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Perspective: Margaret MacMillan on the outcome of the Paris Peace Conference for Feisal

Another excerpt from Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, 2002.

“In September 1919 Feisal was baldly informed that Britain and France had reopened their discussions on the Middle East. The British made sure that he did not arrive in London until after Lloyd George and Clemenceau had reached their agreement. Feisal protested; he was not going to submit to French rule. The British, perhaps with some embarrassment, merely urged him to talk to the French. From Oxford, Lawrence watched helplessly as his government abandoned his old friend and the Arabs. …

Although Feisal lingered on in Paris until January 1920, he failed to get a firm agreement with the French.  He went home to Damascus, disappointed not only in the French but also in the British; in his words, “he had been handed over tied by feet and hands to the French.”

Back in Damascus, Feisal found a deteriorating situation….Behind the scenes there was tremendous pressure on Feisal to make a declaration of independence, even if it meant war with France. Feisal reluctantly went along with the current. On March 7, 1920, the Syrian Congress proclaimed him king of Syria, and not of the circumscribed Syria agreed upon by Britain and France, but of Syria within its ‘natural boundaries,’ including Lebanon and Palestine and stretching east to the Euphrates…

In July, [Henri] Gouraud sent Feisal an ultimatum, demanding, among other things, unconditional acceptance of the French mandate over Syria and punishment of those who had attacked the French. Feisal appealed desperately to the other powers, who responded with nothing more than murmurs of sympathy. On July 24, on the road to Damascus, French troops swept aside a poorly armed Arab force. Feisal and his family went into exile in Palestine and then Italy.”

About Margaret MacMillan: