The revolt against the Turks in western Arabia has enjoyed some successes, but Medina remains firmly in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish garrison under Fahreddin Pasha is too strong for the rebels to dislodge. Fahreddin hopes to crush the rebellion and restore Turkish rule over Mecca and the entire Hejaz region.
The Turks are pursuing a military strategy but they are also trying to undermine the Arab Revolt by destroying the religious credibility of the rebel leader, Sharif Hussein, the Emir of Mecca. The Turkish Sultan claims the title of Caliph, which would make him the successor to the Prophet and the leader of all true Muslims. The Sultan has already declared a Jihad against the Allies, but instead of joining this holy war Sharif Hussein has entered into an alliance with the infidel. Turkish propaganda proclaims that such a man is unfit to be the guardian of the holy places.
The Turks have already declared Hussein to be no longer the Emir of Mecca. Now his intended replacement arrives in Medina. Sharif Ali Haydar is a distant relative of Sharif Hussein. He had been considered for the emirate when it last became vacant, but at that point Sharif Ali seemed like a safer pair of hands. Now that Haydar is in Medina, Fahreddin hopes to have him installed in Mecca before the Hajj in October.
The Turkish authorities do not entirely trust Haydar, who was previously considered to be a liberal and an anglophile (his wife, Isobel Duncan, is Irish and his eldest son was educated in Britain). There are rumours that Djemal Pasha, Turkey’s proconsul in Syria, has sent Colonel Nurredin to Medina to keep an eye on Haydar. At the first sign that Haydar is intriguing with the British, Nurredin is apparently under orders to kill him.