Arab Revolt (First World War)

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During the First World War, the Arab Revolt was the complex series of actions that caused Arab tribes, in support of Allied strategic objectives, to rise against the Ottoman Empire. All too often, it is oversimplified to be the 27 June 1916 declaration of Arab independence by Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Emir of Mecca, or, "some guerrilla warfare led by Lawrence of Arabia."

While the declaration was indeed important, and Lawrence did operate with Arab forces, many more ideas and personalities were involved. Strategic intelligence developed by David Hogarth and Gertrude Bell were necessary preparation for Lawrence's actions, which contemporary analysis tends to consider more important from the political than the guerrilla tactical standpoint. A critical point, where Lawrence and others were involved, was the question of Arab leadership. The Emir, of the Hashemite family, was not, for a variety of reasons, an attractive overall leader. It was to be his sons Feisal in Mesopotamia (i.e., modern Iraq) and Hussein in Jordan that were to be more direct heads of revolts. In addition, this set the stage for rivalry between the Hashemites and the House of Saud in what was to become Saudi Arabia.

There was considerable negotiation at higher diplomatic levels, both leading up to the Revolt and following it, dealing with the post-Ottoman role of the Arabs, not the least of which was authority over Palestine. The 1915 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence between the Emir and the British High Commissioner for Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, negotiated Arab goals and British understandings, both of which were not well coordinated with the 1917 Balfour Declaration stating the creating of a Jewish state in Palestine to be a matter of British policy. Britain and France negotiated the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement establishing their spheres of influence, the French area being associated with modern Syria.