Why did the Arabs help the British against the Ottomans? What did Britain promise them?

 The involvement of Arab groups in the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I is a complex topic with various motivations and outcomes. While many Arabs initially aided the British with the hope of independence, British promises played a significant role in their decision, though ultimately, these promises largely went unfulfilled, leading to lasting tension and conflict.

Here are some key factors to consider:

Arab grievances against the Ottomans:

  • Dissatisfaction with Ottoman rule: Many Arabs felt marginalized and discriminated against within the Ottoman Empire. They yearned for greater autonomy and self-determination.
  • Pan-Arab nationalism: The rise of Pan-Arabism, advocating for Arab unity and independence, fueled discontent towards the centralized Ottoman authority.
  • Economic and political constraints: Arab communities faced economic hardships and limited political representation under Ottoman rule.

British promises and incentives:

  • Arab independence: The British, seeking Arab support against the Ottomans, made promises of Arab independence after the war. Notably, the infamous McMahon-Hussein Correspondence exchanged between British High Commissioner Henry McMahon and Sharif Hussein of Mecca hinted at the creation of an independent Arab state encompassing much of the Middle East.
  • Religious freedom: Britain also appealed to some Arabs by promising to protect Islamic holy sites and grant religious freedom.
  • Financial and military aid: The British provided financial and military support to Arab rebels, further encouraging their participation in the revolt.

Ultimately, the fulfillment of British promises fell short:

  • Carving up the Middle East: After the war, the British and French, through the Sykes-Picot Agreement, divided the Ottoman territories into colonial mandates, contradicting their promises of Arab independence.
  • Creation of artificial borders: The drawn borders often disregarded tribal and cultural boundaries, sowing seeds for future conflicts.
  • Limited self-rule: While some Arab states gained nominal independence, they remained under significant British and French influence.

Consequences of unfulfilled promises:

  • Arab disillusionment and betrayal: The Arabs felt duped and betrayed by the British, leading to widespread resentment and mistrust of Western powers.
  • Rise of Arab nationalism: Unfulfilled promises fueled the rise of Arab nationalist movements, further destabilizing the region.
  • Seeds of future conflict: The arbitrary borders and political arrangements established after the war laid the groundwork for future conflicts in the Middle East.


The Arab decision to aid the British was driven by a complex mix of factors, including discontent with Ottoman rule, hopes for independence fueled by British promises, and the allure of financial and military support. However, the failure to fulfill these promises sowed seeds of disillusionment and conflict that continue to resonate in the region today.

It's important to remember that this is a sensitive topic with diverse perspectives. This response aims to provide a neutral and objective overview, avoiding bias or promoting any particular viewpoint.


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