Recently I attended a luncheon which featured a university professor speaking on the current repercussions of the 1919 Paris peace accords. Notably absent from his comments was any reference to what effect the Versailles Treaty had on the Middle East, specifically, how this region was affected by the peace treaty drawn up by the victorious Allied Powers. This was a major omission, considering the ongoing chaos in Iraq and surrounding areas today.
I explained in a blog on June 13,2014, that the central feature of the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” depicted an army of arabs crossing the desert to attack the port town of Aquaba from the rear, completely taking the Turkish garrison stationed there by surprise. This army was led by Colonel T.E. Lawrence of British intelligence, portrayed brilliantly by the late Peter O’Toole.
The point to be remembered here is that the arabs had been promised a free and independent arab state by Great Britain and France, in return for their cooperation against Germany and the other central powers during the war. These promises were never kept and instead the vast arab lands once controlled by the Ottoman Empire were partitioned by Great Britain and France into what is today Iraq and Iran. A minority sect, the Kurds also petitioned for the establishment of their own country, Kurdistan, but this plea was also disregarded.
These promises are discussed at great length in Margaret MacMillan’s fine book, “Paris 1919,” especially in the chapter entitled “Arab Independence.” Much of the discontent existing in the region today can be traced to these broken promises.
If there is to be peace among the warring factions today there must be some form of representative government. Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds must all be equally represented. This is the first issue, to get agreement on this point. Next is the question of how to implement this agreement. Also to be considered is the question of what countries are to be involved in the decision making. None of this can be achieved without a cease fire and some form of crisis conference to establish an interim government including an election date while all of the details are worked out.
Strong American leadership will also be required. This may be beyond the capabilities of the current president, Barack Obama, but the effort must be made. The idea must be imparted to the warring factions that all interests will be appeased in a representative government and that the current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will not be supported by the U.S.
Copyright 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.