The History of the Middle East

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What was the mandate system in the Middle East? Describe the relevant parties and some of the problems with the system.

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The Mandate System emerged after WWI as a way to divide the colonial territories of Germany and Ottoman Turkey after their defeat in the war. The system was created as part of the charter that created the League of Nations, an international peacekeeping organization similar to the United Nations today. Territories that were previously under the authority of Germany and the Ottoman Empire were placed under the control, or mandate, of the victorious Allies, mostly Britain and France. The League of Nations justified the mandate system on the basis that these territories were not yet capable of governing themselves and needed more powerful nations to oversee them. Thus, the Mandate System set up spheres of influence that closely resembled colonialism.

This system was perhaps most impactful in the Middle East. In 1916, Britain and France secretly signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement, agreeing to carve up the territories of the Ottoman Empire after the war. However, the British had also promised Arabs, who had long desired independence from the Ottoman Turks, that they would have independence after the war.

The Mandate System instead arbitrarily drew a line through the Middle East, creating present day Syria and Lebanon and giving control of these territories to France and allowing the British control over Palestine and modern day Iraq. While these territories were denied independence and self-determination, Israel was created as an independent nation and Jewish homeland. This system therefore helped foster not only anti-imperialist sentiment in the Middle East, but also anti-Western and anti-Semitic sentiment and increased ethnic and religious conflict, as the territories were essentially divided and governed without regard to the ethnic and religious makeup of their populations.

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