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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎152v] (302/406)

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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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1^1 -
the ability of Ibn Luwai to hold bis own single-handed, took the news calmly
and, without losing so good an opportunity of protesting once more agains
the undisguised and active hostility of the Sharif made it clear that he would
now be too busy with his own operations against Hail to be able to give atten
tion to other matters.
Such wms the position, when war against Turkey came to an abrupt con
clusion relieving the British Government of all immediate anxiety in regard
to the development of the Central Arabian situation. As noted m the last
section Sharif Shakir is still maintaining his threat against Khurma, but the
final denouement of the episode, whatever it may be and with whatever con
sequences to the peace of Arabia, falls beyond the scope of this report.
Sufficient has been said to show that the Khurma affair constituted in
realitv a test case for the decision of the Sharif’s claim to jurisdiction over
Naid or no small part of it. The British Government is committed by treaty
to delimit the frontiers of the territory, over which Ibn Saud is recognised as
independent ruler. This problem must receive the attention of H.M. s Gov
ernment in the postwar period of reconstruction, now imminent, and it will
not be out of place to consider briefly some of the main points of the problem
and to suggest, at any rate, the lines, on which it may be approached.
The problem, reduced to its simplest form, is that, while Ibn Saud claims
absolute independence and integrity in the whole of Najd, the Sharif P u *
forward pretensions of overlordship over the whole of the Ataiba and Harb
tribes and the western section of the Subai.
One has only to take cognisance of the fact that the Ataiba occupy the
Naid highlands and the western steppe from the line of the Dalqan and Sirr
Nafudhs to well within the line of the Hijaz mountains; that the Harb extend
from the confines of the Batin to Madina over the whole desert of upper
Qasim and that the western section of the Subai marches with the Buqum on
the line of the Shaib Shaba on the west and with the Ataiba along Wadi Naim
on the east; to realise that, in effect, the Sharif claims sovereignty over Central
Arabia westward of a line drawn from lhamami, at the west end of the Batin,
alono- the Wadi Rima and thence roughly southward along the eastern boun-
d a ry of the Mudhib and Sirr districts to the Nafudh Sirra, south of the Najd
Highlands, and so westward to the neighbourhood of Wadi Ranya. Thus the
whole of the Qasim and Sirr provinces are claimed by the Sharif, whose eastern
frontier would almost touch the frontier of Kuwait territory.
Such a claim would, it is needless to say, be resolutely contested by Ibn
Saud, who claims jurisdiction over the whole of Najd and over such parts of
the tribes abovementioned as reside therein. He rejects the possibility of a
solution on tribal lines and is supported in this contention by history, which,
so far as I know, has never been able to record the solidarity of the Ataiba and
Harb tribes in allegiance to a single ruler.
In any case, it is obvious that any claim on the part of the Sharif, involv
ing his acquisition of the Qasim and Sirr, is absurd on the face of it, and that
fact alone makes the solution of the problem on a tribal basis impossible. The
only alternative solution is a territorial boundary and the recognition of the
authority of each ruler over all tribes and individuals residing on his side of
such a frontier.
To find such a boundary is no easy task, but not so difficult as it may
appear, as Central Arabia has the advantage of having well marked physical
features, extending from north to south between the east and west line of the
Nafudh Sirra, which shuts off the Wadi Hawasir region, and the boundaries
of Jabal Shammar. The boundary line, above referred to, may be rejected as
impracticable; its southern section along the Nafudh Dalqan, continued north
wards along the western boundary of Sirr and the Qasim, is equally imprac
ticable, in that it places the whole of the true Najd Highlands, which are and
have always been under the effective rule of Ibn Saud, within the jurisdiction
of the Sharif. The next possible line is the Wadi Naim, running roughly due
south from Sija; beyond that westward is the line of the Shaib Shaba; beyond
that again is the line of the Wadi Aqiq.
Between these three lines—and there seem to me no other possible ones—
the eventual decision must rest; the last though it enjoys a certain degree of
historical sanction may be rejected as giving Ibn Saud more than he claims;
the first is only open to the objections, firstly, that it places the western section
of the Subai tribes and its capital Khurma within the jurisdiction of the
Sharif and thus cuts across the doctrine of the right of self-determination of
weak communities, which is, to say the least, entitled to respect and, secondly,
that it leaves a Wahhabi island in an orthodox sphere and thus keeps open the
door of religious friction in Arabia; the middle alternative is to my mind
the one best suited to the requirements of local conditions, the one most accept
able to the people most vitally concerned, the one that comes nearest to provid
ing an exact line of demarcation between the hitherto vague geographical
terms Najd and Hijaz, and the only one which follows a recognised tribal
boundary for a considerable part of its length. Subject to minor modifications
of detail its exact course would be along the Hamdh-Rima watershed in the

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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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎152v] (302/406), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/390/1, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 25 May 2020]

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