Corpus Corpus 1
British influence in the Middle East from 1917 to 1956
> timelines and maps, p. IV-V
The British influence in the Middle East spread across five countries of today: Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Iraq. How did this influence decline over the years?
1 Strong economic and strategic interests
► For most of the 19th century, Britain was interested in acquiring commercial concessions from the Ottoman Empire. In 1909, a British holding was created to extract oil* from Iran and Iraq: the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later known as the British Petroleum Company.
keywordThe Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, provided Britain with a shorter sea route to its empire and oil.
► Britain also started to be strongly involved in Egypt in 1875 when it took control of the treasury of Egypt and the Suez Canal. In 1914, Egypt became a British protectorate.
► During World War I, Britain acted with imperial interests. It wanted to extend its territories at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, a German ally.
► It made promises to gain the support of different peoples. McMahon, on behalf of* the British government, promised that lands held by the Ottoman Empire would be returned to the Arabs. Meanwhile, in November 1917, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to Lord Rothschild, one of the most influential members of the British Jewish community, to declare his support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
► In 1918, Britain became the dominant power in the region.
2 The mandates era (1918-1948)
► Palestine is one of the British mandates created by the League of Nations after World War I. However, the Jews and the Arabs wanted to make it their homeland.
► After World War II, the British still controlled Palestine. Some Jews resorted* to terrorism: they bombed the British military headquarters, the King David Hotel in July 1946.
► Unable to contain violence, the British looked for a way out and accepted the United Nations proposal to partition Palestine into a zone for the Jews (Israel) and a zone for the Arabs (Palestine). They withdrew* from the zone on May 14th, 1948.
► Mesopotamia is another British mandate. As soon as the British arrived in 1919, they faced nationalist strikes that turned into an outright rebellion*. They decided that a plebiscite would be held to confirm a new Arab leader, King Faysal.
► But in 1930, treaties were negotiated to ensure British control over foreign and financial matters. Domestic matters were handed to the new Arab king.
3 Suez Crisis (1956)
► On July 1956, Nasser, Egypt’s leader, seized the Suez Canal from the British stockholders who owned and operated it. Britain, France and Israel plotted* an offensive to recover the canal.
► On October 29th, 1956, Israeli brigades invaded Egypt and marched on the canal. The general assembly of the UNO demanded* Israel to withdraw from the Sinai. On November 5th, regardless of this demand, French and British governments sent paratroopers in Port Said, at the mouth of the Suez Canal.
► In retaliation, Britain had to face the prospect of a devaluation of its currency and the possibility of an Arab oil embargo. President Eisenhower declared that Britain would not receive support from the USA.
► On December 23rd, British troops withdrew and Britain lost its influence in the Middle East.
- oil = le pétrole
- on behalf of = au nom de
- an outright rebellion
= une rébellion ouverte
- to resort = se résoudre
- to withdraw = se retirer
- to plot = comploter
- to demand = exiger