FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Haunting of Iraq and Palestine

by

After almost a century, the seeds of the on-going death, destruction and violence in the Middle East that began during WWI can be directly traced to two historic documents that continue to provide the foundation for US foreign policy in the Middle East.  Almost one hundred years after the flawed Sykes-Picot and Balfour documents, the tragically long suffering peoples of Iraq and Palestine, both betrayed by the British in 1916, still live with a sorrow and anguish that offers little hope for peace and reconciliation.

More than just a mere historic misjudgment, the McMahon-Hussein letters of 1915 bear witness to the role of deliberate British deception throughout the annexation of Palestine and its ultimate treachery during the Arab revolt (1916 – 1918).   Led by the Sharif Husayn bin Ali, the revolt was initiated to secure Arab independence from the rule of the Ottoman Empire and to create one unified Arab state spanning from what is now Aleppo, Syria, including Iraq and stretching to Aden, Yemen (not including the area controlled by the rival Saud clan).

Hussein began secret correspondence with British High Commissioner Sir Henry McMahon who encouraged the revolt in the hopes of obstructing Ottoman’s support as an ally of Germany in exchange for official British recognition of an Arab state and Hussein’s expectation that Palestine would go to Palestinians after the war.   Custodian of Mecca and Medina, Hussein was declared Caliph when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished and was ultimately overthrown by Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud.  He was exiled to Trans-Jordan where his son became Abdullah I of Jordan.

It was not until members of the Bolshevik revolution perusing the Tsar’s correspondence after the 1917 revolution discovered the existence of the Sykes-Picot agreement to split the Arab territories into British and French administered areas.  The historical record shows that the Sykes-Picot’s first round of discussion regarding the division of Arab lands was occurring in 1915 at roughly the same time that the McMahon-Hussein correspondence offering assurance of a unified Arab state  was also taking place.

Secretly negotiated, the British and French assumed the audacity of presumption based solely on WWI spoils to claim the authority to carve the Arab territories into arbitrary borders without any legal jurisdiction and a complete disregard for a millennia of existing ethnic, historic, tribal, cultural or religious affiliations.   Sykes Picot dissolved Ottoman with the reinvention of Mesopotamia into Iraq and a British mandate to govern Palestine.

To fully appreciate the on-going tragedy of Palestine and Iraq that has now spread across the  Middle East and threatens a regional conflagration is to acknowledge the additional impact of the [British Foreign Secretary Arthur] Balfour Letter of 1917 approved during the turmoil of WWI. The Balfour Letter to Lord Rothschild, President of the British Zionist Federation stated that the British government ‘view with favour the establishment of Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people.”   And in 1918 Balfour added that “Zionism….[is] of far profounder import than the prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

By the 1920’s, the House of Lords, citing the depth of Arab resentment, repealed Balfour with the motion failing in the House of Commons.  However, no match for the high profiled, influential Zionist supporters and in a spirit of ‘clarification’ which offered no satisfaction to the indigenous peoples, Secretary of State for the Colonies Winston Churchill’s White Paper in 1922 separated Transjordan (later Jordan, Syria and Iraq) from Palestine in an effort to compensate Arabs for their loss of land thus reducing the Palestine Mandate territory by one-third.   A reasonable supposition is that the Israel government’s more recent irrational confiscation of land that does not belong to them is rationalized as a ‘pay-back’ for the loss of land denied them in 1922.

While US President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the Letter due to lobbying by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis among other Americans, a Paris Peace Conference fact-finding mission to Palestine “concluded that the local population opposed continued Zionist inroads and recommended against the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland.”   “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

Once an integral part of the Ottoman Empire and similar to the usurping of Mesopotamia, the British had no legal jurisdiction or sovereign right to annex Palestine.   The colonization of Palestine and the displacement of its Arab residents, cheated of what had been their homeland for the last two millennia and denied their right of self-determination, remains a historic root of today’s perpetual violence and conflict in the Middle East.

In addition, as Israel’s government with a history of repeatedly overstepping the legal limits of international law with never any consequences, and the US, as its most steadfast advocate no matter the crime, consistently looks the other way, US foreign policy in the Middle East is in irreversible tatters with no prospect of progress any time soon.

As British Statesman Lord Robert Ashburton Crewe wrote in 1920, “What we want is not a united Arabia but a weak and disunited Arabia, split into little principalities ….incapable of coordinated action against us” –  and splitting Iraq and Syria into an Islamic State is exactly what Abu Bkr al Baghdadi and ISIS are attempting – one hundred years too late.

Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth.  in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor.  Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.

Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
Gerry Condon
In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard
Weekend Edition
May 19, 2017
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Getting Assange: the Untold Story
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Secret Sharer
Charles Pierson
Trump’s First Hundred Days of War Crimes
Paul Street
How Russia Became “Our Adversary” Again
Andrew Levine
Legitimation Crises
Mike Whitney
Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State 
Robert Hunziker
Early-Stage Antarctica Death Rattle Sparks NY Times Journalists Trip
Ken Levy
Why – How – Do They Still Love Trump?
Bruce E. Levine
“Hegemony How-To”: Rethinking Activism and Embracing Power
Robert Fisk
The Real Aim of Trump’s Trip to Saudi Arabia
Christiane Saliba
Slavery Now: Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia
Chris Gilbert
The Chávez Hypothesis: Vicissitudes of a Strategic Project
Howard Lisnoff
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
Brian Cloughley
Propaganda Feeds Fear and Loathing
Stephen Cooper
Is Alabama Hiding Evidence It Tortured Two of Its Citizens?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail