Chronological Table of Middle East History
 

The Middle East was ruled at the turn of the century by the Ottoman Empire out of Istanbul. The governor of Mecca which is the Holy city of Islam has the title of Sharif ("noble") rather than Wali ("governor"). In 1908, Husayn Ibn Ali was appointed Sharif of Mecca by the Ottoman Caliph.

His appointment marked the beginning of a series of events that led to the fragmentation of the Middle East as we know it today. The reader will note that three decisive events are in bold type and underlined. They are three contradictory promises made by the British to three different parties: the Arabs, the French and the Zionists. Precisely because they are contradictory, they could only be fulfilled partially and at the expense of each others. This is, in a nutshell, the source of all the Middle East problems.

 
1908 Husayn (or Hussein) Ibn Ali became Sharif of Mecca; his sons are: Ali (1879), Abdallah (1882) who is the grand-father of King Hussein of Jordan, Faysal (1886), and Zayd (1900) from a Turkish mother (see T.E.Lawrence's Note on Sharif Husayn Family
 
mid-1915 Damascus Protocol: Members of the secret societies in Damascus, such as al-`Ahd, al-Fataat and al-'Ikhaa' al-Arabii drafted a document defining the territories that were to be Arab and independent (Greater Syria, Mesopotamia and the Arabian peninsula) as a condition to cooperate with Great Britain against Turkey; Faysal brought the document to Mecca so that his father Husayn could use it as spokesman of the Arabs (see British connection to Arab National Movement at the following address: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1914m/arabetuk.html
 
Jul 1915-Jan 1916 Husayn-McMahon Correspondence: a deal between Britain and Sharif Husayn of Mecca for an independent Arab Kingdom in return for a rebellion against the Ottomans; as many as 10 letters were exchanged between Sharif Husayn and Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner to Egypt (Map  showing the area of Arab independence as defined by Sharif Husayn and the aea excluded from Arab independence as defined by Sir Henry McMahon; see also: close up showing the area excluded; see also: text of McMahon letter
 
Jan 3, 1916 
 
Sykes-Picot Agreement: division of Arab lands between Britain and France without the knowledge of Sharif Husayn. The Agreement, which was officially released by the British Government in 1936, was exposed in 1917 by the Bolshevik Revolution. Czarist Russia was involved in it, it was supposed to get Constantinople and large parts of Eastern Turkey, Armenia and Kurdistan. The division of Arab lands was to take the form of (1) zones of direct administration: the Mediterranean coastal line to the French (blue zone in the map) and the area from Baghdad to Basra to the British (red zone in the map); and (2) spheres of influence made up of the inland regions: the northern half, including Mosul, to the French (zone A in the map) and the southern part to the British (zone B in them map); Palestine would be under international administration (orange zone in the map). The Agreement was approved by the British and French cabinets at the beginning of February 1916 (Map showing the partition of Syria and Iraq as devised in the Sykes-Picot Agreement) (see also: text of Sykes-Picot Agreement
 
Jun 1916 
 
the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman was proclaimed as promised in Husayn-McMahon Correspondence; Faysal was the commander of the Arab army 
 
Oct 29, 1916 the Ulema (Muslim Scholars) of Mecca declared Husayn, King of the Arabs; Britain and France recognized him as King of Hijaz only; Ibn Sa'uud was in control of Central Arabia (Najd) 
 
Mar 11,1917 Gen. Stanley Maude captured Baghdad after defeating the Ottomans; Basra was captured on Nov 22, 1914, initially to secure British position in the Persian Gulf and protect oil supplies from Persia 
 
Nov 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration: The British government views "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people...it being understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." Weizmann was unhappy that the original language has been watered down. A preliminary Zionist draft reads as follows: "His Majesty's Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish People," without safeguard clauses for Palestinian natives or for non-Zionist Jews. Deceptively, his ultimate objective was a Jewish state. Both Balfour and Lloyd George told Churchill that "by the Declaration they always meant an eventual Jewish State". Herzl himself wrote in his Diaries: "at Basle (the first Zionist Congress in 1897), I founded the Jewish State". The Declaration publication in Palestine was delayed for two and half years (see text of Balfour Declaration). 
 
Dec 11, 1917 Allenby entered Jerusalem ending the Turkish rule of Palestine
Jan 8, 1918 The Fourteen Points of President Wilson: outlined to a joint session of congress. Point XII calls for self-determination for peoples under Ottoman rule. "... the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development..." For the full text, see: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1918/14points.html 
 
Feb 11, 1918 The Four Principles: Speaking to the Congress, President Wilson defined the Four principles upon which the peace settlement should be made. Principle 2: That peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were chattels or pawns in a game; Principle 3: Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned. (For the full text, see: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1918/wilpeace.html
 
Jul 4, 1918 The Four Ends: In his speech, President Wilson defined the Four ends for which the United States and its allies were fighting. It includes "The settlement of every question... upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation..." 
 
Jun 16, 1918 The Declaration to the Seven: The Arab secret societies worried about the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement elected a committee of seven to negotiate with Britain which issued a Declaration containing two assurances: (1) that Britain will continue to work for the liberation of those countries still under Turkish rule and (2) that no regime will be set up in any of them that was not acceptable to their populations 
 
Oct 1, 1918 Faysal captured Damascus
Nov 8, 1918 The Anglo-French Declaration: To allay Husayn's fear from Balfour Declaration and Syke-Picot Agreement, a more specific declaration was issued: "The object aimed by France and Great Britain ... is the complete and definite emancipation of the [Arab] peoples and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations" (see: text of Declaration
 
Jan 3, 1919 Faysal-Weizmann Agreement: "...to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale" on the condition that "the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights" (Article IV). In a post scriptum, Faysal made his consent to sign the Agreement conditional on the fulfillment of the pledges made to the Arabs: "Provided that the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded ... I shall concur in the above articles. But if the slightest modification or departure were to be made I shall not be bound by a single word of the present Agreement" (see full text of the Agreement
 
1919-1920 Paris Peace Conference: On Jan 18, opening the Conference which inaugurated the international settlement after Wold War I. Major products of the conference were (1). the Covenant of the League of Nations, approved on April 28; (2) the Treaty of Versailles which established the mandate system was signed on June 28. The formal inauguration of the League of Nations on Jan 16, 1920 brought the Paris conference to an end. Article 22 of the Covenant reads: "To those colonies or territories which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves ... the tutelage of such people should be entrusted to advanced nations" (map showing the Zionist proposals for a Zionist state as submitted to the Paris Peace Conference) (see full text of Article 22). 
 
Feb 15, 1919 A note in which the French government formally accepted the amendment of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, according to which Mosul would have been under French rule and Palestine under a special international regime. French accepted that Mosul and Palestine being placed within the British sphere in return for the assignment of a substantial share of the Mosul oil to France and for British help in getting back the Alsace and Lorraine 
 
May 29 - Aug 28, 1919 King-Crane Commission Recommendations: it was supposed to be an inter-allied commission composed of an equal number of French, British, Italian and American representatives to inquire into the state of public opinion and ascertain the wishes of its inhabitants in relation to the mandates in Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia. According to Anthony Nutting in his book The Arabs, "Britain and France backed out rather than find themselves confronted by recommendations from their own appointed delegates which might conflict with their policies". The recommendation of the Americans Henry King and Charles Crane was that Greater Syria should be under a single mandate with Faysal the king of the new Syrian state and that the Zionist program should be modified. They were so much out of line of what the British and the French wanted that they were not made public until three years later. For the text of the Report see: http://www.cc.ukans.edu/~kansite/ww_one/docs/kncr.htm 
 
Mar 8, 1920 A general Syrian Congress elected Faysal King of Syria
Apr 19-26, 1920 San Remo Conference: The conference approved the final framework of a peace treaty with Turkey which was later signed at Sèvres on Aug. 20, 1920. It divided Arab lands into separate states under mandates. Britain got Palestine (which extends east and west of the River Jordan) and Iraq. France got Syria and Lebanon. In the terms of the mandate for Palestine, the Balfour Declaration was quoted in full. An Anglo-French oil agreement was also concluded providing France with 25 percent share of Iraqi oil in return for the inclusion of Mosul in the British mandate of Iraq. (For the text of The Treaty of Sèvres, see: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/versa/sevres1.html) (See also the text of The San Remo Confernce
 
Jul 24, 1920 the French defeated Faysal at Maysaluun
Mar 12-22, 1921 Winston Churchill, Colonial Secretary, convened in Cairo a Conference at the Semiramis Hotel to determine how the Arab World should be run. Faysal was to be offered the throne of Mesopotamia, and his brother Abdallah was to be offered a position in Eastern Palestine, renamed Trans-Jordan and later the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 
 
Aug 23, 1921 King Faysal officially assumed power as King of Iraq
Jul 22, 1922 The League of Nations formally approved the Palestine Mandate (see text) after amending it to restrict it to Western Palestine, requesting Britain to carry the Balfour Declaration and recognizing "the historical connection of the Jewish people" to Palestine. Zionists wanted to have it read: "Recognizing the historic rights of the Jews to Palestine" (map showing the British and French mandates in the Middle East
 
1924 the Kingdom of Hijaz disappeared when Mecca capitulated to the Wahhaabii forces under the leadership of Ibn Sa'uud; Sharif Husayn of Mecca fled to Aqaba
 

 Britain wanted a treaty with Sharif Husayn to moderate his opposition to Britain's Mideast policy in Palestine. Abdallah urged his father to sign, but he refused. Meanwhile, Ibn Sa'uud strategy was to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, including the Hijaz and he did. Husayn fled to Aqaba and from there Britain moved him to Cyprus and did not allow him to go to Amman until he became mortally ill six years later in 1930.
 
 
 
Oct 10, 1922 First Anglo-Iraqi Treaty: It embodied the provisions of the mandate, safeguarded the judicial rights of foreigners and guaranteed British interests; Britain would have control over Iraq's foreign and defense policies 
 
Jun 30, 1930 Second Anglo-Iraqi Treaty: It established a close alliance between the two countries for a period of 25 years and that "there shall be full and frank consultation between them in all matter of foreign policy which may affect their common interest". RAF was to be maintained in Iraq to ensure the security of imperial communications 
 
June 4, 1931 Sharif Husayn died at age of 78 in Amman and was buried in Jerusalem
Oct 3, 1932 Iraq became member of the League of Nations following the termination of the mandate
Sep 7, 1933 Faysal King of Iraq died; his son king Ghaazii succeeded him
Apr 3, 1939 King Ghaazii died in a car accident; his son King Faysal II who was only four years old succeeded him, his maternal uncle Abdul 'Ilaah was declared Regent
Jul 14, 1958 King Faysal II was killed in a military coup (the 1958 revolution); Iraq became a republic under 'Abd al-Kariim Qaasim as prime minister and 'Abd al-Salaam 'Arif as his deputy; the presidency was entrusted to a three-member Sovereignty Council (Majlis al-Siyaada) comprising a Sunni, a Shia and a Kurd but it never had any authority 
 
Nov. 1958 A split between Qaasim and 'Arif over the pace with which they should move towards union with Egypt and Syria led to the arrest of the latter 
 
Feb 8, 1963 Ba'th coup (the 1963 revolution), Qaasim was killed; on the basis of an alliance between the Ba'thists and Arab Nationalists, 'Arif became president of the National Council of the Revolutionary Command and the Ba'thist Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, prime minister
 

The Ba'th party, a secular socialist party, was founded in Syria on April 7, 1947 by Michel 'Aflaq. It emphasizes that the Arabs are one nation. The party's Regional Leadership (qiyaada qutriyya) is supposed to be the highest party's authority in each Arab country. The party's National Leadership (qiyaada qawmiyya) is supposed to be the highest party authority at the pan-Arab level.
 
 
 
Nov 18, 1963 The Ba'thists were pushed out of the alliance, including the prime-minister al-Bakr in 1964
Apr 13, 1966 The Nationalist 'Abd al-Salaam 'Arif was killed in a helicopter crash, his brother 'Abd al-Rahmaan 'Arif took over; the regime had to sustain two attempted coups in September 1965 and June 1966 
 
Jul 17, 1968 a bloodless military coup (the 1968 revolution) by a group of Ba'thists officers brought back Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr to power, he was president, prime minister and commander in chief 
 
July 17, 1979 al-Bakr because of poor health stepped down, Saddam Hussein replaced him; Saddam Hussein survived two attempted coups in 1982 and 1983
 

The Problem with Iran
 
 
Jul 4, 1937 The Frontier Treaty was signed between Iraq and Persia in Teheran. The Treaty stipulated that the frontiers would run along Shatt al-'Arab River on its left (eastern) bank, except for a minor section (8 km) of it, opposite of 'Abadaan where the frontier was established on the basis of the thalweg principle, i.e., the river depth mid-line 
 
Apr 19, 1969 The Iranian government announced the abrogation of the Frontier Treaty of 1937 after the Shah advanced the claim that the Shatt al-'Arab was a border river between the two states and that it should be divided according to the thalweg line 
 
Mar 6, 1975 The Algiers Accord: a boundary line was agreed upon along the waterway in accordance with the thalweg principle; in return Iran will cease supporting the Kurds 
 
Feb 11, 1979 The Shah of Iran was toppled by the Khomeini revolution; Iran started helping the Kurds and Iraq started encouraging the Arabs living in Khuzestan to demand autonomy 
 
Sep 17, 1980 Saddam Hussein announced in an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly the abrogation of the Algiers Accord of 1975
Sep 22, 1980 A full-scale war broke out between Iraq and Iran
Aug 20, 1988 The Iraq-Iran war ended
 
 

The Problem with the Kurds
 
 
Aug 10, 1920 The Treaty of Sèvres, which abolished the Ottoman Empire, obliged Turkey to renounce all rights over Arab Asia and North Africa and provided for an independent Armenia and for an autonomous Kurdistan for the 18 million Kurds (see The Treaty of Sèvres at the following address: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/versa/sevres1.html
 
1922-1923 Conference of Lausanne: Because of Turkish opposition (Turkey has 12 million Kurds) and the indifference of the West, the Treaty of Sèvres was not enforced. The Conference ended with the conclusion of a peace treaty between the World War I Allied Powers and the Turkish Republic. The Treaty recognized the boundaries that Turkey has retained subsequently. Turkey made no claim to its former Arab provinces and the Allies dropped their demands of autonomy for Turkish Kurdistan and Turkish cession of territory to Armenia (see The Treaty of Lausanne at the following address: http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/1918p/lausanne.html
 
1930 The leading intellectual center in Kurdistan was Sulaymaaniyya. The leadership of Kurdish opposition was in the hand of the Barzaanii family headed by Mulla Mustafa who combined tribal and religious appeals (see map of Kurdistan
 
1946 Demands of a secular character were formulated by Kurdish intellectuals. This led to the establishment of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). Kurdistan remained the major military commitment of the Iraqi army until the end of the monarchy 
 
1958 After the 1958 revolution, the Shah abandoned his former policy of cooperating with Baghdad and began using the 4 million Iraqi Kurds to weaken Iraq. Later, Israel joined the Shah to keep the Kurdish insurgency alive 
 
Sep 1961 Qaasim launched a military campaign against the Kurds; by February 1963 two-thirds of the Iraqi army was committed to the struggle in Kurdistan 
 
1964 'Arif tried a new strategy to divide the Kurds; a cease-fire arranged with Barzaanii led the intellectuals to throw in their lot with their leader Jalaal al-Taalabaanii who founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Barazaanii employed the cease-fire to import arms from Iran 
 
1966 The new regime drew up proposals to grant Kurds greater autonomy, but it was not implemented; more fighting took place 
 
Mar 11, 1970 The March Manifesto of Kurdish Autonomy granted the Kurds local autonomy after the rebellion became to costly to Iraq; the agreement broke down and in 1974 war was resumed 
 
1975 Kurdish resistance collapsed after the withdrawal of Iranian support following the Algiers Agreement. Barzaanii fled to the US where he died in 1979 and his sons, Idriis and Mas'uud took control of the remnants of KDP 
 
1980 After the outbreak of Iran-Iraq war, the Kurdish resistance gathered strength again with Iranian support 
 
1988 With the end of the Iran war, Iraq turned its attention to the Kurdish rebels; a campaign in the north smashed the rebellion, particularly KDP. Chemical weapons are said to have been used in this offensive 
 
1991 After the Gulf War, the U.S. declared a no-fly zone north of the 36° parallel to protect the Kurds 
 
1992 Kurdish elections ended in a dead heat between KDP and PUK 
 
Apr 1995 Kurds established a parliament in exile in The Hague
 

The problem of the Kurds of Kurdistan is that the majority of the Kurds (about 70 percent) live in Turkey. The U.S., however, is concentrating its efforts on helping the Kurds of Iraq against the Iraqi government because it suits American interest to weaken Saddam Hussein. The fact is that Turkey, like Iraq, is pursuing policies tantamount to genocide against Turkish Kurds.

In his review of the book A Modern History of the Kurds published in the New York Times Book Review (March 10, 1996), Marvin Zones of the University of Chicago said: "The United States prefers to maintain the Kurds in the north (of Iraq) as semi-independent of Baghdad. A weak but unified Iraq appears very much the goal of our present policy. Of course, America pays only a slight price for this state of indefinite paralysis. The Kurds and the rest of the Iraqi people pay dearly." Marvin Zones also points out that in comparison to Iraq, "Turkey has been the most resolute and vicious."

The U.S., however, has given Turkey carte blanche to solve the Kurdish conflict in Turkey in any way its sees fit. Iraqi Kurds are seen as "good" Kurds who have an important role to play within the framework of large-scale American maneuvers against Saddam Hussein. Turkish Kurds, on the other hand, are the "bad" Kurds who should be punished.
 
 

The Problem with Kuwait
 
 
Jul 1990 Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of waging an economic warfare by exceeding its quota of oil production which held down the price of oil. He also accused Kuwait of stealing oil from the Iraqi portion of an oil field straddling the border 
 
Aug 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait
Aug 8, 1990 Iraq annexed Kuwait as its 19th province
Jan 15, 1991 The Gulf War started