Sykes-Picot Agreement May 1916:

This was a secret treaty between Britain, France, and Russia.

  • The agreement was made during the downfall of Russia and the anticipated downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Both Britain and France wanted to claim their spheres of influence in the Middle East. Essentially it was a trade agreement between France and Great Britain with Arab states. (Britannica Online Encyclopedia)
  • "direct French rule in much of northern and western Syria, plus a sphere of influence in the Syrian hinterland, including Damascus, Aleppo, and Mosul," (Goldschmidt 184).
  • Britain rule of Iraq
  • Britain advises Arab government between the Egyptian border and eastern Arabia. This let Britain indirectly control everything from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.
  • Jaffa and Jerusalem are under international control because all countries involved wanted to play a part in "administering the Christian holy places," (184).
  • This left the Arabs the Arabian Desert as the only place that they could individually govern, quite the opposite of the terms that had been discussed in the Hussein-McMahon letters.
Many believe that Hussein knew nothing of the Sykes-Picot agreement because is he had he would not have continued the revolt. This is false because:
  • He was told by many, including: Turks trying to get him to call off the revolt, the British and the French, and the Russians because the agreement was published after the communist revolution in 1917.
  • Hussein didn't care about an independent Arab nation. All he wanted was to rebel against the Turkish government who had repressed him for so long. Also, the British told him the agreement "would not involve the lands he wanted to rule," (185). Though it didn't matter to Hussein, many Arabs fighting in the revolt were extremely upset because they felt betrayed.
Map of Sykes-Picot Agreement
Map of Sykes-Picot Agreement

From Wikipedia Article on Sykes-Picot,

Mark Sykes was the British negotiator with very little experience. Unlike most of the British, he had no hatred for the French. Sykes was extremely worried about the risk of Russian Invasion in their pursuit of oil. To secure distance from Russia, Britain took the more southern territory, giving France the cities of Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, and Hama. François Georges-Picot was the French negotiator with a lot of previous experience. Picot thought the French deserved the land because of their work during the Crusades. He didn’t want any other nation to have this territory, so his initial proposal was for France to have all of the land, although he knew this would not fly with Britain. Sykes ended up being extremely disappointed with the way France controlled the ‘A’ Zone. Instead of allowing the Arabs to live as normal, they treated it like an area under direct French control. As the British were aiding in the Arab Revolt, Sykes designed a flag for the revolt so they could raise it as they conquered cities in the ‘A’ Zone.

The use of the flag provides evidence counter to the claims of Efraim Karsh and Old Historians that the Arab Revolt itself was a myth. The flag was used as inspiration to design the current flags of Arab countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria, showing that Arab nationalism was a legitimate cause of the Arab Revolt becuase some of that Arab Nationalism still exists today.