8/10/1918 As French troops land in Beirut, the Turkish government resigns

Britain has made a few too many promises about how Turkey’s territories in the Middle East are to be carved up after the war ends. Sharif Hussein of Mecca was given to understand that he would become ruler of a vast Arab kingdom stretching from the north of Syria to the Arabian peninsula, but in the Sykes-Picot agreement British and French diplomats agreed to divide the region into French and British spheres of influence. Then last year Britain’s foreign minister declared that Britain supported the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

On the ground it is British and Commonwealth forces who are doing most of the fighting against the Turks, although Arab forces loyal to Sharif Hussein have established themselves in Damascus. Britain’s contradictory agreements mean that it will have to disappoint someone; to make sure it is not them, the French today land in Beirut. The French have long cultivated links with Lebanon, particularly with the region’s Christian communities, and they are determined to stake their claim to the region and use it as base to assert their rights in Syria.

Turkey is now in a desperate state. The British have overrun Palestine and Syria and will soon be in a position to press on into the Anatolian heartland. No help can be expected from Germany, which has requested an armistice from the Allies and has been separated from Turkey by the surrender of Bulgaria. Realising that they are staring defeat in the face, the Turkish government resigns, with the ruling triumvirate of Enver (war minister), Talaat (Grand Vizier and minister of the interior) and Djemal (proconsul in the Middle East) departing the political stage. Now the delicate process of forming a new government to negotiate an armistice with the Allies begins.

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