Conflicts of the Middle East: Turkey, Kurdistan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran
Part 1, The Ottoman Empire:
Middle East conflicts have been sources of major tragedies since the establishment of post-World War I regimes. These conflicts, from the 1970s onward, have increasingly become attained global reach. This occurred first with radical left activities and then later in the 1980s with radical Islamist movements and terrorism.
At the same time, these conflicts transformed into civil wars and interstate wars with increasing regularity as totalitarian secular regimes became weaker and radical Islam got stronger. The challenges are that the post-World War I order is not sustainable and has never been willing to allow liberal peaceful transitions to new governments, as the world saw in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Therefore, the only alternative appears to many to be radical Islam or the Islamization of regimes, as in the cases of Turkey and Iran, while Syria and Iraq are still fighting it out at devastating cost to human life. They are no longer regional conflicts, but increasingly global ones that threaten humanity and peace across a large portion of the world. Therefore, the response to these conflicts since the first Gulf War in 1991 has become global as well and continues in various forms to this day.
It is important to understand these conflicts in a rational manner; therefore, we need to study how these regimes in current regional states were established and why they continue to generate tragic conflicts. I will write a series of articles on this subject, including as much data and as many images as possible to coherently map the conflict while discussing possible resolutions.
I will start with the Mudros Agreement, or Armistice, between allied powers and the Ottoman Empire (October 30, 1918) that ended World War I.
On October 13, 1918, the leader of the Ottoman Government, Enver Pasha, informed his armed forces that his government had accepted armistice with allied powers based on American President Woodrow Wilson 14 points[i]. Among the 14 points of the Wilson proposal, the twelfth point was specifically related to the Ottoman Empire: “The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees[ii].”
On October 30, 1918, three Ottoman Government representatives, Minister of Navy Hussein Raouf, Reshad Hikmet, and Saadullah Bey, as well as British representative Admiral Arthur Calthorpe, signed the armistice aboard the British ship Agamemnon at Port Mudros, Lemnos, Greece. The document was comprised of 25 articles, covering issues from the disarmament of the Ottoman army to control of communication, transportation, supply chains, and other areas. For the purposes of this study, the most important articles are the following:
- Article: “VII.—The Allies to have the right to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of the Allies.”
- Article: “XXIII.—Obligation on the part of Turkey to cease all relations with the Central Powers[iii].”
The central powers were Germany and the Austria–Hungarian Empire, the premier supporters of the Ottomans; economically, military, and politically. Later, this would change in favor of Mustafa Kemal, future founder of the Republic of Turkey.
The victorious imperial powers of World War I, after their ceasefire with the Ottoman Empire, expanded their invasion in most parts of the empire, including the capital Istanbul and East Tracy, the European section of the Ottoman/Turkey. On March 28, 1919, Italian forces invaded Antalya in southwestern Turkey with only 300 soldiers, meeting no resistance. Later in April, 500 Italian soldiers under the command of Colonel Giuseppe di Bisogno invaded the entire area from Antalya to Konia in central Anatolia, also without resistance, in just three days[iv].
The Green area indicates areas of Anatolia occupied by Italian troops who met no resistance.
While Anatolian Turks did not oppose the Italian invasion, they were staunchly against Mustafa Kemal’s forces, then in the process of developing a new government. The following map of internal rebellion against Mustafa Kemal’s forces in 1919 and 1921, produced by the Turkish Armed Forces Office of War History, is very telling.
The areas circled in red show rebellions of the time, with the exception of two Kurdish uprisings in central Anatolia in Sivas (Ali Şer [Shar]) and Mardin (Alike Bate) in the southeast. The rest of them are Turkish[v].
Greece, which was associated with allied powers, occupied Izmir on May 19, 1919 and then expanded its occupation all the way into central Anatolia. Finally, on March 16, 1920, allied forces occupied the capital, İstanbul[vi]. France occupied the eastern Mediterranean coast and British occupied areas southeast and northeast of Anatolia. However, the British then left southeast Anatolia (part of Kurdistan) to the French. The occupation in 1920 looked more or less like the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement of 1916, as shown in the following map[vii].
As early as June 15, 1919, a French officer informed the Turkish district governor of the western Turkish city of Turgutlu that Izmir will be given to the Turks under American, French,
British, and Italian supervision[viii]. This meant that they were giving them to Mustafa Kemal’s forces, as they reported to Kemal, not to the Ottoman government. The allied powers, step by step, would abandon their support for the Greeks and start empowering Kemal’s forces.
In upcoming articles, I will discuss allied powers’ military support for Kemal’s forces, who will later go on to establish the “Republic of Turkey” and later take part in the establishment of other regimes in the region.
Amed Demirhan is internationally recognized with multiple awards in librarianship. Multilingual, he holds a Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI), a Master of Arts degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and a BA in International Studies with a minor in Spanish (USM).
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by John J. Catherine
[i]Harp Tarihi Başkanlığı. (1962). Türk İstiklal Harbi 1. Cilt: Mondoros Mütarekesi ve Tatbikati. Ankara: Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Harp Tarihi Dairesi (P. 28) ) [Turkish Independent War Vol. 1 Chair of Turkish Armed Forces Office of War History Official Publication] Ankara
[iii] Harp Tarihi Başkanlığı. (1962). Türk İstiklal Harbi 1. Cilt: Mondoros Mütarekesi ve Tatbikati. Ankara: Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Harp Tarihi Dairesi (Pp. 41 -44) [Turkish Independent War Vol. 1 Chair of Turkish Armed Forces Office of War History Official Publication] Ankara
[iv] Prof. Dr., ÇELEBİ, Mevlüt (2015, Spring) ATATÜRK DÖNEMİ VE SONRASINDA [TÜRKİYE-İTALYA İLİŞKİLERİNİ ETKİLEYEN FAKTÖRLER’ Ege Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, Tarih Bölümü, İzmir, TÜRKİYE, mevlut.celebi
[v] Türk İstiklal Harbi 6. Cilt (1964): İç Ayaklanmalar ( 1919 - 1921 ) Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Harp Tarihi Dairesi Resmi Yayınları (P.5) [Turkish Independent War Vol. 6 Internal Rebellion (1919 – 1921) Chair of Turkish Armed Forces Office of War History Official Publication] Anklara, Turkey
[vi] For a chronology of events, see Somel, Selcuk Aksin, Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire (Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras) (Kindle Locations 972-974). Scarecrow Press. Kindle Edition.
[vii] Map to illustrate the Agreement of 1916 in regards to Asia Minor, etc. London, 1918
[viii] Özalp, Kazim (1972) Milli Mücadele 1019 – 1922 II Belgeler Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi – Ankara, 1972. P. XI