As World War I was wrapping up, and the Ottoman Empire was collapsing, the question of what to do with all that soon-to-be-former Ottoman land loomed large. Most Ottoman territory outside of Anatolia was predominantly Arab, and the 1916-1918 Arab Revolt had done much to advance British war aims in the Middle East, so the Arabs–or, rather, one particular Arab, Sharif-turned-King Hussein of Mecca (d. 1931)–naturally expected that those lands would become independent under his control. After all, Hussein’s negotiations with Britain’s High Commissioner for Egypt, Henry McMahon, over whether or not to lead an Arab revolt in the first place had made it very clear that he expected all Arab lands to become independent after the war. But while those negotiations concluded with Hussein agreeing to lead the revolt, there were a few loose ends that wound up becoming big problems once the Ottomans had been defeated. For one thing, Hussein and the Brits seem to have held different interpretations as to which lands, precisely, could be called “Arab.” For another, France had something to say about the disposition of the former Ottoman Empire too.
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