T.E. Lawrence's plans for the Middle East discovered
Lawrence of Arabia's vision for the Middle East has been revealed in a map he created after World War I. T.E.Lawrence, the British colonel whose wartime collaboration with the Arabs against the Turks was immortalised in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, attempted to reward Britain's Arab allies by dividing territory between them. His sympathy for the cause of Arab self-determination is well known, but the details contained in the map eluded historians because it was filed at Britain's archives under the wrong date.
The map shows his proposals for a state in northern Iraq similar to the one now being demanded by Kurdish separatists, and a large territory uniting what is now Syria, Jordan and parts of Saudi Arabia.
Lawrence, who encouraged the Arabs to rise up against their Turkish rulers, wanted to award territories to the sons of his ally, Sherif Hussein of Mecca. He was thwarted by a secret Anglo-French plan to carve up the Middle East. That plan awarded Syria and Lebanon to France, and Palestine, including modern-day Jordan, to Britain. The borders created by the imperial plan survive today largely intact.
Had Lawrence's plan been accepted, much of the anti-Western bitterness of Arab nationalism might have been avoided. There would have been no quasi-colonial rule over Syria and Jordan; a state between Iraq and Turkey might have become a homeland for the Kurds; and the Armenians might have found refuge in a state north of Syria.
The plan would probably have done little to forestall the partition of Palestine. Lawrence knew of the Balfour Declaration, which offered the Jews a national homeland. On his map, Palestine is marked as a separate entity not awarded to any Arab ruler.
His map was drawn up at the height of his influence, when he was attending the Versailles conference as an aide of Prince Feisal, the leader of the Arab delegation. It is unclear whether it was an attempt to sabotage the plan for Middle East mandates, or a genuine attempt to reward the sons of Sherif with kingdoms.
comments powered by Disqus