Imagine it. A 600 year empire. The Turks administratively ran the entire Arab middle east with a fist of iron.
We saw this cinematically in the feature film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ how the Turkish railway system ran throughout the entire region from the gulf all the way west to the borders of Egypt, up the coast line through to Syria and Damascus – all the way Turkey.
This was a formidable military force. Moreover this was the army that beat the Allies at Gallipoli, ANZAC cove, Lone Pine and likewise the Dardanelles sinking three British capital ships trying to force their way through to Constantinople, the seat of power of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottomans ruled by force. Their history is not one of peace, rather battle ready and politically hard nosed. Remember the Armenians. Remember their conflicts with the Russians to their north. Their 600 year Ottoman rule had these ‘bloody’ military campaigns. And ruthless.
The story of Lawrence of Arabia in this mix was one of intrigue and British political manipulation whereby Colonel Lawrence who spoke fluent Arabic and understood the customs of the middle eastern people groups gained their trust.
In effect Lawrence separated the middle east clans from the Turks and wherein the movie takes up these military and political intrigues. The middle east clans wanted their independence from Turkey (Ottomans) and they saw Lawrence as the military and political mechanism for this to happen.
Middle East Kingdoms
And happen it did. Then the great British political double cross took place and with a far greater military force as part of the wider WWI battle fronts, with great victories including the Australian light horse at Beersheba and Damascus (in which Australians led both).
The British divided the middle east into kingdoms – the broad brush - Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan and the like – in effect a divide and conquer political strategy which has seen ever since them quarrelling with each other.
This is where Lord Baflour comes into the story after WWI and the Balfour Declaration wherein a letter envisioned an independent State of Israel.
This eventually came to pass with a United Nations vote shortly after WWII in 1947 and the subsequent Israel war of independence followed by the 6 Day War in 1967, then the 1973 war and the conflict since including today’s Palestinian dramas.
On top of all this include the vast reserves of oil in the middle east and the competing needs for the middle east to sell that oil and the west who wants to buy that oil and both spheres playing major politics. The latest has reports coming in from the Dead Sea that the entire middle east oil supply is slowly but surely draining to the lowest point – guess where – Israel’s Dead Sea!
The Ottoman Empire at the start of WWI put their lot in with Kaiser’s Germany and this was the seed of their ultimate demise.
Yes they had initial victories at Gallipoli, then the Russians and the mass-removal of the Armenians (genocide) but lost the political battle in the middle east which saw their empire crumble before the might of the British army (and the French) and the resulting splinter groups throughout the middle east.
Moreover there was political rot in the heart of the Ottoman Empire with rivalries and corruption which was no less pertinent than in other empires. 600 years is a very long time in political terms.
Today’s Turkey has one-eye on a re-established Ottoman Empire and I have written of this previously. Recent international political dramas have highlighted how tenuous things are – the US pastor Rev Bronson who was released after 2 years of false imprisonment in Turkey, then the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, and the failed coup by sections of the Turkish military – it’s a jittery place right now.
Having said all that, there are resilient Christian communities throughout Turkey with numerous missions – recently one of our writers took a missions group into Turkey – got arrested and a miracle release.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html