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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, report 20 August 1917

THE SHERIF AND HIS NEIGHBOURS
[Arab Bulletin, 20 August 1917]


In bulletin no. 58 we referred to an interview which Colonel Wilson had with the Sherif on the subject of the latter's relations with Ibn Saud and the Idrisi. We have now received from him a detailed account of this interview, written by Captain Lawrence, who was present. The Sherif, after explaining the misunderstanding caused by Ibn Dakhil, said that his relations with Ibn Saud for many years had been friendly, and he had no intention of giving offence in the manner suggested by Sidi Abdullah.

On the contrary, he had invited Abd el-Rahman, Ibn Saud's father, to come to Mecca for the Haj, and to reconcile with Ibn Saud such fugitives of the Emir's family as had taken refuge with him in Mecca. He hopes to hear in a few days that Abd el-Rahman is coming.

The Sherif also said that Sidi Abdullah was on the best of terms with Ibn Saud, and insisted that he went to Shaara in 1914-15 to assist Ibn Saud against Ibn Rashid. He also said that Abdullah's presence there had prevented Ibn Rashid from following up the victory at Jerab. This is also Sidi Abdullah's present view of his action on that occasion, and it is worth noting, from Captain Shakespear‘s reports before the battle (Arab Bulletin, 1916, p. 336), that Abdullah and Ibn Saud were in direct relation at that time.

Colonel Wilson suggested to the Sherif that it might be desirable to send letters officially to Idrisi and Ibn Saud, informing them that his assumption of the Royal title was not intended in any way to suggest interference with their internal affairs, and proposing common action against the Turks. He suggested that if Said Mustafa and Turki could come to Mecca as representatives of Idrisi and Ibn Saud, the relations of the three rulers could be put on a satisfactory basis.

The Sherif said he did not agree with him. He thought it unwise to raise the question of the inter-relations of the Emirates of Arabia while the Turks were still in possession of the Hejaz. His future policy towards the other Emirs would be guided, when the time came, by the wishes of the British Government. For the present he intends to make no demand, suggestion, or protest to them, in any event. He did not believe they could harm him, even if they wanted to, and as for their co-operation with him against the Turks, they all had cause enough against the Turks, and treaties with the British Government, and if that did not move them, he was not going to try.

Later he said that Idrisi's promise of neutrality to Muhieddin in Asir had enabled the Turks to operate against the Beni Shihir, who had however repulsed them and inflicted a loss of twenty-five killed on them. He said that Ibn Saud's conduct towards Ibn Rashid was a disappointment, especially his recent retirement from Northern Qasim. He had asked Salih ibn Athil for the reason for the latter move, and Salih had replied that he was not in a position to explain it.

He mentioned that Ibn Saud had permitted the Turkish military envoys, with specie for the Yemen force, to pass through his country, on payment of £10,000, and expressed some disgust at the meanness which would break a treaty obligation for so small a bribe. He also said that the ruling family of Koweit was negroid, and that Mohammerah, as Persian, was hardly in a position to enter an Arab Confederation.

The Sherif mentioned later that the Ajman who had turned on Ibn Saud and killed his brother were now serving Sidi Zeid and Sidi Abdullah. He had no intention of making capital out of them; but he hoped, through Abd el-Rahman, to persuade Ibn Saud to make peace with them.

When asked what his ideas were with regard to Ibn Rashid, he promptly said that Ibn Rashid was a young fool with no will or policy of his own. The visit of Ibn Ajil to Abdullah, the defeat of Rashaid Ibn Leila by Zeid, and the interview between Ibn Rimmal and Sherif Nasir were then quoted as possible indications of an early submission of the Shammar to his authority, and he was asked what his attitude towards proposals of peace would be. He replied that when the time came, he would consult with Colonel Wilson and act in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty's Government.

It was evident throughout the interview that the Sherif has no intention at all of adjusting the relations of the Hejaz Government with the Emirs of Arabia until after the fall of Medina. He said quite frankly that they were not going to do him good or harm at present, and felt that his position would then be sufficiently improved to give him the advantage in negotiation. He insisted at the same time upon his good personal relations with the various rulers, and seemed to anticipate no difficulty in arriving eventually at an agreement with them, agreeable to the wishes of the British Government.

Source: SD 124-126
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 1 August 2006


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