Bets on the Wrong Horse
We Should Beware of Copying Policies
Which Lost Her Ground in Middle East
Great Britains position in the Middle East goes
from bad to worse. In the 1930s her rivals in the Middle East were
Italy and France. Italy kept an army in Libya, west of Egypt, and
in Eritrea, south of Sudan. France held a mandate over Syria,
a wedge between Palestine and Iraq. But the good old days are gone.
Today, the two great forces that stand on the threshold
of the Middle East are the United States and Russia. From under the
nose of Great Britain the United States took possession of the oil
of the entire Arab peninsula, an area that for decades lay in the
Russia, taught by the experience of the war how important
it is for her to have access to a warm sea, put pressure on Turkey,
which controls the Dardanelles, and on Persia, through which passed
the war supply route from the Persian Gulf to the Caucasus. Russia
did not make any real move to compete with Great Britain on the Arab
peninsula; it was America who took over the oil concessions in Arabia,
leaving Britain with her old concession in southern Persia and a half
share of Iraqi oil.
* * *
GREAT BRITAIN Was very much put out by the fact that
she had been so slow and that the United States had snatched up the
Arabian concession. She decided to prove to the Arab world that the
British are greater friends of theirs than the Americans, and to do
this, she started systematically to suffocate the Jewish National
Home, a trust from the League of Nations.
Even when Jewish Palestine played a decisive role in
the fight for the Middle East against the Axis army approaching Egypt,
the British did not abandon the White Paper policy of 1939, and kept
the doors to the Jewish Home closed, thus actively contributing to
the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe.
In trying to play the Protector of Islam, a role in
which fascist Italy was her rival, Britain made a series of dangerous
mistakes. She organized the Arab League. Together they dislodged France
from Syria and Lebanon. The British tried to impress the Arabs that
they, and not the French are their friends. They also perpetrated
all kinds of chicanery on the Jewish population of Palestine, and
hunted down immigrants with the Royal Navy.
* * *
THEN Great Britain came to ask for her reward. She expected
that because of her policy against the French and the Jews, she would
be recognized as the friend of the Arab world. But what actually came
out of this policy?
Bevin entered into an accord with Egypt concerning Sudan,
and returned from Egypt to England to find that he had gone too far.
The accord was not signed. Egypt now demands the annexation of Sudan
and the withdrawal of the British from that country. Egypt is also
dislodging the British from the Suez Canal zone in order to draw the
attention of the Arabs away from Sudan, Great Britain stirs up civil
war in Palestine and takes the side of the Arabs.
Bevin sought an agreement with Iraq. With much pomp
on January 15 this year he signed a treaty with that country, which
owes its very existence as a state to Great Britain. This country
of beggars and loan sharks is, thanks to the British, a member of
the United Nations and this despite the fact that it was a member
of the Axis, proclaiming war against the Allies on May 2, 1941. Oil,
as you know, cleanses.
Dukes, marquises, and members of the Cabinet and of
Parliament went to Portsmouth to witness the great success of Bevins
policy in the Middle East. But a few days later the nationalists of
Iraq chased their premier, who had returned from Portsmouth, out of
the country and rejected the treaty, which bound Britain to defend
Iraq in case of war, and gave her an equal share with Iraq in two
airports in time of peace.
The misfortune Bevin had with this much-heralded treaty,
which was to have become a pattern for other countries of the Middle
East to follow, is unique in the history of modern politics.
THE FUNDAMENTAL mistake of the British policy in the
Middle East lies in the fact that it is based on the assumption that
by dislodging others from this area—the French, Italians, the Jews,
and some day the Americans—they can prove to the Arabs that they are
their best friends. But actually what they have succeeded in doing
is to nurture Arab nationalism until it has become very chauvinistic,
and now demands that the British leave, too.
The fact is that the Jewish homeland in the Middle East
is an outpost of western civilization in that region of the world.
If it is destroyed, the British will not be able to
maintain a foothold there, either in Sudan, or in Suez, or on the
Persian Gulf, or in the Iraqi oil fields. After the British it will
be the turn of the Americans, for the Arabs, taught to hate foreigners,
will apply the lesson to all foreigners indiscriminately.