Pages 5

In November 1914, three months after the outbreak of the First World War, the Ottoman empire joined Germany and the Central Alliance in the war against the Entente powers.! This decision presented Great Britain with a dilemma. Prior to 1914, Britain had lent support to the Ottoman Porte to block powers such as Russia from expanding into the strategic crossroads that was the Ottoman empire. If Russia seized the 'straits' zone about Istanbul, or pushed south into the Middle East by way of the Caucasus or central Asia, she could threaten the British route to India and the eastern possessions of the empire. This was the 'Eastern Question': what to do with the waning Ottoman empire as the 'sick man of Europe' crumbled under internal strains and external pressures from an expanding Europe. Turkey's alliance with Germany in 1914, against Britain and the Entente powers, transformed British policy towards the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman empire would now be destroyed and divided. Therefore, in 1915, with the Constantinople agreements, Britain agreed to Russian occupation of the straits after the war; in 1916, Britain, France and Russia divided up the Middle East and eastern Anatolia with the 'Sykes-Picot' agreement; finally, Britain made assurances to the Hashemite Arabs of the Hejaz in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence of 1915-16, and to Zionists seeking a Jewish home in Palestine with the Balfour declaration of 1917, in an attempt to garner new allies in the Middle East.