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Volume :1 Issue : 3 1975      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

BRITAIN AND THE GULF DURING FIRST WORLD WAR

Auther : Jamal Zakaria Kassem

 

Britain used the occasion of World War One to challenge Ottoman hegemony over the northern pasts of the Arabian Gulf and consolidated its rule over the local forces throughout the area.

According to the author, this event was not unexpected. Rather, it was a result of the long-term presence and penetration by British political officers in the area throughout the nineteenth century. What was surprising, however, was the decision taken by the Government of India to jump the gun and control the northern part of the Gulf, even before the Ottoman Empire had formally allied with the Germans.

Thus, beginning in October 1914, Bahrain became the launching pad for Britain’s military expedition north, particularly to the Shatt Al-Arab area, where they planned to check Ottoman attempt to rally the local population in a Jihad (Holy War) against Britain. Strategically, Britain also hoped to control the mouth of the Gulf, thus stopping any possible Ottoman plans to penetrate south. Finally, Britain wanted to have a show of force and practice its gunboat diplomacy to demonstrate to the shaikhs and rulers of the adjoining districts that Britain intends to be present, in great strength and for a long duration, in the area.

While discussing the implementation of this policy, the author dwells on the negotiations and relations that took place between British political agents and Ibn Saud; the 1915 revolt in Muscat; the politicking of Sir Percy Cox with the Shaikh of Kuwait, Shaikh Khaza’l and the heads of Shammar and the aborted attempt to create a Jewish state in Bahrain.

The end of the war opened a new era for the Gulf. Prior to 1914, international imperialist competition was at its peak in the area, with each power sticking alliances with a local ruler and carving an enclave for itself. This game involved Britain, France, Czarist Russia, Germany and the two Muslim states – Persia and the Ottoman Empire. The wear, and its aftermath, witnessed the collapse of the Ottomans and the Russian Czar, the defeat of Germany and the withdrawal of France. Thus, Britain confronted the indigenous powers single-handedly and was able, through a show of military force and a concert of alliances, to dominate the Gulf for about half a century.

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