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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎149v] (296/406)

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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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X 28
ruler in the formal Khutba of the as^hTwahhabi element of
however, to be necessary on this su 3 ’ , con f e rence held at Cairo -
h^e^hwen LmS stated as his.
opiaion°that, while Ibn Saud would never recognise the ®J®”* h a / s
~f dne
deference to Sir P. Cox’ views, I consider it necessary to state, Ibn Sand, while
admitting that the Sharif’s claims to be Calif of Sunni ls ani is as good as
if not better than, that of anyone else including the Sultan ^ Turkey m virtue
of his direct descent from the Prophet,—as a matter of fact, I doubt it lie
would now, in view of what has happened during the past year, even c 0 ™
himself to this admission,—regards Sunni Islam itself as a P e ™gon o
true doctrines of Muhammad, which are represented only by the Hanbali or
Wahhabi school, and, while raising no objection to the_Sharif or anybody else
becoming Calif, would, on no account, admit his spiritual suzerainty over
himself and his people. . , . .
Unless by the use of force, it seems to me as certain as anything human,
that the Sharif will never attain to sovereignty or suzerainty over INajd I
have indicated above how the adoption of a different policy by him might have
changed the history of that country in relation to himself, and I have, perhaps,
said enough to shew that the last hope of Arab unity disappeared with the first
Sharifian attack on Khurma, if not before.
In any case, I understand that the ideal of Arab unity under a single ruler,
which came into prominence in the early stages of the negotiations with the
Sharif, has definitely been abandoned by all serious students of the problem.
Nevertheless, the necessity of finding some solution for the Arab problem
remains—that is to say, if we are not definitely prepared to leave Arabia to
its own devices with the prospect of continual strife and bloodshed—and recent
correspondence indicates the revival of the old ideal in a modified form, embo
died in the formula “ Priority of King Husain without prejudice to the ter
ritorial rights of other Arabian Chiefs ”, which occurs in a telegram of the
High Commissioner, dated the 12th August, 1918.
I am not sure whether this policy is intended to be synonymous with what
is called the “ suzerain policy ” by the High Commissioner in a letter, written
in May, with which a long note by Colonel C. E. Wilson, British Agent at
Jidda, was forwarded for the consideration of H.M.’s Government, in which
the idea of establishing King Husain as the suzerain of all Arab potentates
and of educating the latter up to the acceptance of such a scheme was developed
in detail.
The ideals of priority and suzerainty amount in effect to the same thing.
Whatever happens, there can be no doubt that King Husain, by reason of his
activities during the war, of the territories which presumably he will directly
control, of the greater resources at his disposal and of his world-position in
spiritual matters, will always be the most important unit in the Arab world.
It is obvious, however, that something more than this is intended by the High
Commissioner, as it is without doubt desired by King Husain—namely, that,
by political or other pressure, his general suzerainty should be imposed upon
all other potentates, whom we are in a position to influence.
I confess I regard this ideal as entirely Utopian—however desirable it may
be from the point of view of King Husain and H.M.’s Government—and Mr.
Bury’s dictum, already quoted, should be sufficient warning against any
attempt to force a solution of the problem on Arabia, if only, lest we raise up >
so great a volume of opposition to the Sharif himself, that his position will
become untenable and the British Government find itself called upon to inter
vene to keep the peace—even to safeguard Mecca.
The Sharif has only himself to thank for the bitterness, which exists
between himself and Ibn Saud. His attacks on Khurma will long rankle in
the breasts of the people of Najd as an example of his methods of conciliation.
Ibn Saud, recognizing his own interest in preserving friendly relations with
the Sharif on account of his special position in our favour, has long withheld
his hand in spite of provocation, he has even held out the olive branch in the
shape of a friendly letter written, at my suggestion, against his better judg
ment, but, in the end, more or less spontaneously. That letter was returned
unopened, the messenger himself was treated with ignominy and even threat
ened, and the King delivered himself of strongly worded uncomplimentary
remarks about Ibn Saud. .
In the face of this behaviour on the part of the Sharif, it seems to me
idle to pretend that he has the slightest desire for the maintenance of even
a semblance of friendly relations with Ibn Saud. A more public and gallino-
insult it would be difficult to conceive. The prospect of Ibn Saud willingly
accepting the suzerainty of the King or acknowledging his superior position
m any way may be left to the imagination.
Eor these reasons, I regard even the modified ideal of the “ suzerain
policy ” as incapable of achievement, and the possible further alternative -of
a suzerain power for all Arab lands except Najd I dismiss as being likely

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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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎149v] (296/406), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/390/1, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 19 July 2019]

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