Courtesy Reuters

French Difficulties in the Middle East

THE functioning of the Syria-Lebanon mandate was perverted from the very outset. Neither the English nor the French nor the Syrians believed in the value of the obligations it entailed, and none of them played entirely fair.

Various shrewd dealings during the First World War left the Arabs defiant and embittered. They had not foreseen that the liberation from the Turco-German yoke promised them by Sir Henry McMahon in exchange for their coöperation could result in another form of subjugation. With their territorial claims reduced to the boundaries of Arabia and the inaccessible peripheral lands, they felt that they had been the victims of a breach of trust. Nor were the British and the French better satisfied. From the day after the Sykes-Picot agreement, each party felt that he had been swindled by the other, and their mutual relations in that area were in a state of tension. Faced with the Emir Feisal's expulsion as a fait accompli, the English in the Near East never forgave France for the concessions their diplomats had agreed to make to her. Juridically obliged to recognize the mandate, they nullified it in practice and became the technical advisers of the Syrian nationalists in the latter's struggle to destroy it either by sapping operations or by open violence.

This coalition would have been less effective if France had herself pursued a fair and straightforward policy. But from the period of the war she had weakly supported the insurgents for fear of increasing the prestige of the Sherif Husein. After having opened the road to Damascus in July 1920 by artillery fire, and having crushed the ephemeral kingdom of Syria in a single battle, she aroused a spirit of hostility that did not subside until 1936. Holder of a double mandate, she refused to admit that if Lebanon had requested her protection, Syria, on the other hand, rejected it. To have made her rule bearable in Damascus she would have had to assert a sincere desire to prepare

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