Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay

Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay

Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay

Syria and Lebanon: A Political Essay

Excerpt

The opening of the First World War in 1914 found a number of Governments and groups with an interest in changing the political status of Syria. First, there were the Arab nationalists, who wanted the Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire to become autonomous. They were divided in their political ideas and preferences. Some wished to achieve their aims through the help of Great Britain or France or the United States; others relied only upon their own strength and efforts. Some aimed at establishing an independent Arab State, others a self-governing Arab kingdom within an Ottoman federation, yet others a Syrian State loosely linked with the other Arabic-speaking regions. But all alike were hostile to the Young Turkish Government with its Pan-Turanian policy, and very many were willing, with greater or smaller hesitations and reservations, to throw in their lot with Great Britain should Turkey become involved in the war.

Arab nationalist sentiment was widespread among the army officers, officials, professional men and in general the educated classes. The nationalist societies in Syria like 'al-Fatat' were in touch with Arab nationalists in the other Arabic-speaking regions: with the Iraqi army officers of 'al-Ahd'; with the powerful Syrian colonies in Egypt and the New World; with the Sharif Husain, the ruler, under Turkish suzerainty, of the Moslem Holy Places in the Hejaz; and with Abdul-Aziz Ibn Sa'ud, the most powerful ruler of central Arabia, and virtually an independent monarch in spite of a shadowy Turkish suzerainty.

Side by side with Arab nationalism there existed a lively particularist movement among the Lebanese Christians. They wished the autonomy of Lebanon to be completed and its frontiers extended; they looked to France for help in achieving their aims and for protection when these should have been realized. Certain of them were not hostile to Arab nationalism, provided it recognized the special position of Lebanon; some indeed worked actively for Syrian or Arab independence.

Of external powers, France was the most interested in Syria. She possessed important interests in the country: investments, Christian missions and schools and a traditional connexion . . .

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