According to Fromkin in "A Peace to End all Peace" what were the key decisions made, who made them and why did they make the decision they made?  

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djrharrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

David Fromkin's “A Peace to End All Peace” chronicles British politics in the Middle East, i.e., the Ottoman Empire, during and following World War I. It is important to remember that the Middle Eastern countries we know today as Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. did not exist before the First World War. Those territories and their Arab inhabitants were controlled by and subject to the Ottoman Empire. The decisions made by the British, primarily, but also the French, and Russians during WWI followed by the post war decisions made by the Big Three powers — Britain, France, United States — at the peace notations in Versailles constituted a new map of the region. 

Fromkin focuses on the British policy decisions at the Cabinet level as well as Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt and Sharif Hussein of Mecca. There was much confusion and deception in the years between 1914 and 1922. Many, including Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, deferred to Secretary of State for War Herbert Kitchener, who had had spent man years (from the early 1880s in the late 1890s) serving the British Crown in Palestine, Egypt, and the Sudan, as the expert on the Middle East. The British also relied heavily on the advice of a Arab “defector” named Muhammed Sharif al-Faruqi who claimed Arab officers were ready to revolt if the British made a deal with them. Al-Faruqi turned out to be a fraud. 

Two conflicting arrangements were made for control of Arab-speaking territories in the Middle East. One, known as the McMahon Letters (between Sir Henry McMahon and Sharif Hussein of Mecca), promised Arab independence from the Ottomans in return for support of the British/Allies in the war. And the other, in March 1916 the Sikes-Picot Agreement (or Asia Minor Agreement), was a secret agreement produced by the Allied Powers in Europe to divide Asia Minor into spheres of influence (not independent sovereign entities as the McMahon letters promised) for the benefit of Britain and France with assent from Russia. (Keep in mind, this did not include the UnitedStates who had not yet entered the war; in fact, the agreement was in direct opposition to one of then U.S.President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points—no secret treaties—which were presented to Congress in January 1918.) According to Sikes-Picot, the British were to control northern regions along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River into Jordan, southern Iraq and Haifa and Acre; the French were to control southeastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and northern Iraq; and the Russians got Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia. 

Following changes in leadership in Britain and France, and Russia’s exit from the war, a third agreement, the 1919 Balfour Declaration based on a letter written by Arthur James Balfour in 1917, became a further, and probably greater, source of conflict. The Balfour Declaration promised Jewish people a homeland in Palestine with British backing. At the same time, the Palestinians were given private/secret promises to uphold their sovereignty that would not materialize.

Negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference in the spring of 1919, were complicated as the Big Four powers—now Britain, France, The United States and Italy—pressed for their own concerns in the Middle East, i.e., to divide up the spoils between the winners of the Great War. The more neutral negotiating party, U.S. President Wilson, called for colonial claims to be revoked and for self-determination for the inhabitants of former colonial territories. The Mandate system won the day and divided specific spheres of influence between Britain and France. It was signed into international law as of June 22, 1919, by the League of Nations Charter in Article 22. 

From the beginning of his text, Fromkin asserts that the British were responsible for and forced the settlement upon the Middle East in 1922. He saw the giant in the room, the British Empire, making the decisions. Later in the war, especially after the failed Battle of Gallipoli, the devastating results of the Battle of the Somme, and Russia's abrupt departure from the war in a secret treaty with Germany, only Britain's new Prime Minister David Lloyd George eyed the Middle East with great desire. The new French Premier, Georges Clemenceau, showed less interest in the territory than his 3 WWI predecessors as he felt France was already overextended internationally. Russia, of course, now alined with Germany in the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, was in no position to demand their fair share of the Middle East. Nevertheless, David Lloyd George tried to play on Europe's innate desire for colonial control against Wilson’s call for peace without victory and self-determination for former colonies in the region during peace negotiations at Versailles.