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British Intelligence and the Causes of Unrest in Mesopotamia, 1919-21

Author(s): A. L. MacFie
Source: Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 165-177
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4283987
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British Intelligence and the Causes of Unrest


in Mesopotamia, 1919-21
A. L. MACFIE

In the autumn of 1920 Major N.N.E. Bray, a special intelligence officer


attachedto the Political Departmentat the India Office, wrote (in one case
in conjunction with the War Office) three major reports on the causes of
unrestin Mesopotamia,where a rebellion of substantialproportions,costing
tens of thousands of lives, had recently broken out. The conclusions drawn
therein, based almost entirely on information collected by British
intelligence, were from the British point of view disturbing. For in Bray's
view the unrestin Mesopotamiawas the productnot only of local discontent
and faults in the administration,recently established, but also of a widerangingconspiracy,originatingin Berlin and Moscow.' Withthe publication
of Masayuki Yamauchi's The Green Crescent under the Red Star: Enver
Pasha in Soviet Russia, 1919-22 and other recent studies, it now becomes
possible to check the evidence presented by Bray, in support of his thesis,
and test the validity of his conclusions.2 The results are surprising. While
much, but by no means all, of the material contained in Bray's reports
proves reasonably accurate, the conclusions drawn, though at first sight
valid, must be considered, with the advantage of hindsight, misleading.
Bray's interest in questions concerning the external causes of sedition in
the British Empire in Asia appears to have originated in remarksmade by
Sir Charles Cleveland, Head of the India secret service, at a a meeting,
chaired by Field Marshal Lord Nicholson, Chief of Staff of the British
Army, held at the military headquartersbuilding, Simla, in 1911. At that
meeting, supposedly called to review the question of expenditure on the
army in India, but in fact mainly concerned with the threatposed to British
authority in the subcontinent by the rising tide of nationalism in the area,
Cleveland - so Bray, who attended the meeting, later recalled - had
remarkedthat in India they did not only have to deal with political agitation,
but also with sedition, fostered in baffling secrecy. Unrest was spreading
like a hidden fire. Suppressed in one place it immediately broke out in
another. 'These outbreaks are interconnected, highly organised and my
impression ... is that they are controlled by one great intellect, but whose?
Middle EasternStudies, Vol.35, No.1, January1999, pp.165-177
PUBLISHED BY FRANK CASS, LONDON

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So far ... unfortunately... with all the machineryat our disposal ... we have
been unable to discover.'3
Thus inspired by Cleveland's words, in 1913 Bray, fully convinced of
the urgent need to discover the sources of sedition in Asia, and the identity
of the 'one great intellect', supposedly controlling events there, obtained a
year's leave of absence from the Indianarmy,in which he was serving at the
time, and made for Syria, where he had been led to believe German
influence was spreading rapidly. There he found abundantevidence of the
spread of German influence, and also of the rise of Arab nationalism. But
he failed to discover the identity of the 'one great intellect' supposedly
controlling events. Nevertheless, as his later accounts of the causes of unrest
in Mesopotamia show, he did not abandonthe quest.
In the first of his reports,entitled 'Mesopotamia. PreliminaryReport on
Causes of Unrest', drawn up on the instructions of the Secretary to the
Political Department, India Office, in September 1920, Bray fully
acknowledged the important part played in the recent uprising in
Mesopotamia by local elements, including in particular pan-Arabs,
nationalists, 'disgruntled Effendi', tribesmen, 'impatient of their forced
inaction', 'fanatical' priests, and the educated classes, many of whom,
'prolific students of history', had adopted the nationalist cause. Left to
themselves, Bray argued, none of these groups and classes, bitterly hostile
to one another and saturatedwith intrigue, would have proved capable of
generatinga concerted action. Thatwas made possible only by the existence
of an 'outside influence', exercised through the medium of Berlin and
Moscow.4
The objectives of this 'outside influence', exercised throughthe medium
of Berlin and Moscow, were clear:
(a) By every possible means to discreditthe Ententeand sow dissension in
its ranks.
(b) To organize national forces in Anatolia and Thrace, obtaining men,
arms and money from the Bolsheviks or Berlin.
(c) To preparerebellion on a large scale in Syria and Mesopotamia.
(d) To organize all the parties concerned so as to produce simultaneous
action.
Unfortunately, owing to the impatience of the tribes, the uprising in
Mesopotamia had proved premature;but efforts were evidently continuing
to keep the agitation going and frustrateall attemptsat conciliation.5
Much evidence was adduced by Bray in supportof his contention that a
wide-ranging conspiracy existed, aimed at the Entente Powers in Asia and
channelled through the medium of Berlin and Moscow. On or about 15
November 1919, he asserts, a 'very important' meeting was held at

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Montreux, presided over by Talaat Passa, the exiled Committee of Union


and Progress (CUP) leader and Ottoman Grand Vizier in the First World
War.At this meeting, which was also attendedby a representativeof Emir
Faisal, the leader of the Arab national forces in Syria, proposalswere, it was
reported, discussed for the formation of a defensive alliance between the
Syrian nationalists, the Turkishnationalistsand the Arab sheikhs of Arabia.
The Arab sheikhs, in particular,might be united under the leadership of
Emir Hussein, Faisal's father, the so-called 'King of the Hedjaz'. In
December 1919, at a similar meeting held in St Moritz, attended on this
occasion also by Amir Shakib Arslan, an influential Syrian, who had it
seems by then been instructed by Faisal to agree to the proposals put
forwardby Talaatat Montreuxin November, a proposal- so it was reported
- was discussed for the formation of an alliance between Enver Pasha, the
exiled CUP leader and Ottoman Minister of War in the First World War,
Mustafa Kemal, the leader of the Turkishnational movement in Anatolia,
the Arab sheikhs and the Bolsheviks. Emir Shakib Arslan, it was said, was
instructedto go to Moscow, to make contact with the Soviet government
there. But in the event, it seems, he did not do so. Instead he is reportedto
have sent a letter to Litvinoff, the Soviet representative in Copenhagen,
asking him to forwardthe proposal to Moscow. In the meantime letters and
telegrams, despatched by the Ottoman Minister of War and others in
Istanbul(Constantinople)to the army commandersin Anatolia, intercepted
by British intelligence, or otherwise obtained, indicated that the Turkish
nationalist army commanders, in particular the commander of the
Thirteenth Army Corps, stationed in Diarbekir, were being instructed to
make contact with leading sheikhs in Syria and Iraqand promote resistance
to the forces of the occupying powers, stationed there; while various
agencies, established in Switzerland and other European countries, were
reported to be in constant touch with Arab nationalist and pan-Islamist
secret societies, such as Nadi-al-Arabi and El Ahd, operating in the Arab
provinces.6
Not that it should be assumed, Bray added, that Emir Faisal and Mustafa
Kemal were entirely committed to an anti-Ententestance. Emir Faisal may
well have been forced by the extremists within his movement to acquiesce
in action distasteful to himself personally, while Mustafa Kemal clearly
hoped that he would be enabled to negotiate a settlement with the Entente
Powers, freeing him from his dependence on Bolshevik and Arab support.7
The pro-Turkishnationalistsin Syria, Bray concluded, had been steadily
organizing since the conclusion of the Armistice of Mudros (30 October
1918), but it was only following the formation of an alliance with the panArab movement and the Arab tribes, organized on a religious basis, that
they had become capable of taking effective action. Time and circumstance

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had provided the means for these arrangementsto be made, and a certain
degree of co-operation had been attained; but the combined action
contemplated had not yet taken place. Success in the future would depend
largely on the strength of the pan-Islamist movement. But it should not be
doubted that both the pan-Islamist movement and the various national
movements concerned derived their inspiration from Berlin - through
Switzerland and Moscow. Though quite where the ultimate controlling
forces of the movement lay remained in doubt: 'These we have yet to find.
Because we find the threads leading to Berlin and Moscow it by no means
proves that we have reached the end of our investigations, we have only
commenced them.'8
In the second of his reports on the causes of unrest in Mesopotamia,
entitled 'Mesopotamia:Causes of Unrest - Report No.11', composed about
the same time as the first, Bray concentrateshis attentionon the Soviet and
German aspects of the affair. In his view, the Soviets, intent on promoting
revolution throughout the world, were at that time concentrating their
efforts on the Middle East, with the avowed intent of 'crushing the British
Empire'.' Their methods of procedure, which included the training of
emissaries in communist principles, their despatch to the various countries
concerned, the organization of secret societies, and the organization of
revolution 'from within', were designed to secure the maximum result with
the minimum forces. In Anatolia, in particular, a coup d'etat might be
attempted, establishing a Soviet regime; and in northernPersia a military
occupation. In this way the Soviet Government would be enabled to
consolidate and organize its position, and from the nuclei thus established
'throw out her sinister tentacles which, groping about in every direction,
seek to fasten themselves on local soil, into which their roots will strike,
giving her a fresh grip of organised conspiracy'."
The Germans, in Bray's view, like the Soviets, saw substantial
advantage to be gained from the spread of unrest and revolution in the
Middle East; and they too actively supportedthe easternmovement in every
way possible, short of direct military involvement. In particular, they
supportedEnver, Talaatand the other CUP leaders and their associates, in
their efforts to create an 'Asiatic Islamic Federation', uniting the various
national movements in the east.
The steps which it was believed Enver, Talaatand the other CUP leaders
and their associates had taken to create an 'Asiatic Islamic Federation' and
spread opposition to the Entente Powers throughoutthe east were recorded
by Bray in his second report in some detail. In January-February1920, so
it was reported, large sums of money had been deposited by associates of
Enver and Talaat, resident in Berlin, in Swiss banks; and in March
T?A100,000had been sent to Istanbulto help the nationalists.' In April-May,

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Talaat,who had in the meantime been appointedhead of the Asiatic Islamic


Federation branch in Berlin, had travelled to Italy, where he had met
EmmanuelCarasso,the CUP leader and GrandMasterof the TurkishLodge
(according to Bray the whole of the CUP was in the hands of the
Freemasons). In May-June, Nejmeddin Molla, at a meeting of Young Turks,
Arab nationalists and Persiannationalists,held at Lugano, had informedthe
delegates that Mustafa Kemal and the Soviets had reached agreement, and
that operations on a large scale might be commenced in the autumn;and in
June Talaat had organized a conference in Berlin, to protest against the
decisions made by the Entente Powers at the San Remo conference.'2
Finally, in July-August Talaathad held a meeting at Lucerne, attended by
Ismail Hakki Pasha, Fuad Selim and Nedjmeddin Molla, at which it had
been announced that the CUP and the Turkish nationalists had reached
complete agreement.'3
Meanwhile, in May 1920, so it was reported, Enver had signed an
agreement with the Bolsheviks to the effect that Turkey would institute the
same economic system as Russia; and the Soviets and the Turkish
nationalists, who had recently established direct contact, had concluded a
secret treaty, providing for mutual support in the struggle against the
imperial powers. Lenin would, it was agreed, despatch a military force to
assist the Turkishnationalistsin Anatolia and supply arms and ammunition,
manufactured in factories set up by Krupp, the German steel firm, in
Petrograd.'"
The conclusions drawn by Bray from the evidence he had presented in
his second reportwere, from the British point of view, disturbing:
It would be a dangerous policy to rely on extraneous circumstances
relieving us of our dangers, unless we organize our resistance and coordinate these different factors of hostility to Bolshevism; we must
remember that our opponent is working on a highly organized and
single minded system; we have to oppose an organized resistance. If
it is considered that the Bolshevist regime will be destroyed or that by
obtaining peace it will confine itself to its own affairs it by no means
follows that our difficulties will disappear.The extremist section of
Easternthoughthave been roused and organized.Hundredsof capable
men have been schooled in the principles of Bolshevism, whilst the
more moderateelements have been instructedin ideals, the fulfilment
of which must tend to weaken WesternControl. The ball has been set
rolling. It is inconceivable that such an extensive organizationwith its
myriads of propagandists should suddenly or even in a long period
become innocuous. We have thereforetwo separateforces to contend
against (1) The possibility of the success of the Bolshevik world

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revolution, (2) The possibility of EASTERN NATIONAL MOVEMENTS,


strengthened by Bolshevik organization combining in an antiEuropeancause.'5
In a separate section of his second report, entitled 'Appreciation of the
Situation', Bray noted that, according to the intelligence reports received,
Djemal Passa, the exiled CUP leader and ruler of Syria in the First World
War,had been recently sent to Afghanistan, to strengthenthe revolutionary
party there; and that, in order to promote the spread of revolution
throughout the east, Talaat had been charged with the direction of the
revolutionary movement in Syria, Egypt and Arabia; Djavid, the former
CUP leader,with the directionof the movement in Greece, Italy and France;
and Enver with the direction of the movement in the Caucasus.'6
In the third study of the causes of unrest in Mesopotamia, entitled
'Cause of the Outbreak in Mesopotamia', which though published as a
General Staff paper by the War Office, in October 1920, bears the
unmistakable imprint of Bray's personality in its composition, the author,
after summarizingthe contents of the two previous papers, completed his
analysis of the situation. The outbreakin Mesopotamia, he concluded, was
inspired initially by the failure of the Kurds and Arabs to secure the
independencethey had supposedly been promised by the EntentePowers in
the course of the First World War.As a result, in south eastern Kurdistan,
Syria and Mesopotamia they had been persuaded to take direct action. In
south eastern Kurdistanthe KurdishNational Committee had called on the
tribes to 'cast off the British yoke and declare independence under Turkish
sovereignty'.'7In Syria EmirFaisal had allowed himself to be declaredking;
and in Mesopotamiathe tribes, encouragedby Syriannationalists,had risen.
But the true origins of the uprising lay elsewhere, in plans hatched in
Europe for a wide-ranging assault on the British Empire in Asia, involving
an alliance of Turkish nationalists, Syrian nationalists, Arab Nationalists
and Arab sheikhs. In November 1919 Talaat and a number of Arab and
Turkishleaders had attendedthe Montreuxmeeting; and in December they
had attended the St Moritz meeting. In May 1920 Enver, who it was
reported had travelled to Moscow, 'possibly via Switzerland', attended a
meeting of the Third Internationalin the Russian capital, at which Lenin
personally expounded his design for a wide-ranging assault on British
imperialism in the east, striking hardestat India;and about the same time a
secret treaty was concluded between the Soviet government and a number
of Islamic countries. Meanwhile, in April Talaat had travelled to Italy to
meet Emmanuel Carasso. In May he had travelled to Switzerland to meet
Djavid; and on 25 May he had attendeda pan-Islamistmeeting at St Moritz,
also attendedby Djemal, at which a representativeof the Soviet government

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had promised to guaranteethe independenceof Azerbaijanand send 20,000


men to help the Turkish nationalists in Anatolia. Finally, in May-June,
reports were received of an Islamic conference held in Munich, at which
plans, supposedly drawn up by Mustafa Kemal and the Bolsheviks, for
'large scale military operations' in the east, were discussed; and in July
reportswere received of a 'Muslim Conference', to be held in Erzerum.8
Following the May 1920 meeting of the Third International,Enver, it
was reported, had departed for Baku where, according to a Moscow
wireless report,he had representedthe 'Union of RevolutionaryPeoples of
Morocco, Tunis, Tripoli, Turkeyand Arabia' at the Congress of the Peoples
of the East, held there in September.Meanwhile Djemal, it was reported,
accompaniedby a mixed Turko-Bolshevikmission, had arrivedat Herat,on
his way to Kabul.'9
'Thus, to recapitulate,'Bray or the anonymous authorof the WarOffice
reportconcludes, 'the month of May this year (1920) (markedby the close
of the San Remo Conference, abortive industrial agitations in France,
pronounced aggravation of the Irish situation, and the meeting of the
representativesof the 'Third International'at the Moscow Foreign Office)
found co-ordinatedplans on foot for:
(a) Kurdishand Arab resistance to the Frenchand British in Syria and
Mesopotamia,
(b) TurkishNationalist resistance to the terms of the Treaty,assisted
by Italy, and the Soviets,
(c) A Bolshevik advance across the Caspian.
... The above indicates the inception of a general strategic plan
directed, ostensibly from Moscow, against France and England, but
more particularlythe latter.The Moscow Direction had a gap in their
line of attack against the British Empire which they were preparedto
fill in with a combined movement of Turks, Arabs and Kurds ...
Enver ... controlled the connecting lever ... Thus the true causes of

the present outbreakin Mesopotamia may be summarizedas follows:


(a) The terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement which, aggravated by
divergent departmentalpolicy in Arabia and prematuredevelopments
of the administration in Mesopotamia accompanied by British
demobilization (b) Drove the Arabs back into the arms of the Young Turks,who were
ready to fit Arab co-operation into (c) A preconceived Bolshevik plan of attack against the British

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172

Empire as soon as it was clear that (d) The terms of the TurkishTreatywere such as to restorethe Turkish
Nationalists to the Committee of Union and Progress control.
In these circumstances it would be idle to search for local causes
otherwise than to learn how to avoid presenting the enemy with
material for propagandaor disproportionateevaporationof prestige.20
The conclusions to be drawn from the above analysis of events taking
place in Europe and the Middle East were evident:
As long as the Moscow Direction survives to absorb into its
organization, thrive on and exploit agencies of local discontent,
Nationalism will be the instrumentof Internationalism,and until the
InternationalMonster has been starved, or severed at the neck, its
various heads will have to be dealt with in detail when and where they
rise.21
How far, it might be enquired,was the information,collected by British
intelligence, contained in the three studies of the causes of unrest in
Mesopotamia, accurate;and how far were the conclusions drawnvalid? The
materialcollected by Masayuki Yamauchiand other students of the subject
would suggest that, while the information collected was for the most part
accurate enough, the conclusions drawn were dangerously misleading.
There is no doubt that, in the period of their exile, Enver, Talaat,Djemal and
the other CUP leaders and their associates in Europe had, from the
beginning engaged, in conjunction with elements within the German and
Soviet governments, in organizing a wide-ranging conspiracy, aimed at the
destruction of the British Empire in Asia. But their efforts had proved
almost entirely ineffective. For the movements, groups and factions they
were attempting to unite proved to be riddled with mutual suspicion,
hostility and distrust.
The facts, as collected by Masayuki Yamauchi,drawn for the most part
from letters written by the main participantsat the time, tend to confirm the
information collected by British intelligence, used by Bray and the War
Office authorin their three reports,though not in all cases. In Berlin, where
he arrivedin the early partof 1919, following an abortiveattemptto join the
Army of Islam in the Caucasus made following his flight to the Crimea in
November 1918, Enver, according to Masayuki Yamauchi, quickly made
contact with Karl Radek, the noted communist agitator and publicist, then
confined in Moabit prison. Persuadedby him of the advantagesto be gained
from the formation of a Bolshevik-Islamic alliance, with the support and
approval of Hans von Seeckt, a Germangeneral, who had held the post of

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Chief of the Ottoman General Staff in the First World War,he then set out
to travel by plane to Moscow, where after an incredible series of delays,
involving air crashes, emergency landings and periods of imprisonment,he
arrived in August 1920. There (where it is evident he could not have
attended the meeting of the Third Internationalheld in May) Enver made
immediate contact with a number of Bolshevik leaders, including Trotsky,
Chicherin, Karakhanand Zinoviev, who appeared willing at the time to
support his plans for the formation of a Turkish-German-Bolshevik
alliance. Following his attendance at the Congress of the Peoples of the
East, held in Baku in September, at which he was not well received, he
returnedto Moscow, and thence to Berlin, where he set about organizingthe
Union of Islamic Revolutionary Societies, which he and his colleagues had
alreadyagreed to set up. Representativesof various overseas brancheswere
then appointed, including Dr Fuad Bey for Egypt, Emir Shakib Arslan for
Syria, Djemal and BarakatullahEffendi for India, and Talaat for Berlin.
Meanwhile in Anatolia Mustafa Kemal would be expected to organize a
'centre', as would Halil Pasha, Enver's uncle, in east Turkestan(Kashgar)
and Djemal in Afghanistan.22
Whilst in Moscow in the summerof 1920 Enver, accordingto Masayuki
Yamauchi, claimed that he had facilitated an agreement between the
Bolsheviks and Mustafa Kemal. He also claimed that Trotskyhad promised
to supportthe despatch of one or two cavalry divisions, recruitedin Muslim
lands, for service in Anatolia.23
Meanwhile, in Berlin and other Europeantowns and cities, Talaatwho,
unlike Enver, had made straightfor the Germancapital, following his flight
from the Ottoman Empire, worked assiduously to encourage and unite the
various Islamic groups, opposed to the imperial powers, publishing
periodicals in Turkish and Arabic, and despatching Teshkilati Mahsusa
(Special Organization)agents to Iran, India, Afghanistan and the Caucasus
to promote revolution there. Surprisingly,no mention is made in Masayuki
Yamauchi'saccount of the Montreuxconference, and little or no mention of
the Lugano and Munich conferences. Though it is noted that Talaatmade
contact with members of the Egyptian national movement in Constance in
July 1920, and with MuhammedAli, the leader of the Caliphatemovement,
in Rome in August.24
Djemal, according to Masayuki Yamauchi, like Talaat, made
immediately for Berlin, following his flight from the Ottoman Empire. In
January 1919 he informed Djavid that it was his intention to leave in the
very near future for Afghanistan, where he hoped to set up an anti-British
front. But he did not in fact do so. Instead, in July he moved to Klosters
Platz in Switzerland where, apart from a brief visit to Munich, he stayed
until November.25Only then did he set out for Afghanistan, travelling

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(accordingto Azade-Ay-e Rorlich) by way of Stettin, in the company of 500


prisoners of war, returninghome.26Throughouthe remained in close touch
with the other CUP leaders, Mustafa Kemal and a number of German and
Soviet officers and officials sympathetic to his cause. In June 1920, for
instance, he asked Mustafa Kemal to despatch competent officers to Kabul;
and in November he was in touch with General Kress von Kressenstein.
Whereas the information provided by British intelligence in the three
reportsdrawnup by Bray and the WarOffice may be considered reasonably
accurate,the conclusions derived from it, that there existed a wide-ranging
conspiracy,uniting virtually all of the enemies of the Entente in Asia, must
be considered misleading in the extreme. The Union of Revolutionary
Societies, organizedby Enver,Talaat,Djemal and their associates, in Berlin,
Moscow and elsewhere, far from representingall the anti-imperialistgroups
in the Islamic world, proved to be little more than a skeleton organization,
incorporatingonly a handful of members, mainly CUP.27German support
for the organization, though significant,proved in the end to be of little
value, for the Germanswere simply not in a position at the time to mount a
major campaign; while Soviet support proved unreliable, for the
Bolsheviks, like their Tsaristpredecessors, had no desire to encourage the
spread of pan-Islamism and pan-Turkismin Central Asia. Throughout it
would seem that the Soviets, while apparently offering support,
surreptitiously obstructed Enver's efforts to organize a force in
Transcaucasiamade up of Muslim troops; and they offered to despatchonly
Russian units to assist Mustafa Kemal and the Turkish nationalists in
Anatolia.28It was the discovery of the natureand extent of Soviet duplicity
that later persuaded Enver to abandon his plans for the organizationof an
alliance of all the anti-imperialist forces in Asia and opt instead for
participationin the Basmachi revolt, then taking place in eastern Bukhara.'9
Nor was there any love lost between Mustafa Kemal and the Bolsheviks.
Mustafa Kemal wished merely to use the threat of a Turkish-Bolshevik
alliance to force the Entente Powers to negotiate a satisfactorypeace treaty;
and his negotiations with the Soviets, in which, as Masayuki Yamauchiand
other scholars have indicated, Enver played little or no part, were designed
to producenot an anti-imperialistalliance, but secure frontiersin the east for
the new Turkishnation-state he and his colleagues were in the process of
setting up in Anatolia.30As for the Syrian nationalistsand the Arab sheikhs,
they remained as deeply divided as ever, as later events in Syria,
Mesopotamia and Arabia showed. The British, in short, in the period
immediately following the end of the First WorldWar,had far more to fear
from local sources of instability and discontent in the Middle East than they
had from any wide-ranging conspiracy, controlled by remote forces,
originating in Berlin and Moscow.3

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The extent of the mutual suspicion, hostility and distrust that divided
many of the members of the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Societies is
best illustratedby the struggle for power that took place between Enver and
his supporters, and Mustafa Kemal, the leader of the Turkish national
movement in Anatolia. As Masayuki Yamauchimakes clear, from Enver's
point of view the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Societies was intended
merely as a 'foreign policy tool of the Young Turks in exile', a means by
which they might retrieve the position of leadership, supposedly 'usurped'
by Mustafa Kemal, they had lost as a result of the defeat inflicted on the
Ottoman Empire by the Entente Powers in the First World War.32To this
end, in 1920-21, Enver had repeatedly requested the Bolshevik leaders to
set up, finance and support a Muslim Army in Transcaucasawhich, with
himself at its head, might at the appropriatemoment enter Anatolia and reestablish CUP control there; and in the autumn of 1920 he had actually
dispatcheda numberof agents to easternAnatolia, to preparethe groundfor
his return. But Mustafa Kemal, well aware of his rival's intentions, had
taken immediate steps to block any move he might make. In April 1921 he
had had several of Enver's agents arrestedor otherwise dealt with, and in
May he had issued strict instructions that should Enver appear in eastern
Anatolia he should be at once arrested and sent, under armed guard, to
Ankara.Officers and troops loyal to Enver should be dismissed or posted to
the western front. As a result Enver's plans for an imminent return to
Anatolia, and by extension his plans for the creation of a Bolshevik-panTurkish-pan-Islamistfront, were frustrated.33
The conclusions drawn by Bray in the three reports on the causes of
unrest in Mesopotamia show all too clearly the dangers involved in
interpretinginformationcollected by the intelligence services. For if acted
upon, without further consideration, they may well have led British
officials, involved in policy making in the Middle East, to make a series of
false moves. But fortunately, from the point of view of future British
influence in the area, many British officials, such as Sir Horace Rumbold,
High Commissioner in Istanbul,and Sir Percy Cox, High Commissioner in
Baghdad, remained generally persuaded of the primacy of local factors in
the determination of events.34 As a result fears of a Bolshevik-panTurkish-pan-Islamistalliance, originating in Berlin and Moscow, were not
allowed to dominate British policy-making in the Middle East, and a series
of local settlements were arrived at, negotiated for the most part on a case
by case basis. Yet until at least the end of the Turkishwar of independence
the British intelligence services, heavily influenced by Bray's analysis of
events, remained generally convinced of the existence and importance of
some such all embracing conspiracy.35

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MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES

176
NOTES

1. British Public Record Office, FO 371 5230 E12339 Mesopotamia.PreliminaryReport on


Causes of Unrest by Major N.N.E. Bray, M.C. Special Intelligence Officer attached to
Political Department,IndiaOffice; FO 371 5231 7765 Mesopotamia.Causes of the UnrestReportNo.11;WO 33 969 Cause of the Outbreakin Mesopotamia.
2. MasayukiYamauchi,The GreenCrescentunder the Red Star: EnverPasha in SovietRussia,
1919-1922 (Institutefor the Study of Languages and Culturesof Asia and Africa, Tokyo,
1991). See also Azade-Ayse Rorlich, 'Fellow Travellers:Enver Pasha and the Bolshevik
Government,1918-1920', Asian Affairs, new series, Vol.13 (October 1982); and Salahi R.
Sonyel, 'MustafaKemal and Enver in Conflict, 1919-22', Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.25,
No.4 (October 1989).
3. N.N.E. Bray, ShiftingSands (Unicorn Press, 1934), pp.8-15. See also H.V.F.Winstone, The
Illicit Adventure(JonathanCape, 1982), pp.60-1.
4. Mesopotamia,PreliminaryReporton Causes of Unrest, p.3.
5. Ibid., p.4.
6. Ibid., pp.4-7.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid., p.7.
9. Mesopotamia,Causes of Unrest- ReportNo.11,p.4.
10. Ibid., p.5.
11. Ibid., p.8. The precise natureof these paymentsremainsin doubt.They may well have come
from accounts, held by the exiled CUP leaders in Europeanbanks. Masayuki Yamauchi
argues that the claim, made by Falih Rifki, that the CUP leaders had distributed3 million
gold liras among themselves towardsthe end of the First WorldWarlacks credibility,but he
admits that Talaat in particularmay well have deposited considered sums of money in
Europe.Djemal certainlybelieved so, and Enverclaimed that he was indebtedto Talaat.See
MasayukiYamauchi,The Green Crescentunderthe Red Star: EnverPasha in SovietRussia,
1919-1922, pp.20-3. Enver is said to have received 500,000 marks from Karakhan,in
January1921, to help pay for his activities.
12. At the San Remo Conferencethe EntentePowers completedtheirwork on the draftingof the
Turkishpeace treaty and allocated mandatesfor a numberof the states they intendedto set
up in the Middle East.
13. Mesopotamia,Causes of Unrest - ReportNo.11,pp.6-9.
14. Ibid., pp.10-11.
15. Ibid., p.12.
16. Ibid., pp.14-15.
17. Cause of the Outbreakin Mesopotamia,p.5.
18. Ibid., pp.5-11.
19. Ibid., p.13.
20. Ibid., pp.11-12.
21. Ibid., p.12.
22. MasayukiYamauchi,The GreenCrescentunderthe Red Star: EnverPasha in SovietRussia,
1919-1922, Chs.1-3. MasayukiYamauchishows that for much of the period 1919-20 the
British had little or no idea where Enver was; though of course they knew that he was in
Berlin in January-February1920, when he made contactwith MajorIvor Hedley, a member
of the British militarymission there, and in Baku in September1920, when he attendedthe
great Congress of the Peoples of the East, held in the city. In July 1920 British military
intelligence in Istanbul suggested that he had gone to Azerbaijan;and for a time British
agents in Meshed believed him to be in Turkestan.Nor had they any idea how Enver got to
Moscow. In fact, as MasayukiYamauchiand Azade-AyaeRorlich have shown, in 1919-20,
disguised at times as a delegate of the Turkish Red Crescent and as a Jewish German
communist,he made as many as four attemptsto reach the Soviet capital, the first three by
plane. He eventually arrivedin August 1920 travellingby train and ship, by way of Stettin
and Konigsberg.
23. Ibid., pp.26, 29, 38. A treaty was concluded by the Soviets and the Turkishnationalistsin

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CAUSES OF UNREST IN MESOPOTAMIA,

1919-21

177

March 1921, the contents of which had been largely agreed in the autumnof 1920.
24. Ibid., p.38.
25. Ibid., pp.l1-12, 28, 30.
26. Azade-AyaeRorlich, 'Fellow Travellers:EnverPasha and the Soviet Govemment, 1918-20',
p.291. Djemal was reportedby British intelligence to have lived in Berlin, Geneva and
Milan, and even to have travelledto Moscow and Istanbul.His plans to promoterevolution
in Indiawere, it seems, highly ambitious,involving the creationof a great state or federation
of states in CentralAsia which, acting in conjunctionwith the Soviets, might provide the
jumping off groundfor an assaulton the British Empire in Asia.
27. Ali FuatCebesoy,MustafaKemal'sambassadorin Moscow, wrote thatthe League of Islamic
RevolutionarySocieties was simply anothertitle for the exiled remnantsof the CUP. See
MasayukiYamauchi,The GreenCrescentunder the Red Star: EnverPasha in Soviet Russia,
1919-22, p.35.
28. Ibid.,,pp.35-6, 61-2.
29. On Enver's partin the Basmachirevolt see Salahi R. Sonyel, 'Enver Pasha and the Basmaji
Movement in CentralAsia', and MarthaB. Olcott, 'The Basmachi or Freemen's Revolt in
Turkestan,1918-24', Soviet Studies, Vol.33 (July 1981).
30. For an account of Mustafa Kemal's dealings with the Soviets see Hikmet Bayur, 'Genel
Savaatan Sonra Antlaamalarimiz',Belleten, Vol.30 (1966); and A.L. Macfie, The Straits
Question (Institutefor Balkan Studies, Salonica, 1993), pp.122-4.
31. It is evident of course that the ideologies of Marxism,socialism and anti-imperialismwould
in due course pose a serious threatto the survival of the British Empire in Asia.
32. MasayukiYamauchi,The GreenCrescentunderthe Red Star: EnverPasha in Soviet Russia.
1919-1922, p.46.
33. Ibid., pp.46-60.
34. In October 1922, for example, Sir Horace Rumbold,in a letter despatchedto Lord Curzon,
the British foreign secretary,wTote:'I have always maintainedthat MustafaKemal adjusted
the closeness of his relationswith Russia to the necessities of his immediatesituation,never
going furtherin that directionthan it was absolutely necessary to do, and that Russia has at
no time acquiredsuch influence as to be able to dictate the foreign policy of Angora.' See
FO 371 7906 6468 Rumboldto Curzon, 17 October 1922.
35. See B.N. $im?ir (ed.), BritishDocumentson Atatairk(Ankara,TurkTarihKurumu),Vol.IV,
No.12, Enclosure.

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