A series of letters from July 1915 to March 1916, these letters between Sharif Hussien of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon outlined the future of the Middle East. They were discussing an Arab uprising against the Turks with the intention of gaining Arab independence. McMahon expressed British sympathy for the Arab's cause (because the British wanted to gain support from the Arabs). Although the British made demands for an exception to the land the Arabs would gain.

Sharif Hussein was the ruler of the Hejaz and a religious and political spokesman and leader for the Arab people. He represented the concerns of the Arab people at the time, independence from Turkey and the reestablishment of an Arab Caliphate under his rule. This was the condition under which he would lead his Arabs in a revolt against the Turks.

"Sir Henry McMahon [was the] British high commissioner in Egypt," (Bickerton and Klausner 35). Although he was officially the highest ranking representative of the British government in Cairo, he was, in reality, a man with minimal power. The promises he made with Hussein were not binding or official. In fact, high ranking British policy makers were not even aware of McMahon's actions until much later.

Although the British made promises, they were extremely vague. Often, the language used was incorrect to the actual meanings in the Middle East, such as Sanjak and Vilayet. Instead of using these terms, the British used the word "district", and this resulted in massive confusion. McMahon would not give Arabs land that "cannot be said to be purely Arab". This phrase cause even more confusion. Land that was not "purely Arab" was different in Britain's eyes than the Arab's eyes. Many people saw Palestine as "purely Arab", but the British did not. Therefore, when the British promised land they led the Arabs to believe they would get the promised land when in reality, they had no intention of doing so.

Almost as a passing note, McMahon mentions the land that is to be excluded from the Arabs, which was all of the land west of the "districts" of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. This includes Lebanon, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, areas that the Arabs were most interested in obtaining. Little did Sharif Hussein know that Britain was secretly reserving this land to form Israel as a Jewish homeland. This angered Hussein and all Arabs greatly because they believed they had the rights to Palestine and Lebanon, arguing that Jerusalem in particular was never actually excluded from the agreement.

"The districts of Mersin and Alexdretta, and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damacus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, cannot be said to be purely Arab, and must on that account be excepted from the proposed delimination." (McMahon October 24, 1915)

This exclusion of Jerusalem angered the Arabs greatly, but in junction with the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration, the Arabs felt betrayed and extremely slighted. The correspondence contained promises that would later be contradicted in two forthcoming acts of diplomacy.

One way of looking at the Hussein-MacMahon Correspondence is that the British simply utilized the easily convinced Hussein to further their goals in the Middle East. The British goals in the Middle East were to protect the lifeblood of the British militarized armed forces, oil, and to protect the lifeline between the Great Britain and their empire, the Suez Canal. The expansive oil fields in the Middle East specifically Iraq and Iran were vital to the success of the British in the soon to escalate war. Therefore, by using the resources available to them, the Arabs, the British have a disposal forces on their hands to distract the Ottomans. Furthering their goal of protecting theri assests in the Middle East (Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I. 2006. DVD. Inecom., The Brain of William Fulwider).

Hussein-McMahon Correspondence and Pan-Arabism

Pan-Arabism is defined as "a movement for the political union of all Arab nations" (Merriam Webster). It can be said some of Hussein's beliefs are in favor of Pan-Arabism. He wanted an independent Arab state. McMahon lead Hussein to believe that one would be established if the Arabs were successful in their revolt against the Ottomans.

Bickerton and Klausner. A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.