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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, memorandum to the Foreign Office


15 Sept. 1919
129405

To satisfy French agitation, we should agree to evacuate Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa and Amman, and retire to the 'International' area of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. We may also be able to stop our subsidy to Feisal: but this is more difficult, since it involves the French accepting our back loans as liabilities, and probably the substitution of French military command on the Syrian coast for the present command by Marshal Allenby, and the delimitation of a Franco-Mesopotamian frontier, and the decision as to who shall be responsible for e.g. the Kurds.

Great Britain will in any case formally ask F’eisal to accept a subsidy for area 'B' (Deraa-Akaba) and receive British advisers for that area.

Temporary arrangements will have to be made for imports and exports of the Arab zones, A. and B., through Haifa, Beyrout, Tripoli, and Alexandretta.

We should secure assurances from the French and the Arabs that they would mutually respect the boundary of the direct French zone of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (which Feisal had best initial for the Damascus Government). It should be understood that disorder in either sphere will be regarded by us as our concern, till peace is signed with Turkey.

In this concern it should be noted that hostilities between Arabs and French will cut off all the inland food supply of the coast. The French should be informed that we will provide neither transport nor food for either side in such contingency.

If the French are wise and neglect the Arabs for about twelve months, they will then be implored by them to help them. If they are impatient now they only unite the Arabs against them. An outbreak will be caused if French troops pass their 'direct' (S-P) boundary without Arab permission.

Above all things in our interest a conflict between French and Arabs is to be prevented. If the Arabs came off badly, first clash, the affair might fizzle out, but they hold the initiative, and a preliminary success would unite all Moslem Syria against the French in arms. Such action will probably force us back to the Baghdad and Jerusalem lines as a measure of security, and will probably make public a Mustafa Kemal-Feisal understanding against Cilicia. (A)

(B) Mustafa Kemal is alarmed at French activity there, he is just now pro-British since he trusts our Turcophils (C) (Montagu, C. Amery, Aubrey Herbert): but in his connection I hope note is being taken of Bolshevist advance in Turkestan.

(D) A Wahabi-like Moslem edition of Bolshevism is possible, and would harm us almost as much in Mesopotamia as in Persia.

(E) We are preparing the way for this by allowing Noel to flirt with Kurds.

F) I regard the situation in Mesopotamia as disquieting, and if we do not mend our ways, will expect revolt there about March next.

(G) To regulate our affairs in the old Turkish Empire and to have our weak forces there in condition to lend speedy aid to one another in the events that may happen shortly, it seems very desirable to have all our military commands continued into one. Marshal Allenby is qualified by seniority to control our generals in Asia Minor and in Mesopotamia, and would have leisure to do it, if he would devolve the direct administration of Egypt to the hands of a subordinate.

T. E. Lawrence

NOTES

A. I should say that no Mustafa Kemal-Feisal agreement exists, but Arabs of the 'Young Arab' party are agreeable to it, and Feisal in a corner will be prepared to accept any help. There has been a revival of Frankfort Jewish concern in Turkey lately, and notes are passing in London on the point.

B. The Armenians in the Caucasus are not in danger from Mustafa Kemal, unless they attack e.g. Erzeroum. The key to their question will probably be the political history of the Turkestan Moslems in the next six months.

C. Mustafa Kemal cannot make up his mind between Cilicia and Smyrna for action, and will not act except in desperate or very favourable circumstances.

D. I do not believe that the elements that concluded the Persian agreement with us have any deep root in Persia, and a Bolshevik success in the Meshed neighbourhood might change the attitude of the Persians radically.

E. The Kurdish agitation is most mischievous. Kurds have no corporate feeling and no capacity for autonomy or nationality. Mustafa Kemal believes that we are doing it out of love for him.

F. The dissatisfaction against us in Mesopotamia is mostly in the towns: and will become active when the notables care enough to go out and make agreement with the country people.

G. I would like to know whether we have ever thought of using Talaat to damage Enver. His memoirs would be useful to us: and Mustafa Kemal is waving Enver like a banner in his movement. Of course Mustafa Kemal is much the more able of the two, but lacks Enver's personal magnetism.

T. E. Lawrence

Source: DG 288-91
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 23 January 2006


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