Events in Anatolia

I have never seen anything to beat the hatred of the Kemalist for the British. If Mustapha Kemal could have a pickled Englishman served up to him for breakfast everyday, he would certainly do so.

M. Laporte, French Chief of Mission, Adana, September 1922 86

By fall 1922, the allied partition plan for Anatolia had plainly failed. The Anatolian nationalist movement under command of various former Ottoman officers had defeated a French invasion in southeastern Anatolia and a Greek invasion in western Anatolia. France had attempted to sponsor an Armenian state, and Britain had attempted to sponsor an Anatolian Greek state in the west. Both projects foundered dramatically and further imperiled the already dire prospects of the surviving Armenian and Greek Christians of Anatolia. In September 1922, Lloyd George, with minimal cabinet consultation, ordered British troops to protect the allied occupied Dardanelles straits and Istanbul from the advance of Mustafa Kemal’s troops.87 France, having already come to terms with Kemal over Syria, evacuated its positions. A popular outcry in Britain against the possibility of renewed war led to calls for a ceasefire, and eventually for Lloyd George’s resignation.88

As the victorious powers retreated, the terms of the armistice and treaties imposed on the Ottoman state became obsolete. The Armistice of Mudanya in October 1922 assured the retreat of Greek forces from western Anatolia, and arranged for the renegotiation of the previous treaties. Prime Minister Lloyd George was punished for his determination to hold on to his Ottoman war prizes, and his government fell from power by the end of the month. The nationalist movement had won the right to renegotiate the settlement by force of arms, and the Ottoman government had, for practical purposes, ceased to exist. The victory of the Anatolian insurgency was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm in all former Ottoman regions, and since many realized the peace settlement would be renegotiated, Arab-Ottoman statesmen from greater Syria hastened to make arrangements to travel to Switzerland and attend the conference.

The Anatolian national movement had formed the Grand National Assembly at Ankara in April 1920. Mustafa Kemal Pasa had become assembly speaker and leading nationalist politician. After the ceasefire in October 1922, Britain invited representatives of the Ottoman government in Istanbul and the National Assembly in Ankara to attend peace talks at Lausanne, Switzerland. Shortly before the opening of the peace conference, Kemal persuaded the assembly to vote to abolish the sultanate and reduce the Caliphate to a ceremonial religious office with no role in government. The debate was difficult but the argument was simple: the right to self-determination had been won by force of arms against the efforts of both the imperialist powers and the sultan’s government. Intentionally diluting the force of their victory to honor an office that had played no part in bringing it about would only weaken the nationalist position at Lausanne. The abolition of the Ottoman sultanate was strategically important but politically unpopular, and newspapers in all former Ottoman regions criticized the move.

Preceding the nationalist victory in Anatolia, French Mandate forces in Syria had shipped vast quantities of stockpiled Ottoman munitions and supplies to nationalist forces in Adana. A single shipment in July included huge quantities of ammunition, 160,000 military rifles, hundreds of trucks, scores of large caliber mobile cannons, three antiaircraft guns, and at least a few airplanes.89 British agents in Syria were deeply worried by this development, since they were contemplating with horror the likelihood that Kemal’s forces would defeat Greece in western Anatolia, seize Mosul in the Iraqi Mandate, and perhaps continue southward. There was dawning recognition that the British government would be powerless to fight a renewed war in the Middle East to maintain its hold on Iraq.

When Lloyd George tried to challenge Mustafa Kemal in September, the result was the fall of his government. British officials were also perplexed by French willingness to deal generously with the nationalists, and seemed unable to understand that France had determined that appeasing the Anatolian movement was the only way to insure French control of Syria. Britain in Iraq was in a more delicate situation with the Anatolian nationalists.

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