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League of Nations Hopes and Disappointments: the Return of Armed Struggle in the Post-Ottoman Era, 1923-1927

Events in the Former Ottoman Realms, 1923 1927

July 1923 Lausanne Treaty conference concludes

October 1923 Ankara government’s National Assembly forms Turkish


March 1924 Iraqi Constitution and Anglo Iraqi Treaty ratified in


July 1924 Yasin al Hashimi forms first Iraqi government as prime


November 1924 General Maurice Sarrail appointed third High Commissioner for Syria and Greater Lebanon February 1925 People’s Party forms in Damascus June 1925 Lord Balfour tours Palestine and Syria to mass protest

July 1925 Syrian Revolt begins in Hawran, south of Damascus

October French bombardment of Hama and Damascus

November 1925

February 1926 League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission, extraordinary session on Syria meets in Rome 1926 27 Intensive French counter insurgency campaign in Syria

Mid 1927 Final collapse of Syrian Revolt

If the Turks have any thought for the real interests of their bankrupt country and its miserably depleted and exhausted population, they will hasten now to conclude peace on the generous terms already offered them by the civilized powers. Otherwise Turkey will go down in chaos and will become the prey of primitive barbarism.

The Times, “Two Months at Lausanne,” January 29, 1923

The years 1923 and 1924 were tranquil by comparison with the decade preceding. The goal of nearly all politics remained opposition to the post-war settlement, the colonial mandates, and Zionism, but after the military victory in Anatolia, and the subsequent reopening of post-war treaties, diplomacy held new promise to the people of the former Ottoman lands. An opportunity for elite politics reappeared, and armed confrontation receded, to widespread relief.

The struggle for the future of the Middle East and the former lands of the Ottoman state shifted away from the Ottoman lands and toward Europe. Ex-Ottoman politicians from Anatolia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt, traveled to Switzerland, Paris, and London to press their case against the post-war settlement. A delegation of Ottoman officers and veterans of the Anatolian insurgency went to renegotiate the terms of the 1918 armistice and resulting peace treaties and settlements, including the San Remo Conference and the Treaty of Sevres. From territories already under mandate, Shakib Arslan, Musa Kazim al-Husayni, and Rashid Rida made the trip as delegates of the Syrian Palestinian Congress. Two Egyptian delegations attended, one representing the Wafd Independence Party and one representing the pro-Ottoman National Party.1 Except for those who had won their rights by force of arms, they were to return disappointed.

By summer 1922, the reconstituted Ottoman army had defeated France in Cilicia and British-sponsored Greek forces in the west, and forced Britain to re-open the settlement. Britain, Greece, and the representatives of the Ankara Government’s National Assembly signed a new ceasefire at Mudanya in October 1922. The Powers were unable to enforce the terms of the post-war treaties they had imposed on the Ottoman state. France, Britain, Greece, and Turkey negotiated the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne from November 1922 until July 1923. The new colonial states of Syria, Greater Lebanon, Transjordan, Palestine and Iraq had already emerged as League of Nations mandates.

British and French politicians and journalists bemoaned the overly conciliatory attitude of the rival power. The Times of London claimed that France’s conciliatory attitude toward the Anatolian nationalists constituted a loss of prestige from which France would never recover. Having conceded Syria to France, British politicians were outraged that France would concede Anatolia to its Kemalist enemy, in order to hold

Syria. British policy-makers were obsessed that nationalist “Turks” still menaced the tenuous British position in Mesopotamia, threatened the retention of Mosul, and refused to accept that they were defeated and Britain had won the war.2

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