The Husayn-McMahon Correspondence, Sykes-Picot Agreement, and Balfour Declaration were instrumental in the formation of the modern-day Middle East. All these agreements were made to decide how to divide up the Middle East by the European powers. These took place during World War I, to try and gain support for the allied war effort and defeat the Central Powers. The British and French took it upon themselves to claim the spoils, the vast land that was left where the Ottoman Empire used to be.
When the British and French decided to take the Ottoman’s place, they did so selfishly; it was all done in a sort of power struggle. The compromises made to the Arabs in certain letters and agreements were vague, made a lot of promises and in a lot of aspects never really came true. The Husayn-McMahon Correspondence, Sykes-Picot Agreement, and Balfour Declaration are responsible for how the Middle East is split up today.
In 1916, Husayn bin Ali, leader of Mecca, and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt exchanged a series of letters, these letters made promises to reclaim the lands taken by the Ottoman Empire.
For Arab help in fighting against the Ottomans, Britain would help establish independent Arab nations. Oddly enough this directly clashes with the Balfour Declaration made by Britain just one year later, promising the land to someone else. The Arab chiefs saw this as a chance to take back their lands and start their own countries again, to be free of Ottoman rule.
The allies did not care for the Arab nations; they just wanted the Arab nations to revolt so they could help fight the Ottoman Empire. Supposedly the letters exchanged were “open to interpretation” and after the war, Britain never full-heartedly followed up on its promises. It was said that land that “cannot be said to be purely Arab” would not be honored in the agreement, Palestine fell into this loophole. Amid World War I the ally forces recruited Russia to help fight off the Ottomans. The allies, France, Britain, and Russia felt uneasy with this superpower in the middle of Europe and had to put aside their differences to squash it. There were many talks between the countries on how to divvy the Ottoman Empire after the war was won, Russia needed a way to reach the Mediterranean Sea and wanted to control a route to it. During the war, in 1915, France and Britain on the other hand had another secret meeting after deciding with Russia: the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, between Mark Sykes, a British Parliament member, and Francis George-Picot, a French Diplomat, did not bother to consult the people living on the land they were claiming. The British sought to claim oil-rich areas like Jordan and Iraq. France sought to claim Syria. Both nations wanted lots of influence in the Middle East for strategic positioning in case another war were to happen and to expand their empires. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was drafted without the knowledge of Arabs living in the land that was sought after; the nations are how they are because of the way the European Empires divided them up.
The Balfour Declaration is responsible for present-day Palestine. In 1917, Britain’s Arthur James Balfour authors a letter that he sends to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community in Britain, not the Middle East. The letter says how the British government wants to build a Jewish homeland in Palestine and will help create it, but includes tricky phrases like “will use their best endeavors” and “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities…” The Balfour Declaration had a lot of purposes, firstly, not to lock Britain into a real agreement, hence the soft language. Secondly, to build Jewish support for the allies during the war, which was desired-Jewish support was seen as another ally, it was thought that in Russia Jewish people had a lot of influence on government- this turned out not to be so true, especially because soon Russia entered an armistice and Jewish support from Russia was never really seen. Thirdly, establish a strong British dominance in Palestine. A lot of people however did rally for this homeland and joined to help fight the war. After the war, Britain did not just release the land and let the people govern themselves. This made the people living there very angry and in some cases violent even, Britain held on to the land for quite some time.
In conclusion, it is easy to see how the European powers took advantage of the situation, saying whatever to whomever to get what they wanted. Extraordinarily the agreements fashioned in Europe have a huge influence on the land in the Middle East and how the countries are identified today. The Husayn-McMahon Correspondence, Sykes-Picot Agreement, and Balfour Declaration are selfish and heartless and are why the map of the Middle East looks like it does today.