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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to D. G. Hogarth


Grand Continental Hotel,
Cairo

18 March

This letter is not going to be censored, so I'm going to let fly.

The Turks aren't coming back, they have only 50,000 disaffected troops in Syria, (200,000 Dardanelles, 200,000 Caucasus, 50,000 Mesopotamia) and the whole country is mad against them. Ibn Rashid has been heavily defeated by Ibn Saoud (Shakespear unfortunately killed in the battle): Idrisi is at open war with the Turks in Assyr: Sherif has almost declared himself, and the Vali and staff of Hedjaz have taken refuge in Damascus. We have sent troops from the Canal to Basra, to reinforce everybody there, (Indian troops there are shaky it seems), the Australians and New Zealanders, and some Indians are going to the Dardanelles, with the French, and Ian Hamilton's army. We will be left here in Egypt with 20,000 men or so. The French insist upon Syria - which we are conceding to them: there remains Alexandretta, which is the key of the whole place as you know. It's going to be the head of the Baghdad line, and therefore the natural outlet for N. Syria and N. Mesopotamia: it's the only easy road from Cilicia and Asia Minor into Asia etc. etc. Also it's a wonderful harbour, and thanks to Ras Khanzir on the S. can be made impregnable. It is cut off from Syria, and is neither Syria nor Asia Minor. In the hands of France it will provide a sure base for naval attacks on Egypt - and remember with her in Syria, and compulsory service there, she will be able any time to fling 100,000 men against the canal in 12 days from declaration of war. The Sinai desert is not really any obstacle in the spring - or at any time when the railway (which is inevitable) is built. The only place from which a fleet can operate against Egypt is Alexandretta, because there is no English port from which one can blockade it. Smyrna and Constantinople are shut in by islands: whereas Alexandretta has only Cyprus in front of it, and the water round that is too deep for a large naval harbour to be built.

If Russia has Alexandretta it's all up with us in the Near East. And in any case in the next war the French will probably be under Russia's finger in Syria. Therefore I think it absolutely necessary that we hold Alexandretta... and thanks to the Amanus we needn't hold anything else, either in Syria or in Asia Minor. The High Commissioner is strongly of the same opinion, and General Maxwell also [6 words omitted]. K. has pressed it on us: Winston seems uncertain, and someone - not Grey - perhaps Parker in the F.O. is blocking it entirely. I think that perhaps you can get a move on.

K. is behind you in any case. Can you get someone to suggest to Winston that there is a petrol spring on the beach (very favourably advised on by many engineers, but concessions always refused by the Turks) huge iron deposits near Deurtyol 10 miles to the N. and coal also. Point out also that it is a splendid natural naval base (which we don't want but which no one else can have without detriment to us).

If Winston settles on a thing he gets it, I fancy: especially with
K's help.

Then go to the F.O. if possible. Point out that in Baghdad Convention France gave up Alexandretta, to Germans, and agreed that it formed no part of Syria. Swear that it doesn't form part of Syria - and you know it speaks Turkish: and also tell F.O. (not Parker, whom I shall murder some day) that it is vitally important we hold it. One cannot go on betting that France will always be our friend. If F. has all Syria south of Alex, she ought to be content:- she is now trying to fob off Jerusalem on us. Don't touch it with a barge-pole.

By occupying Alexandretta with 10,000 men we are impregnable and we cut

i. Communication between Asia Minor and Syria.
ii. Communication between Asia Minor and Baghdad, where the English are likely to be very hard pressed shortly.
iii. We also relieve the Caucasus, especially after the centre of Turkey shifts to Konia. We must I think look for a renaissance of the Turk when he has lost Constantinople. They will be much more formidable militarily - and less so politically.

TEL.

Source: DG 193-4
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 1 January 2006


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