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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎148v] (294/406)

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The record is made up of 1 item (203 folios). It was created in 27 Dec 1918-2 Jun 1919. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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fied tliat Ibn Saud would be the first to reeognize that H.M gS ^ ^
Orders were the inevitable outcome of their victories over t x V -‘ f n v
way connoted any desire on their part for the termination of friendly rela
tions w T ith him.
13. The Sharif and Ibn Saud.
In the previous section I have had occasion to refer brie y to ^hiect
incompatibility of the ambitions of the Sharif an m atL*.
was not only of first-rate importance m relation to the work of the iNajd M s
sion during the period under report, but deserves very serious co^erat o
i , i „i xj i\r t pit the future of tne Arab
When I arrived at Eiyadh in December, 1917, it became immediately
evident that Ibn Saud was actuated by consuming jealousy of the Sharit and
genuine apprehension in respect of the latter’s unveiled pretension tn be con
sidered the overlord, if not the actual ruler, of all Arab countries by vir ue
of his position as de facto supreme spiritual head of Sunni Islam. Concrete
expression had been given to his claims in this direction by the Sharit s
assumption of the title of “ King of the Arab countries (Malik Diyar al
Arab). Ibn Saud made no secret of his suspicion that the assumption of this
title rested on some secret understanding with H.M.’s Government, of his
unwillingness to accept the position involved in such a claim and of his
anxiety lest H.M.’s Government’s commitments towards himself, as expressed
in the treaty signed by Sir P. Cox in 1916, should be prejudicially affected
by their arrangements with the King. I made haste to assure Ibn Saud that
H.M.’s Government had no intention whatever of departing in any w^ay from
their treaty obligations towards himself and that the Sharif’s assumption of
the title in question was unauthorised so far as H.M.’s Government was con
cerned. The fact that I was again able to reassure Ibn Saud on these points
on my return from Egypt, where I had had ample opportunity of discussing
the matter, militated largely in disposing him to accept with resignation the
modification of H.M.’s Government’s military proposals regarding which I
had orders to inform him.
During the conversations with the Sharif, wdiich took place at Jidda in
January, 1918, I was impressed by the fact thqt Ibn Saud’s jealousy and dis
trust of the Sharif was only equalled by the latter’s uncompromising attitude
towards Ibn Saud whom he regarded as the chief obstacle to the realization
of his own ambition of supremacy in all Arabia. This in effect he was and
is and always will be, but it is not without interest to speculate whether it
would not have been possible in the earlier stages of the war for the Sharif
to obtain at any rate a substantial recognition of his title by Ibn Saud by
the adoption of a more conciliatory policy.
Tbn Saud was always in need of financial and material assistance, in
return for which it is not inconceivable that he would have been ready to
place his own resources at the disposal of the Sharif for the prosecution of
his operations against the common enemy, as he did or tried to do later with
us during the period of the Mission’s activities; the Sharif, however, pursued
the policy of keeping Ibn Saud bare of resources and undermining his power
by supplying arms and money to tribesmen of Najd as a bribe to induce them
to desert their allegiance to Ibn Saud. By this action he roused the jealousy
and earned the undying hate of Ibn Saud, while at the same time adding
enormously to his strength by arming people, who, once supplied and equip”
ped, would naturally turn to Ibn Saud for further guidance.
Again Ibn Saud, who had spent the whole period of his reign in con
solidating his authority in his own territories and had obtained from H.M.’s
Government recognition of his integrity and absolute independence within
those limits subject to subsequent delimitation of frontiers, was wise enough
to recognize that he was not and could never be strong enough under modern
conditions to extend his frontiers and had set himself to establish his rule
firmly on the basis of the Wahhabi system within limits already sufficiently
wide. The Sharif affected to find in this policy of consolidation a menace to
the security of his own position—in reality it was no more at the worst than
a safeguard against the menace to Wahhabi integrity involved in his own
pretensions—and, instead of setting to wmrk to kill the Wahhabi revival by
kindness, he proceeded to fan the fanaticism of the people of Hajd by the per
secution of Wahhabi elements within his reach—cases in point are the Khurma
episode, the exercise of tyranny towards Najdis settled in the Hijaz and the
closing of the Hijaz markets to Najd commerce.
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Sharif, in spite of the great
advantages he has enjoyed in virtue of his spiritual position and of the re
sources placed at his disposal by a Power disposed in every way to assist him
in the realisation of the ideal of Arab Unity, has, in the conduct of his rela
tions with his “ nearest nowerful neighbour ”, displayed a regrettable ab
sence of that tact and address, which are the first attributes of'royalty. In
this connection and in view of the general trend of British policy in relation

About this item


Part 9 primarily concerns the dispute between Bin Saud [‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Fayṣal Āl Sa‘ūd] and King Hussein of Hejaz [Ḥusayn bin ‘Alī al-Hāshimī, King of Hejaz], and British policy towards both. The item includes the following:

  • a note by the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. 's Political Department, entitled 'Arabia: The Nejd-Hejaz Feud', which laments the fact that relations between Bin Saud and King Hussein have to some extent been reflected in the views of the two administrations with which they have respectively been brought into contact (i.e. the sphere of Mesopotamia and the Government of India in Bin Saud's case, and the Cairo administration in King Hussein's case);
  • reports on the presence of Akhwan [Ikhwan] forces in Khurma and debate as to which ruler has the stronger claim to it;
  • attempts by the British to ascertain whether or not a treaty exists between King Hussein and Bin Saud;
  • a copy of a report by Harry St John Bridger Philby entitled 'Report on Najd Mission 1917-1918', which includes as appendices a précis of British relations with Bin Saud and a copy of the 1915 treaty between Bin Saud and the British government;
  • reports of alleged correspondence between Bin Saud and Fakhri Pasha, Commander of the Turkish [Ottoman] forces at Medina;
  • reports of the surrender of Medina by Ottoman forces;
  • discussion as to whether Britain should intervene further in the dispute between Bin Saud and King Hussein;
  • details of the proposals discussed at an inter-departmental conference on Middle Eastern affairs, which was held at Cairo in February 1919;
  • reports that King Hussein's son Abdulla [ʿAbdullāh bin al-Ḥusayn] and his forces have been attacked at Tarabah [Turabah] by Akhwan forces and driven out.

The principal correspondents are the following:

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1 item (203 folios)
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English in Latin script
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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎148v] (294/406), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/390/1, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 23 July 2019]

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