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File 2182/1913 Pt 9 'Arabia Policy towards Bin Saud' [‎202r] (401/406)

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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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whether events can be left to take their own course. Primd facie we are not
concerned with the internal feuds of Central Arabia, or with the sectarian contro
versies of Islam. The fact that both disputants are in close relations with ourselves
is not necessarily a decisive factor, for we are under no obligation to either party to
maintain his interests against Arab rivals. It is true that we could not tolerate a
Wahabi occupation, of Mecca, which not only would be fatal to our prestige throughout
the East, but would lead to endless difficulties over the pilgrimage question. But the
M ai Office aie alieady considering the question, of rendering assistance to King
Husain for the defence of his capital. Their proposals include, not only the
despatch of Muhammadan troops, which seems clearly undesirable and is under
stood to have been dropped, but the more practicable suggestion of sup ply in o-
arms and war materiel. Moreover, so far as Mecca and the Hejaz generally
ai-e concerned, the case is sufficiently covered by the terms of the ultimatum
which His Majesty’s Government have already approved. The real question
seems to be whether the time has come to insist on a settlement that will definitely
assign Khuima to one paity 01 the other, or whether ve should leave the disputants
to fight it out among, themselves, putting our trust in (1) our warning to Bin Sand
against aggressive action west of Khurma, and (^2) Feisal’s undertaking to content
himself with expelling the Ikhwan from the Khurma region, as guarantees for the
localisation of the struggle. Against an immediate settlement it may be argued that
the advice of our local officers is so conflicting as to make it impossible for His
Majesty’s Government to form an equitable judgment on the merits of the case.
Sir R. Wingate warns us that King Husain would probably abdicate sooner than accept
even provisionally the assignment of Khurma to Bin Saud ; and Feisal has made it
quite plain to us that he will not tolerate Wahabi occupation of the district. On the
other hand, if Mr. Philby’s reports are accurate, the inhabitants of Khurma have
adopted Wahabi tenets and espoused Bin Sand’s cause of their own free will; and
their forcible reconversion or expulsion would be unpleasantly suggestive of religious
persecution. The objections to letting matters drift are obvious. Our policy is to
promote peace and goodwill, and not active hostilities, between our Arab friends.
The spectacle of civil war between our two leading proteges will not redound
to our credit or strengthen our claims to a “ mandate ” from the Peace
Conference for the supervision of Arabian affairs. There is always the risk
that the guarantees mentioned above will prove insufficient to localise the
struggle, and that either the Hejaz party may advance into regions of which we are
pledged by treaty to recognise Bin Saud as “ independent ruler” (Colonel Laurence,
I understand, regards this as very improbable, and indeed as impracticable), or that
Bin Saud, if successful at Khurma, may push his offensive into the Hejaz, where, for
reasons indicated above, his presence would be intolerable. It has to be borne in mind
that active military intervention in the Hejaz or Central Arabia is not a practicable
proposition ; for practical purposes, our means of exerting pressure, if diplomatic
methods fail, is by withholding our subsidy from the recalcitrant party and
furnishing his rival with assistance in the form of supplies, munitions of war, and so
7. The question is one that calls for an early decision by His Majesty’s Govern
ment. On the whole the Department is disposed to recommend—
(1) that the ultimatum already approved (see paragraph 5) should be conveyed
to Bin Saud by the hand of Captain Brayl without more ado ;
(2) that the evacuation of Khurma itself by Bin Sand’s followers should not be
insisted upon;
(3) that King Husain should not be asked to accept a provisional frontier (as
suggested in Cairo telegram No. 195S, 27th December) definitely
assigning Khurma to Bin Sand’s sphere; it would seem sufficient to
communicate to him the substance of the ultimatum to Bin Saud and to
point out to him that the elimination of the Ikhwan from all regions west
of Khurma will secure the Hejaz completely against further aggressive
action. He might be assured that we have no intention *of prejudging
the question of the status of the district, and merely ask him to exercise
patience a little longer until the times are more propitious for a final
1 Captain N. K E. Bray, M.C., is an officer of the Indian Army, but he was formerly on special duty
in the Hejaz and is known to the authorities in Egypt.
S 16 A 2

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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' [‎202r] (401/406), 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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