How do empires rise? Why do they fall? And how have they shaped the world around us today? William Dalrymple and Anita Anand explore the stories, personalities and events of empire over the course of history. The first series looks at the British in India, covering the East India Company, the Raj, Gandhi, Independence and Partition.

Sykes-Picot: Carving up the Middle-East

Sykes-Picot: Carving up the Middle-East

Tue, 14 Mar 2023 02:00

3 characters. 2 nations. 1 disastrous deal. The Sykes-Picot agreement is often blamed as the cause for much of the unrest in the Middle-East today, but what was it exactly? Listen as William and Anita are joined by James Barr to discuss this historic agreement to carve up the Middle-East. LRB Empire offer: lrb.me/empire This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Give online therapy a try at betterhelp.com/empirepod. Twitter: @Empirepoduk Goalhangerpodcasts.com Producer: Callum Hill Exec Producer: Jack Davenport Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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As if the McCrispy couldn't get any better, Bacon and Ranch just entered the chat. The Bacon Ranch McCrispy, available at participating with Donald's for a limited time. Ba da ba ba ba. Based on the true story that shocked the world, critics are calling us by among friends on MGM Plus a thrilling new Cold War drama. Treesome. So not me accusing you of. With spellbinding performances. I am not an traitor! Starring Emmy Award winners Damien Lewis and Guy Pierce. You're trying to get me killed. Give me one reason why not. I'm alone so. The Psych's pico agreement is a shocking document. It is not only the product of greed at its worth. That is to say of greed allied to suspicion and so leading to stupidity. It also stands out as a startling piece of double dealing. Hello and welcome to Empire with me Anita Arlin. And me William Durable. Now that is quite a powerful quote. But what is he going on about? Well, we're hoping to explain this in the podcast. First of all, William, who is that quote from? That quote is from the great Palestinian nationalist leader, George Antonius, who in many ways was the sort of early Palestinian version of what David Ben Gurion would successfully become. The political leader of the Palestinians, the one though who failed to take the Palestinians to statehood. And this was his reaction on discovering the Psych's pico agreement, which is what we're going to be talking about today. Which is, I mean, it's one of those classic moments in Imperial history, which in a sense the very reason that we're doing this entire podcast, where the Middle East is sort of stitched up by a bunch of people who share the same club in London, who are chums, who have very little personal experience of the Middle East. Psych's who is the main character we'll be talking about today, claims to have Turkish and Arabic, but probably has very little. And he divides up the Middle East. It doesn't actually become the shape of the map that we have today, but it's the beginning of that process. Well, you know that old Hackneyed expression, all roads lead to Rome, well, all catastrophes in the Middle East seem to lead back to this one episode, where two men in the locker room decide the fate of an entire region in which they do not live. And in many ways you're going to, I think, hear echoes of that sense of confusion, betrayal that happened over partition. Where again, a man who didn't know an area is seated in front of a map in a sweaty place where he doesn't want to be, but he has to solve this quickly. And therefore just completely arbitrarily draws a line. And it is literally a partition. We are talking the partition of the Middle East here, rather than the partition of India and Pakistan. But it is the same thing. And just as we have shown, I think, in our first series how the partition of India and Pakistan is, many ways, the sowing the seeds of all the conflicts, which still be devil the region. So I think you can put a great deal of the current violence, anger, statelessness of some people, the refugee status of others, many, many of these troubles come down to the fudge that was the Sykes-Pico agreement. Well, as usual, when we have a thorny issue like that, we like to call upon a big brain to come and lead us through the Mindfield. And well, he's written an excellent book and I commend to you a line in the sand by James Bar, Britain, France, and the struggle that shaped the Middle East. James is with us. And James is just very, very basic, basic tenets. When you are trying to form a nation or even think about forming a national boundary, there are certain things that should be right at the top of your head, should be like demography, maybe natural geographic barriers, economic viability. None of that mattered here. Did it? None of it at all. None of it mattered at all, Anita. You're absolutely right. So they knew this even at the time, if you read things that were written at the beginning of the 20th century, British people who were involved in boundary drawing already knew that you had to have some sort of frontier. And in this case, there was no such thing. There was a pencil, crayon line, across a map, drawn in great haste. And in some ways, it's understanding that context, the fact that it was a rush job that explains a lot of what happened. Was that James? What drew you to write about this? Because you've spent many years of your life unpicking this agreement and analysing it in great detail in your amazing book. What drew me in was that I had written a book already about Lawrence of Arabia. And the thing that I didn't know about him was that he was very anti-French. And it wasn't just him, it was the people around him. If you don't know anything about Lawrence, he started the first World War in Cairo. And he worked in military intelligence there. Lawrence will be our next episode in fact following on from you. We got Anthony Saturday on next week. So I don't want to spoil him too much. Get off his land, James. Get off his land. There's a project. I thought Elbe Arnsley aside who knows loads about this. But there were lots of people there who were very anti-French. And that was the thing that really interested me. And so aligning the sound is a story really about Britain and France. But it's about Britain and France in a part of the world where you didn't necessarily knew how much they are responsible for what has happened since. And in trying to explain how he ended up coming to blows there, I started with Sykes Pico. And I want to start with the personalities. Because I always get drawn into any story by just looking at pictures. I think it's maybe the way I tumbled into writing my first book. It was my own accidental view of a photograph. But I became quite obsessed with these Moustacheo duo. So I mean you've got Sykes who he's a handsome, very kindly face, patrician again with this extraordinary Edwardian throwback Moustache. And Pico on the other side who's slightly harder faced, sort of looks a little like a skittle in a uniform with a less successful facial furniture arrangement. But let's start with Sykes, let's start with the British side of this tell us about Sykes. Tell us, let's first of all give a useful name because it's only Sykes of Sykes Pico to most people. So Mark Sykes of Sledmier House, I suppose, is the best way of putting him. Which is a beautiful, beautiful house in the Yorkshire world. It is well worth a visit. Let's start there. It's a slightly funny looking place, but it sits up on top of the Yorkshire world. And it's one of those country houses that slightly subverts the country house genre. When you go in there, you start to see strange things that you wouldn't see in a country house. Like little sort of corgi sports cars on antique furniture and stuff like that. And that is that little, I remember when I went there, it's almost 20 years ago now. But you get this little insight into the humour of the family, this part of the family. And Mark's father, Satattan, they were baronets, he was a baronet. And he was an extremely unusual man who's interesting to do milk pudding, church architecture, and the maintenance of his body at a constant temperature. So he would go around putting on overcoats and taking them off to try and keep himself at 36 points, something degrees. Tell us more about the milk pudding. I don't want to, I think that's probably as deep as buying knowledge goes. But he was the master of this country estate. And Mark was his only child. And Satattan had a very, very odd and increasingly difficult marriage to Jessica, his wife, who was pretty much half his age. And when you go to Steadmire today, there's these amazing Persian tiles and these gorgeous orientalist rooms. Is that Mark? That's Mark. Mark inherited the baronets before the First World War. And he had already been travelling widely around the Middle East. Firstly, with his father, it was his father who inspired his interest in that part of the world. And he was essentially an adventurous tourist with plenty of money. So he bought lots of souvenirs, including those beautiful tiles. Wonderful, is Nick Tyles? Yeah, no, I mean, just drilling down to that. So this is a man who has a fondness for the Middle East. But is he, as he claims, fluent in Arabic and Turkish? Is he, as he claims, a man who can draw the map of the region on the back of his hand? How much does he know about this area? So the other simple answer is, no, he couldn't speak Arabic or Turkish. But he was one of those people who went round saying, I'll hum the lila and I'll rock bar whenever something good happened to him. And so he went into it. There's a very famous cabinet meeting. Well, come on to that. But he left people in that room with the impression that he was fluent in both languages. And that he certainly was not. Okay, well, actually, let's get into that cabinet meeting. You've given us a beautiful tea up for it. The meeting you're talking about is the 16th of December 1915. Behind that very famous black door at number 10. What is going on? So they face the cabinet faces a very awkward crisis, which they had not wanted and they wanted to deal with as quick as possible. And this was over the need to reach some kind of diplomatic arrangement with France over the future of the Middle East. If we're going to go, if we're trying to explain all this, the background is Gallipoli. So going right back, everyone will know that the first one was supposed to have ended by Christmas 1914. But of course, it didn't. And as that became clear at the end of 1914, a group of British politicians, officials started to try and think of other ways to win the war. They were called the Easterners. And the idea that they came up with was to attack the Turkish Empire, the Ottoman Empire, landed Gallipoli, which is all over 150 miles away from the capital, Istanbul, and not the Turks out of the war. And they thought that would be an easy job. They had a whole podcast on Gallipoli just a few weeks ago. So there we go. And in fact, at that time, initially the clever idea was to land both at Gallipoli and at a place called Alexander, which is modern is scandalous. So it's somewhere that's just been very badly affected by the earthquake that's happened in Turkey. It's the port that sits at the sort of the kind of crook of where Syria joins Turkey. And it's a deep water port, and it was very important. And the British thought they would land there and cut various communications, the railway, the telegraph, and leave the Turks in chaos. And that would make their job at Gallipoli easier. But it didn't happen because of French suspicions. And this brings in the French side of things because Britain and France have been rivals in this part of the world for 100 years or more. And the French, as soon as they got wind of the Gallipoli idea, there were suspicions were raised. They thought that Britain wasn't really interested in dealing with the war in the Western Front, winning the war. They were often some kind of great imperial adventure. And so the Sykes Pico agreement grew out of this. It was something that was made necessary to alay French suspicions in early 1915. And in the way of one of these sort of bureaucratic deals, it actually way outlasted Gallipoli because by the time it was signed at the end of 1915 and the map was signed off in January 1916, there was no chance of Gallipoli ever succeeding. That's fascinating. So it's kind of the diplomatic and the kind of bureaucratic momentum is carrying on even as events are completely changed. But nowhere near knocking Turkey out of the war, total failure in Gallipoli, massive defeat. And yet the committees are still grinding on drawing lines on maps and making grand plans for the post Ottoman world. And the line, the line on the map. Now is it true again, this is, you can tell me if this is true or not, that Sykes in this meeting, this faithful meeting at number 10 says, let's just draw a line from the E of Aka through to the K of Kirkuk. And that's how we'll do it. Did he say that? That's what the minutes say. So the minutes of this meeting, you know how often people, when they want the minutes out and they do actually say that, Aka, to Kirkuk, they do say that because I mean, I once in a job I did wrote minutes and the aim was to keep them as bland as possible and paper over disagreement. But the wonderful thing about this particular set of minutes is they look, they certainly read like a verbatim account. So you get these wonderful snatches of extraordinary dialogue, including this phrase. So the thing that Sykes went into that meeting, knowing that they needed to reach a deal with the French and trying to suggest something that he thought would work. So he says he wanted a belt of English controlled country across the region, running from the Mediterranean Sea, right up to the border with what was then called Persia. And the idea was that would be a cordon that would keep all other covers as far away from India as possible. Which meant in this particular circle, that's presumably Russia in particular, which is at that point, looking as if it's going to move south and both Russia and France. So historically, the big British concern was Russia. It was Russia's threat to India, either through Afghanistan and Central Asia or increasingly from the 1870s onwards, they were worried about Russia coming down through what is now Iraq and launching an attack on India that way. So that was the big thing. But so Sykes comes into the meeting, he wants this belt of country and he says this magical line or a Pauling line, he proposes a line from the E of A to the last K in curve. I forgive me, but tell me, tell me in the minutes is there not an act because this is not a cabinet of idiosci at the time. Are there not people who then throw up their arms saying, stop being such a stupid ass, how can you just suggest just drawing an arbitrary line on an atlas from two letters. And what is the reaction to this suggestion? I think there's two things going on. The first thing is the context. And the context is that the cabinet is more worried about conscription. There are lots of other things it has to think about. And the Middle East is very, very low on its priorities. I think this is always the case. And the more I study imperial history, you find that huge and massive decisions happen at the end of cabinet meetings when several other things are on the agenda. And a bunch of people have no idea about the geography, the ethnography, the history or the politics in place end up making decisions very quickly. That's going to have massive historical repercussions. Is there dissent? I'm just pleased to tell me some people even if time is running short in the box needed ticking and you need to move on to any other business. Tell me some people saw this for the bizarre thing that it was. Definitely. So there were four people in that meeting who really mattered and asked with the Prime Minister was sort of running out of steam. I think that's the politest way to put it. There was Kitchener who had worked in the region who was interested in the situation. He'd been in Egypt for a while. He had been the high commissioner in Egypt or the governor general exactly. And so he did know the territory and he knew a lot of the people. And in fact Mark Sykes worked for him. So he had, you know, he kind of knew what was going on. But so the other two people in the meeting who mattered, who had completely different views on this subject, were Arthur Balfour, who had been the Conservative Prime Minister. There's a declaration coming there. So there's a declaration coming there. Well, this is the thing. So the most interesting thing about the entire set of minutes is that Balfour is the skeptical one. He's the one who says, why are we trying to take over the bit east of Egypt? So in 1915, two years before he put his name to a declaration that essentially was designed to extend British Imperial control over Palestine, he was saying, you sure this is a good idea. And the other person was Lloyd George, who of course goes on to be Prime Minister. And in a sense, it's the fact that these two people, Balfour and Lloyd George, do end up in a position of power, which is what matters. And both Lloyd George and Mark Sykes are extremely religious. And their knowledge of the Middle East is really based on biblical learning. They're used to seeing biblical names on the map. They've also both gone through classical education. So when they're thinking about the Middle East, they're not looking at an Ottoman map. They're looking beyond that in the sense to their education with the classics and in the Bible. That's right. And that's something that I underplayed in my book and I increasingly think is really important. Balfour as well, a book I read makes the very interesting point that a lot of the members of the cabinet at that time had grown up in the fringes, in Wales, in Scotland. They had received very, very traditional and religious educations. They also, unfortunately, had an idea that places like Palestine were fairly empty. There was this view that everyone lived in a tent and could pick up their tent and move it somewhere else. Like those David Roberts prints where they just have a few bedwins scattered out. There was always a few bedwins in the foreground, aren't they? Before the picture of the domes and the minarets in the background. And the, you know, but it's the sparseness, isn't it? When you see a Robert's picture, there's never that many people in it. And that's critical. And if you're going to crush a region, you need to the two hands to clap together, the other hand belongs to the French. It's sort of a good idea to point out what their position is. The British, you know, thinking that the Ottoman Empire is about to collapse, have withdrawn because they want to keep their mercantile safe. But the French have been spending quite a few years filling that gap. So they have ambitions, don't they? And they're also looking to see what bits they might be able to hive off should the whole thing fall to pieces. The French, it goes back to the Battle of Anile from then on from 1798 onwards. The French are trying to get back in. And being beyond that, the French are obviously big taught in their schools because you see this coming up over and over again in their memoirs and in their writings about the Crusades. And at the end of this when the French actually do march into Damascus, the general famously goes up to the two masala dinners and said, new Havanaugh, saladin. Do they march into Damascus? Is that a spoiler? Is it? Yes, I think it does this. He does this James. He does this. We'll get back to that. Everybody delete that from your memory banks and pretend that didn't happen. Are you hilarious with your memoir or hilarious? Anyway, let's go back. Let's go back to previously. Previously on the French. What are the French thinking and what's forming them? And why do they think the Crusades gives them a right to end of them? So, so yeah, there is that there's that strand is it's like it's easy to take the Mickey out of really. But there is a strand of French thinking that as you say goes right back to King Louis and the Crusades and and of course the French were then given a kind of privileged position in the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s. Under something called the capitulations, they got their sort of role protecting the religious places of the Holy Land was recognized by the Ottomans. So it goes all way back to there. But I think the key thing is the 19th century where they backed Mahabad Ali, the pioneering modernizing tyrannical ruler of Egypt. And then of course they were instrumental in building the Suez Canal after that. So at a point when Britain was beginning to rethink its policy, it was beginning to pull back and realize there were limits to what it could could do. The French were investing more and more heavily and they invested in particular in in in utilities. So electric lights, the water company. They bought a railway concession and built that down into into Lebanon. So there was stuff like that going on and that meant that the French had more and more of an interest of financial interest in what was going on. And they also had this bigger cultural interest. So if you were if you were an Ottoman in 1900, let's say, and you had ambitions for your children, you would have sent them to a French school. You wouldn't have sent them. You wouldn't have put them into the state education system that was robbed by the Ottomans because that wasn't very good. Instead you'd have packed them off to a French school. You still find this don't you and there's that Cairo that the elite in Cairo speak perfect French unless good English? Exactly. And if you go to so I remember going to Barbequn in northern Lebanon some years back. And if you look there, you can see graffiti from 100 years ago written sort of way up where someone's managed to clamber up. And the best thing about that graffiti is that the handwriting is friend. It is written by an Arab, but the handwriting is absolutely in the French. French handwriting they have learned that their handwriting has been learned like that. This is the graffiti say. Sorry, I just this is fascinating. What kind of thing? I can't remember if someone's name is here. I'm a little and I'm with it. Yes, exactly. It's exactly. So it's so it's an Arab name but written in French handwriting. Well look, look, this is this is now we've set the stage beautifully for entry. The man who I was a little unkind in describing this get a little uniform, but Pico it doesn't certainly doesn't do justice is amazing but stash it's well, I think it's a bit scraggie compared to Marx. Not that these things are important in this story, but I you know he came off less well. I thought in the moustache. It's the full war is there's two logs sort of sideburns. There's a lot of face to support it flying in the air. It doesn't have the face to support it. It's just too much. It's too much. I could you support a moustache like that. Well, that's some kind of scaffolding I would have said. But anyway, back to who is he? Who is he and why is he here and how important is he going to be? So, and you said I mean the thing about Sykes was he had this twinkle even if he was a bit of a chance and he was sort of making it up as he went along. He slightly a liar pants on fire. I mean I'd go to the house. He was huge but he was hugely engaging and people too. He was hugely charming. And people you know people couldn't help but like him even if they knew they knew that he was he was. It's a podcast we can say a bullshitter. Bullshitter. Yeah, I'm thinking a bit of a bullshitter. Okay. But a charming bullshitter. Exactly. Charming one. And so he was you know pleasant pleasant to deal with and and so on. Frostfire George Pico to give him his full name which I'm sure he would have expected had he been as if he were a listener was not like that at all. He was I think by all accounts a fairly humorless character. He was called George his so the family name is Pico but his father was called George Pico and he was a very famous sort of opinion former I think we call him today was a lawyer he'd written lots of books. He written a book about the British takeover of Egypt in 1882 among other things. And Frostfire took his father's full name as if to say well I am the son of this this great man George Pico. He went into the law like his father did but clearly he didn't flourish there and in 1898 and this is the critical thing I think trying to work out what was going on inside his head in 1898 he decided that he would shift he would change career and become a French diplomat at the K-dorset. And that is a crucial year because it's the year of the Fashoda incident one of these magnificent kind of squabbles between Britain and France that nearly went to war so Fashoda is a place on the upper Nile the French came up with the brilliant idea of trying to take that part of what is now Sudan and an essentially so they could dam it so they could render British rule in Egypt downstream impossible. But the British who at that point didn't really control that part of the world at all since since the murder of Gordon. Heard southwards they launched an expedition they then sent a party on to confront the Frenchman who planted the treacle or on the Nile at Fashoda and the French were forced in rather ignominious circumstances to back down and that is the story that was playing out as François George Pico became a diplomat. So because he's sort of famously not a great fan or not a great truster of the British I mean I heard as it hard as it is to believe that the French and the British don't trust each other. He's particularly does not and is it does this sort of proceed for Shoda or does for Shoda set his mind as to what he thinks the Brits are about. I think it's a bit of both I think that the whole family was very much tied into the French Empire they were strong promoters of it but I think it's a reinforced prejudices so he saw what was happening and he and others took away the lesson from this that when you were dealing with the British you needed to be a lot tougher. Let's now get to the point we need to jump ahead because otherwise we talk about this stuff all day when do the moustache is in twine when do they when do they cross paths and what is what is the what are the terms of engagement between the moustache they are the the the the clash of moustache is happens because the committee that so Britain's Britain wonderfully the British government set up a committee to decide what it wanted if the Ottoman Empire collapse. This is the debunc and committees this is the debunc and committee which is a bunch again of sort of class assess who's not a to the Middle East is all from home and I wouldn't like to be quiz dawn exactly who the members were that sites was the youngest man on this committee and he was then after they come up with their plan which was really sort of allow a kind of a series of patchwork of of sort of little states to emerge that Britain were trying to influence manipulate whatever. Sacks got sent off to India to sell this deal to people who are going to be much more skeptical about it the government of India the British government of India at that point were very much believers in the the straight line approach to. We've met some of these characters in previous broadcast this is Lord Harding sitting in Calcutta who wants to absorb the whole of the Middle East into his department doesn't he well he thinks it should all become under the rule of similar in Calcutta and be ruled from India obviously. And they had great scheme they had an idea that they would they would fix all the the ancient irrigation of what is now a rock have been allowed to collapse and they would turn the country back into a you know the bread basket of India. So Sacks goes off to do that but on his way back he comes to Cairo and unwisely he kind of confides what's going on to a pair of French diplomats as he as he can sit in a bar I mean he just let's get out of a regime deal. Well as opposed he thought you know it's understandable he thought they were they were our allies which is you know charming but of course the thing that the French diplomats do is perk up their ears and say well we didn't know anything about this. And also we've got you know don't be pushing on Syria I mean some of this stuff is ours well only as ours as the rest of it was ours from a British point of view. I mean it was no more there's the absolutely but in their heads I mean they've already you know it's game set and match they've already I mean this is the autopsy of a place that isn't dead it's that's what's so horrifying about this exactly I mean even I mean the diplomats may not have actually thought you know they might they might have been in their thinking that Syria wasn't wasn't necessarily you know shouldn't be French. So these two French diplomats send back a report and that reaches the desk of of Del Casse the French foreign minister and I mean he like like people in the British side are a bit skeptical about all this but he faces a lot of pressure from the French colonial lobby and in that lobby is for swarge pico and the other parts of the pico family and it's they who put the pressure on the French and say look you have to stand up to these bricks are going to steal a march on you again you've got to do something about this. And Francois George pico who who had served briefly as France's consul to bay route before the war but he engineers himself a job as France is negotiating in London so he writes his own negotiating brief and and arranges for himself to end up in the French Embassy. Now let's let's introduce the third key person in in all of this the sheriff of mecca tell us about him who is he and what is he like. So he's the complicating factor because whilst all this has been going on between Britain and France the other thing the British have been doing is trying to reach some sort of deal with sheriff has saying. And sheriff has saying claim to be descended from the prophet Muhammad he had taken over running mecca it in so few years before the first war broke out but he was a rather abstract or an independent minded man you get an idea of who he was there's one one important fact fact about him he was the the man who had the telephone number meca one. And so from his sort of his kind of big house in in mecca he ran things but he was he was quite skeptical about the Ottomans he didn't really want Ottoman interference the Ottomans he found out about a plot where the Ottomans were trying to to to bump him off. And so the British were quietly behind the scene sending him letters and gradually they they managed to to reach well and deal with him but he makes a very big demand he says look if I'm going to support you if I'm going to revolt against the Ottomans then you need to recognize my claim to a vast wave of what is essentially the Arabian peninsula but territory right up as far as the modern border between. And Turkey so we have our three characters we've got marks likes with his house parties and his sort of tourist arific we've got pico and his moustaches and his suspicion of the British but is a professional diplomat who knows how to negotiate unlike sites who doesn't and then you've got the sheriff of meca austere. And so there's a lot of pressure, turban white bearded and suspicious really of both these characters but with no option because the Ottomans are planning to assassinate him and his his best chance so three people with very very different address after the break will have a look to see how this resolves. 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Welcome back say before the break we were talking about the three pivotal characters who would form the backdrops of this psychs pico line which now defines so much of Middle Eastern politics in the world but we should go back James because there's one person we didn't mention before the break and that is Edward Gray the British foreign secretary because again you know if you are somebody who is planning future planning for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is everybody seems to be do you see allies in these other two or do you see rivals in these other two what is the British attitude to all of this interest that is coming in I think that you just touched on what is the fundamental weirdness of this which is the British are thinking to a post wall world in which they won and in that world their big rivals are not going to be the attitudes that they have defeated is not it's not the Ottoman Turks and the Germans and the Austro Hungarians that got to worry about but it's their allies and that is the mindset that is driving all of this so the first wall breaks out Britain is allied to to France and to Russia but at this point in the discussions the whole the whole thinking behind the discussion is after the war we're going to face a challenge from from France again in this part of the world and from Russia so we need to come up with some sort of strategic idea that that protects us and protects India from both of them. And who do they who do they sort of the British trust more because I mean it's kind of almost choosing between two people you dislike very very much because they don't I mean historically we know that ask with and Lloyd George do not like Muslims and Arabs and yet we know the British have historically hated the French forever and ever so I mean plus yeah plus the British think that the Arabs are basically on the Ottoman side and while they're negotiating with the Sharif of Mecca they're pretty well assuming that the Arabs will not rise up we know of course and retrospect what happens but at the time they're assuming that the Arabs are going to be with their Ottoman masters. And not for the last time there's sort of extremely dubious intelligence coming from the Middle East before a major British military action and I mean they just they they didn't know they they had snippets of information suggesting that there were these Arab secret societies that existed so so before the war the Arabs had wanted greater autonomy within the Ottoman Empire there were you know there was a sense of nationhood building things like the growth of newspapers for example Arab literacy there was a lot to do among Arab Christians because they've been educated by generations of missionary schools they are they've gone to university abroad and many have come back and founded newspapers or liberal institutions of civic society across the Ottoman world it places like Damascus and Alexandria and Bayroute and there's a lot of development and Arab nationalism if only the British had been looking out for it was there in plain sight some of the British were looking out for it but the point was I suppose is that Sykes wasn't Sykes was you know he was a romantic and a tradition is he like to go there to see the old stuff he went there to see you know the crumbling architecture and the you know people wearing it extraordinary costumes and as he saw it so stuff like that interested him whereas in fact there was also railway line and there were telegraph poles spouting up and there was you know oil concessions and he was alive to that interested me so one of the things he did I've just been just been reading about and I've seen the report in the national archives he wrote a report about all about the prospects for oil in Iraq when he was a dip Max Sykes did a more year 1906 also and you know what happened to that report it was just completely ignored so he sent it back it was it had some nice max in it and it said look here the the places that look like they might have oil and it just it died a death so so Sykes went into the negotiation really thinking that oil was not important and that's another crucial thing that Sykes be co is not about oil No, okay, so so so we're back back to you know the people now who have to make decisions and and this is slightly largely in in the lap of the foreign secretary like who is he going to trust and does he have it does he have a favorite contender I think he does I think the point is about him is that he is tired like the rest of this government in 19 beginning of 1916 he is tired and there is a wonderful little little chit of paper again in the archives that really sums this up because when the discussion about what terms they should offer sheriff Hussain secretly arises someone comes up with a form of words and in the cabinet meeting this must be given to Gray so Edward Gray who's the foreign secretary and he writes on a little piece of paper he writes Lord Kay so that's a reference to Lord Kitchener and he goes and then the next line says will this do question mark and then EG and and this is the thing and this is what illuminates just how at sea all these people were with the particular issues in this part of the world it wasn't what they were worrying about they were thinking about the domestic consequences of having to bring in conscription to to mobilize people you know that sure okay but what happens this makes it all I mean just history turns on the most frustrating things so you know you've got a knackered cabinet you've got this sort of three parties involved in as I said performing an autopsy on on a body that isn't dead but there is a there is a misive that goes off to the sheriff which seems to suggest that Britain will back them up that Britain will allow them the territories that they want and is it is it that it's a deliberate attempt to mislead them because you know inevitably it's psyched speaker is not psyched sheriff is it it will be psyched speaker that decides this this re reformation of what will be the middle east are they lying to them while they're just too naked to actually make themselves clear and it's ambiguous and therefore the sheriff takes it one way but the Britsman mean it another way well so this is exactly what happened there it was deliberately obscure what the wording that they wrote and you can see all the dross of this in English the wording that they chose is we won't go into it here because it's just a bit too much but they they chose a very very careful set of words and those words were then lost in translation when they were written in Arabic and sent to the sheriff and they only found this out in 1920 so the British lost their copy of what they think it sort of ended up down the back of a filing cabinet did they lose their copy or lose their copy is their company well no I think they probably lost it in I I think conspiracy for the cock up theory of history over the conspiracy yeah I think it's the cock at yeah I think I think this is the British government and it's Rolls-Royce finest and they did actually lose the thing but most importantly they but they they created something where they were going to trip to places because they'd set out to to be disingenuous they they need but they also needed to keep the sheriff on site so the thing that had happened the crucial thing that happened was just as sheriff was saying said right I want all the Middle East they then heard this intelligence from a man called Faroukhi who was a an Arab soldier in the Ottoman army who'd been taken prisoner at Gallipoli and he confirmed this idea of all the sort of there was a sort of Arab network working beneath the beneath the surface the Arabs were weighing up whether to back British or the Germans at that moment in time so this was all very very Finally balanced and and this all this sort of information arrives in cabinet cabinet struggling to cope with it but kind of sensing there is something really bad here so they delegate the whole back to the British in Cairo just say look fix it we don't care in in a way we don't care how you do it but just don't let this blow up on us and so that gives the local the local officials a great deal of wiggle room and unfortunately they then they then conquer and they're the ones negotiating with the sheriff so they're negotiating with the sheriff bear mine the sheriff does nothing about psychs and pico they he doesn't know that simultaneously or you know yes simultaneously the British are having to deal with the French but the French again get wind of the negotiations with the sheriff and they can't believe that the British would do something as unwise as make a big promise to somebody who they think is a non entity we haven't actually talked about the negotiations that are going on between psychs and pico headed up by psychs and pico so where are these happening what is the what is the level of negotiations that is going on and what point is pico told about some the kind of ambiguous weird letter that's gone out to the sheriff so the negotiation with psychs and pico hasn't started when pico hears the all important confirmation that yes the British have sent the same the promise so that happens so pico gets himself posted to London and he has a strange meeting where he is sort of on one side of the negotiating table on on the other there are representatives of all the relevant British government departments so it's a it's a pretty uneven away fixture for him and he's so he's there and the British realize that they're going to have to come clean about what they promise to say because they they really want pico to agree to it they want him to say okay you know I I see I can understand that your concern about about the judgments is so great that you need the sheriff on your side but of course pico doesn't pico plays a blinder and he looks sort of offended or fronted everything at the same time he he has an incline of what's going on but he is also an extremely good actor and a very good negotiator and a very good negotiator and the thing he says is that he touches on the you know on the really raw brews that that affects the ontaunt all the way through which is that the French have lost soldiers in this war so far and have Germans on their territory thinking you know if you think of the pressure that Zalensky is under in Ukraine you get an idea of what it was like for the French back in 1915 they were they had the Germans on their soil and yet here with the British saying let's go off to Gallipoli will fix this war but it's going to be the long way round you know the French are facing massive public pressure at home to you know to launch an offensive to end the war and the British are on maneuvers so pico does this faux flounce which is you know diplomatic very powerful to the British panic that OK what do they do and so the British do panic because they think they they have been wondering for a little while by late in 1915 when this is you know to the French have it in them to last this out you know off French casualties are very very high what is French public opinion feeling and for a long time British thought I think they'll they'll manage but then you start to get these reports coming from the British Embassy in Paris say well we're not so sure anymore we're not so confident so this question over what will happen to the Middle East suddenly acquires a much greater significance and the fear is you know if we if the British insist on there you know what they want don't give the French something in return that this might be the straw that breaks the camel's back what they want we have we haven't even yet sort of said in these negotiations around the table while they're sitting in front of a map what what is the you know the kind of trading that is going on like you take Libya and I'll take Syria I mean how you know what level is it being pitched so this it really only concerns the sort of the narrow hotland of the Middle East bear in mind that the bigger the bigger question of Morocco and Egypt have been resolved by the on top Cordiale in 1904 so in under that the British said to the French you you know we won't get in your way in Morocco and the French are finally exceeded to sort of British control of Egypt but this is about really this is about it's about it's about it's about Palestine what is now Israel and Palestine and it's about Syria and Lebanon where the French have got that's where the French interest is strongest and just to add the element we're going to talk about the Belford Declaration in a different podcast but how far are on negotiations with the Zionists and all that strand of things going in Belford is he dreaming of the Belford Declaration already is Rothschild and he in discussions so I mean there are certainly some people already working on that but I think the critical thing is this does affect the site's peak story so I think we maybe we should try and touch on it in a minute or two but the question the fifth so the thing is that the British are aware they're aware of or they believe that there is there is a significant support for Zionism and that that needs to be accommodated in some way but it hasn't yet become a sort of neurosis for the British. We've established that both Lloyd George and Sykes are extremely religious and they have a very religious worldview how far is that affecting their attitude to the Zionist cause it is affecting it it it it influences their their worldview and it helps explain a strand of British pro pro Jewish policy that goes back 50 years by by now but it's not the critical fact to write yet that that comes after the Sykes peak deal has been done got it got it so this point Palestine is being disputed between the English and French on one side and the sheriff of Mecca on the other there isn't a Zionist claim when it at at the cabinet at this point not a powerful one but it becomes it becomes an issue after the so the thing about Sykes peak agreement was they couldn't agree about Palestine they agreed to disagree so in the map that was signed off in January 1916 Palestine is is colored in brown sort of yellowy brown color and they agree will have an international administration because they can't really work out what to do about it. Is this is this really how they did so they have a map in black and white and that they got crayons please tell me that we crayons I love this notion in my head of coloring and territories and although I mean as you say Palestine question is is not what it becomes at this point there is a lot of trading going on over Lebanon for example and Mosul those are contentious areas tell us how that works and how long is this meeting anyway I mean how how do two powers carve up a region. The answer to that very last question is I'm not actually sure so so what happens is that Pico went into the meeting with the British with when he was a raid against multiple officials that's in conclusive he makes some big demands then the British start scratching their heads thinking this is a potentially really you know bad if it goes wrong and at that point Sykes like sort of tigger arrives in the cabinet meeting in December 1915 and says I've got a plan and he produces a map. It's a square map I actually I now own a copy of this map not not the actual site but not the site became that but the basic map on which the deal was drawn was a map that the raw geographical society had published in 1910 and you can occasionally come across copies of one of it so I managed to get one it's about it's a bit like holding a bit spit narrow than an old broad sheet newspaper to hold in your hands about Simpson so the thing about this map is it's incredibly portable all previous maps high scale maps of the Ottoman Empire were vast because you got to try and get everything from Constantinople if you're just talking about the eastern territory of the empire you're trying to get Constantinople through to Bazar on a piece of paper and you need to have a stretch that's bigger than mine to hold that map in your hands and you if you do that even if you're holding it your nose is pressed against the map because you're so big so it's useless but what the raw geographical society did in 1910 so they produced this little map of the middle of the Middle East the sort of the heart and the matters and the fascinating thing this is an exclusive for you which I'm sure you'll be delighted by is that Sykes actually help draw that map I hadn't realized this until now but he both as a diplomat and he had done it he'd actually trained in surveying in some way and he helped draw the map that the Sykes P.C. Agreement was eventually drawn on to so he had this map he goes into the cabinet meeting he announces his line from the E of A.K. to the last K of Kirk Cook everyone there is delighted that here is a man who clears to have command of Arabic and Turkish and a command of the issues and the geography a geography exactly because I mean I asked a lot of these people were half these places were on the map they had struggled here he is he appears to be in full command of the detail let's delegate this job to him and so at that point that's December the 15th 16th of 1915 at that point he is told to go off and fix it with P.C.O and I I can't remember the date on the map but it's early January 1916 so in a matter of three weeks they had cooked this one up and now they locked in a room together or what what I think so I suspect that locks and I remember crayons I mean you know just coloring in regions so the yeah so the map itself so it has this diagonal line which runs you know south southwest to north east across the region and the the vestige of this is still visible on the map so if you think of Syria today it's a right angle triangle with the right angle in the top left corner and the diagonal line is it's not exactly what Sykes and Pico drew on the map but it memories of it that is yeah that is that's the the vestiges of this of this line but the two men sit there Sykes had a nice house in Buckingham gate he was he lived just around the corner from Buckingham Palace and so I suspect they did they meet there did they meet I don't know exactly where they meet they met it's all a little bit unclear but they they had his map you had three areas that were colored in the middle of the map there were three areas that were colored in there was a blue bit for what the French were going to get and a red bit for what the British were going to get and then to square the circle with what had been agreed with Sharif are saying they came up with a fudge so so the blue area the blue French area and the red British area the best thing is to look up if you search on the internet for Sykes Pico map you'll you can see this for yourself as you as you listen to this but the blue French area and the red British area were on the coast so the red British area was at the head of what was then the Persian Gulf the Gulf covering Bazar are almost up to Baghdad and the French area was Lebanon Syria and a bit of sort of mushrooming into Turkey and then inland the area was going to be split and the Arabs were going to get some autonomy there so this was the sort of this was the way they tried to square the circle with what had already been promised to his aim is the modern Israel Lebanon border again a vestige of this this creating exercise that came that came later because that was thrashed out in the 20s by surveyors and the Palestine on this map is a he's a very very simple shape it's kind of a it's a sort of hard to describe it's got it runs down the Jordan so you have everything sort of west of the east of the Mediterranean to the Jordan and then there's a sort of a kind of curved line that coves round north of the Sinai desert peninsula so and that was going to that was going to be international because the French wanted this because they said well we've always you know protected the rights of the religions in Jerusalem in the Holy City and the British desperately wanted it for their strategic plan which was essentially to have all the territory between the Suiz Canal and the mountainous frontier of Persia so Sykes walked out having failed essentially and one of the fascinating details I don't know how much you can read into this but on the map that they drew and this is so it's all as you say I need to it's all in in blue and red and sort of a slightly dodgy oak colored crayon all hand drawn note there's no I didn't think it's even a ruler involved it's it's freehand where is this about today in the national archives and it's one of these things it's so controversial that you can't if you can go into that anyone can go and look go and get a ticket to buy a point and go to the national display you have to go and look at it in a special room in fact because you know it is an object of some control look I mean we we are sort of heading heading towards the end of this but this we should remind everybody as a top secret meeting top secret coloring in exercise but there is one party that needs to be informed about this because for any of this to work you need the Russians to allow it so what do the Russians say when they hear about this this grand plan cooked up between the French and the British the two of them Sykes and Peacock then go off to St. Petersburg or Petrograd in in 1916 to sell this one to Sasha Petrograd is about to go up and in smoke with the revolution and yeah exactly so they go there actually the Russians the Russians I think are okay about it because the Russians in the meantime want control of the the boss for straight that's that's their key demand so they get that they get the the British and the French to agree to that you just you just drop that about giving the Russians control of the Russia but hasn't the whole of Anglo-French policy for 150 years been to keep the Russians away from the boss for exactly and you know and the British until 1907 regarded the Russians as public enemy number one really and we'll so again do so again immediately after the revolution precisely so it's just it's a sort of you know it's a momentary hiatus but the Russians do accept it but the actually Pico did stay on I'm just struggling to remember the real detail of this but Pico tried to stay on to get the Russians to support a French Palestine after you know so to to to so both sides had sort of agreed this deal didn't it wasn't it wasn't a deal it wasn't to treat you it was actually an exchange of letters in the end between the French ambassador in London for combo and and so it would great they they they sent letters to each other in their own language there's not a formal treaty thought like the buffer declaration it's just a letter so it has no final legal standard what is the legal standing of this I'm not a lawyer and I don't know but it's an exchange of letters so the two sides swap letters and even and that creates no understanding yet exactly and that and that essentially it's a diplomatic sticking plaster to resolve something which as we said already was you know it's already out of date because they weren't going to the Ottomans approved incredibly incredibly resilient and you know glipoli had not succeeded and yet this spat had escalated out of all proportion at what point does the world get to hear about psyches Pico following the Russian revolution following the 17 revolution because the you know the the the Bolsheviks enter the the the the Sarrist archives and start throwing papers left right in central and find this agreement and and and they say what is this you know piece of scourish pividious imperialist wrangling and it and they release the the agreement so it's known about the end of the war and that creates enormous russians and famously and the passion sitting in constant local reads it out loud as soon as he hears about it for the Russians and his main target is to show how far the sheriff of mecca has been duped exactly by this time the chief of mecca is risen up the whole Arab world is the is behind him and he's saying look you've been you've been a complete sucker these guys are doing this you've been had and so he does it and exactly and that's that that's exactly what happens and that takes a lot of the law and so one of the law and so the rager is one of the people who ends up people in that over James well that's very very elegant of you because the next episode is going to be all about the man in the middle of all of this Lawrence of a rebatee Lawrence and his experience of dealing and then finding out that the Arabs that he believes in have been double crossed but will come to that in a future podcast in the meantime just to finish the legacy of this agreement which so many people have looked back on and seen as a classic piece of a British French imperial treachery what are the repercussions of this agreement made between these these two sets of people sitting in a room in London in 1950 and I think there's two things one is very immediate and that is that Britain realises it hasn't got what it wanted and that is the background to the balfa declaration so the balfa declaration comes out of the failings of the psychs pico agreement to guarantee British interests that's the first thing but more broadly psychs pico comes to be seen in the middle east as this shorthand for imperial interference and there was a British the British council did a survey about this a few years ago they asked people here and in France about psychs pico and they asked people in Turkey and I think Lebanon and Egypt about it had you heard of psychs pico and here the numbers something like one out of ten and if you go to Egypt and these countries are not directly affected by this in everyone knows you know it's six and a half seven out of ten so there's a much higher level this again is something we found throughout this series that there's so many of these imperial decisions that are barely known about in England that feature if at all glancingly in our curriculums and yet people around the world trace the disasters around them to these imperial decisions and in this case also at least you know the Kurds and the Druze minorities like this split between between two different sides of a border classic sort of imperial mismanagement and with terrible repercussions for hundreds of thousands of people exactly and and done as you as you said you know in a very very short amount of time by two people who didn't exactly know what they were doing James that is a fantastic and and fantastically learned look at this crucial thing I've often heard of and read about Sykes Peacock but I've never heard it explained so clearly and so fully as by you here and and it is just just utterly jaw drop that baffling how a few people making bad decisions in a room in London can affect hundreds of thousands of people across the globe to this day to this moment now so thank you so much really grateful thank you very much that is all from pie but as I said Lawrence of Arabia next up until then goodbye from me Anita Arnond goodbye from me William Durimple Nature has developed a lot of natural defenses take it from a little bug like me I've pretty much seen them all porcupines got quills snakes got venom and me I got camouflage nature's always finding ways to support life like elderberries nature's way extracted the best of the berry tossed in vitamin C and D and zinc and put them into a yummy immune supporting gummy nature's ways and buka's gummies powerful immune support inspired by nature nature's way