire) foresaw a truncated Turkey, with northeastern Anatolia carved out to be included in a larger Armenia, Kurdistan and Cilicia carved out to be placed under French rule, southwestern Anatolia under Italian rule, Eastern Thrace and the Smyrna region to be ceded to Greece. The Turkish National Movement refused to accept the treaty and fought on, defeating the invaders of Turkish soil. In the Treaty of Lausanne 1923, the powers recognized the Republic of Turkey, largely in her present borders. Ibn Saud (ruler of Nejd since 1902) conquered the Hejaz in 1924, established what is now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The French had to expel the Husayni Arabs from Damascus and in 1925 faced a major revolt centered on the city. The British experienced the rejection of British rule in Iraq, and in 1921 established (dependent) kings in Iraq and Transjordan. The Italians experienced continued armed resistance in Libya; the French and Spanish experienced armed resistance in northern Morocco (Rif Rebellion).
With Palestine under British administration, the country experienced Jewish immigration in numbers the Zionist organizations regarded disappointingly low, the Arab population came to regard as an increasing threat. At Kirkuk (Iraq), oil was found in 1925.
Turkey : begin of Atatürk's reforms (modernization, the establishment of a secular state)
1930-1939 In the 1930es, oil was found in Kuwait and in Saudi Arabia.
In 1932, Iraq was released into independence, Egypt in 1922/1936. Turkey saw continued reforms.
From 1935 to 1938, Palestine experienced the First Intifada, a general closure of Arab shops, general strike of Arab workers combined with occasional violent demonstrations, with the object of forcing the British authorities to end Jewish immigration. The British authorities placed quotas on Jewish immigration, doing too little to satisfy the Arabs and doing enough to alienate Zionist organizations.
1939-1945 World War II. Turkey remained neutral; the Iraqi government in 1941 pursued a pro-German policy until ousted bv British forces (May). The French administrations of Syria and Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco were loyal to the French government in Vichy; the administrations of Syria and Lebanon werel ousted in 1941. In North Africa, in 1940 Italian troops, from Libya, invaded Egypt in 1940, but got repelled. Germany dispatched the Afrika Corps (Rommel) to stop the British advance into Libya and push into Egypt. Late in 1941 U.S. troops landed in (French) Morocco and Algeria; late in 1942 the German and Italian forces were defeated in the Battle of El Alamein (Egypt); in May 1943 the German forces in North Africa surrendered; the war in North Africa was over.
The war in the Near East and North Africa was largely fought between Europeans (including North Americans); the local Muslim population, with the exception of Iraq 1941, was largely reduced to the role of observers; Palestine's Jewish community contributed volunteers to the British war effort. German National Socialist ideology did inspire the formation of organizations in the Arab countries. The Ba'ath Party, established in 1940, propagated Arab socialism. World War II also was of importance for the region, as it showed the weakness of the colonial powers and the increasing importance of oil.
1945-1956 Syria, Lebanon and Jordan became independent in 1946; when the British mandate for Palestine ended, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into the Jewish State of Israel and an Arab State of Palestine. This was the solution favoured by the Zionist organizations (Israel was to get a disproportionate share of the land); the Arabs had favoured independence for an unpartitioned Palestine (the Arabs had a 2:1 majority). The Arabs refused to accept partition; the First Arab-Israeli was fought. Israel won, took more land than foreseen in the partition plan; the vast majority of the Palestinian population within Israel, either following the call of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to temporary make space for the Arab armies, or being terrorized to flee (Deir Yasin massacre), fled the country and moved into refugee camps, where their descendents still live today. Egypt administrated the Gaza strip, Jordan the West Bank.
Libya declared independence in 1951, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco in 1956.
Turkey and Libya in 1946-1947 were targets of Soviet demands (Stalin wanted to secure pasage throught the Straits and naval bases in the Mediterranean). The British and American administrations supported Turkey (Truman Doctrine 1947; Turkey joined NATO in 1950).
Patriotic military officers lead by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952 ousted pro-Western King Farouq. Nasser saw himself as a leader of the Arab world (and beyond) in the struggle against Imperialism, pursued socialist policies, in 1956 nationalized the Suez Canal (British and French-owned) without compensation. Britain, France and Israel sent troops; U.S. president Eisenhower called for the troops to be withdrawn - Nasser had won, the Suez Canal was Egyptian.
1956-1973 The French had released Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco into independence, but not Algeria, where a population of about 1 million (christian) settlers, as well as the French army stationed in Algeria, resisted the handover of the country to a Muslim-majority government. An average settler/Frenchman earned about 20 times the wage of an average Algerian Muslim. Denied independence, the Algerian FLN entered on a campaign of guerilla warfare; in 1962 France granted Algerian independence. Not only the French left Algeria, but also the settlers, and a large number of Algerian collaborators.
In Syria and Iraq Ba'ath administrations, pursuing socialist policies, as did Egypt and post-independence Algeria (without Ba'ath label). In Morocco, Libya (until 1969), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and other Gulf states, monarchies survived, conservative policies were pursued. Turkey continued to be a secular, pro-Western state.
The British gradually withdrew from South Arabia and the Gulf : Kuwait became independent in 1961, from South Yemen (Aden, Hadhramaut) in 1967, Oman in 1970, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in 1971.
In 1960 OPEC was established, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait (independent since 1961) and Algeria (ind. 1962) among their leading members. The Israeli-Arab conflict continued; Palestinians living in thje refugee camps, Gaza and the West Bank still did not want to accept the existence of Israel. In 1964, the PLO was established. In 1967 Egypt's president, promising to "push the Jews into the Sea", ordered U.N. peacekeepers (separating Israel from her Arab neighbours) to leave. In the Six Days War, Israel was victorious, occupying the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza and the inai peninsula. The Arab World was stunned. Nasser was succeeded as Egypt's president by Anwar as-Sadat, in order to restore Egyptian self-respect, started yet another Arab-Israeli War, the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Egypt and Syria, supported by the USSR, in the first week gained ground, put pressure on Israel. Then a shipment of U.S. arms arrived; the Israelis went on the offensive. After two weeks an armistice was signed; the war ended in a draw, borders did not change.
1973-1991 The actions of the U.S. - openly supporting Israel, allowing it to win the Yom Kippur War, caused anger among the various Arab governments. The Arab OPEC members decided to drastically raise the oil price (First Oil Crisis 1973-1981). The PLO increased her activities, had established a state within a state in South Lebanon. Lebanon descended into civil war (1975-1991).
The oil-producing countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, later also Kuwait, UAE, Oman) experienced an unprecedented influx of money; many of these countries invested in the establishment of a welfare state, Iraq and Libya in weaponry. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States invested in property abroad.
Egypt's president Sadat entered in negotiastions with Israel. Both countries signed a peace treaty; Egypt diplomatically recognized Israel - the first Arab state to do so (and was treated as a pariah by the other Arab countries because of her action). Israel in return withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) lost the USSR support in the region (Syria, Algeria, South Yemen long-time allies); Arabs supported Afghan resistance (f.ex. Osama bin Laden).
The Islamic Revolution in Iran 1979 was perceived by Iraq's dictator as an opportunity. He ordered his army (at the time regarded the 4th largest in the world) to invade Iran, starting the Gulf War or Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Soon both Iraq and Iran both were in desperate need of money; both sold oil in excess of their allocated quotas. The oil price came down; end of the First Oil Crisis.
A military coup of radical Greeks on the island of Cyprus triggered the Turkish invasion of 1974, which resulted in the partition of the island.
The Spanish withdrawal from the Spanish Sahara 1975 was followed by the country being partitioned by Morocco and Mauritania (soon only by Morocco). the Saharouis Polisario, supported by Algeria, fought Moroccan occupation, with little success. The Kurdish PKK fought a terrorist campaign with the aim of establishing a Kurdish state formed of provinces of southeastern Turkey (estimated Kurdish population in Turkey 9 million).
Algeria introduced multiparty democracy in 1990. The strong showeing of the Islamist FIS caused the government to have second thoughts; the FIS was denied her electoral victory and the country descended into civil war, both sides being responsible for massacres.
Since 1991 Arab-Israeli Conflict : peace, diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt last till today. Jordan in 1988 renounced her claim on the West Bank, the claim of the PLO for the West Bank as territory of a Palestinian Arab state now uncontested by any other Arab state. Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians (Oslo Accords 1991, Peace Deal 1993) resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority, the gradual handover of patches of territory by Israel to the PNA. The PLO in 1993 recognized Israel's right to exist. However, continued terrorist acts by Palestinians caused Israel to take countermeasures; the existence (and occasional expansion) of Jewish settlements in lands the Palestinians regard as part of their future state, the question of what to do with the Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel-Palestine (in 2000 c. 4.6 million); the question of Jerusalem claimed by Israel and the Palestinians as their capital, remain unsolved. The Palestinian leadership split in Fatah (controlling the West Bank, pro-negotiations) and Hamas (controlling Gaza, less conciliatory); the two fought each other over Gaza in 2007.
Iraq and her neighbours : Following the Gulf War (1980-1988) Iraq was impoverished; the Saddam regime internationally regarded with suspicion (he had started the war; had ordered the gas-bombing of the Kurdish town of Halabja (within Iraq, 1988). In 1990 Iraq demanded Kuwait to pay 10 billion Dollars for oil 'stolen from Iraq'; when Kuwait did not satisfy Iraqi demands, Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait. The U.S. established an international coalition and in 1991 liberated Kuwait (Operation Desert Storm). Retreating Iraqi troops set the Kuwaiti Oil Fields on fire, causing major damage to the envronment. Rebellions against the Saddam Regime erupted in the south (Shi'ites) and the north (Kurds) of Iraq. The Iraqi army crushed the Shi'ite rebellion; the U.S. and her allies established a no fly zone to protect the Kurds from a similar fate; Iraqi Kurdistan became a virtually autonomous region within Iraq. Iraq remained an international pariah (oil embargo until 2003) until the US / Coalition of the Willing invaded with the goal of ousting the Saddam administration in 2003. The Saddam regime was ousted, but the occupying forces faced determined resistance; Iraq experienced civil war, the exodus of refugees, a massive problem of internal displacement, an administration in partial control of the country, in danger of paralysis.
Oil : the hope of the U.S. administration that Iraqi oil would both maintain the oil price at a moderate level and pay for the costs of the invasion (designed to liberate the country from its dictator) did not work out; the oil price climbed multifold, drastically altering the conditions of world trade.
Socialism in Arab States : In Iraq, the ousture of Saddam Hussein ended the socialist Ba'ath experiment. The Ba'ath party is still in power in Syria; the rulers in Algeria trace their origins in the socialist FLN, Egypt's president Mubarak his origins in the Nasser/Sadat administration. Yet they lack the financial resources to maintain the welfare state their predecessors established; hopes for industrialization and prosperity had not materialized. The countries are politically instable.
The Oil-Rich States : Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have established an elaborate welfare state, brought in a population of migrant workers, engineers and technocrats (which in the case of most Gulf States outnumbers the indigenous population). Dubai has become the symbol of economic success of fabulous proportions. They have succeeded in diversifying their economies, in establishing industries other than the oil industry. Recently, oil money is being invested in neighbouring Arab countries, causing the economies of Jordan, Egypt etc. to grow.
Refugees : a large population of refugees (Palestinians, and since 2003 Iraqis) continues to be a major issue.
As of 2008, Iraq, Lebanon are politically instable, see occasional outbursts of violence; Gaza, the West Bank, Cyprus, the Western Sahara are contested, await a diplomatic solution.


Activities :
1.)    Create a map showing the oil producing and the non-oil producing countries in the region
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Country History files at WHKMLA : Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen






External Files Encyclopedia of the Orient by Tore Kjellen
Encyclopedia of theMiddle East, from Mideast Web
Sources, from Mideast Web, both primary and secondary
Timeline of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, from Mideast Web
DOCUMENTS Map of North Africa and the iddle East, from Encyclopedia of the Orient
Middle East Maps, from PCL, UTexas
Maps, from Mideast Web
Reference