Sharif Hussein of Mecca is leading an Arab Revolt against his Turkish masters. The rebels have secured Mecca itself, the vital port of Jeddah, and much of the Hejaz region. However the Turks remain in place in Medina.
The tough Turkish general Fahreddin Pasha hopes to crush the rebels, showing other disloyal elements what happens to those who defy the Ottoman Empire. Hussein’s son Faisal leads a rebel field force, based at Hamra in the hills near the port of Rabigh. Fahreddin’s men attack Faisal, whose tribal followers are no match for the Turkish regulars. Faisal is thrown back. Now Rabigh is threatened, with the rebels and their British allies wondering if the Turks will now be able to roll over Arab forces holding the ports that connect them to the outside world.
The threat to the Arab ports puts the British in a tricky situation. The defeat of the rebellion would be a disaster, but they are wary of sending their own soldiers to assist the rebels. But what can they do?
In Cairo British officials turn for advice to Captain T. E. Lawrence, an intelligence officer who visited Faisal in October. Lawrence warns against sending British soldiers into Arabia, as this will convince the Arabs that Britain is planning to take over the region. Instead he suggests providing the Arab rebels with aerial support and technical assistance, and with gold. The support of many of the rebels for Hussein’s cause is conditional and must continuously be paid for. Providing him with gold will allow him to maintain his supporters in the field and attract new supporters.
Lawrence’s advice reassures the British. They are short of troops but they have plenty of gold. So they plan to keep the money flowing in the hope that the rebellion can be kept alive.