|Saturday, 1 April 2023|
The King-Crane Commission Report, August 28, 1919
II-THE REPORT UPON MESOPOTAMIA
In view of the Resolutions, passed by the Peace Conference on January 30, 1919, and of the Anglo-French Declaration of November 9, 1918-on the eve of the Armistice-both of which documents class Syria and Mesopotamia together to be treated in the same way, and make to them the same promises and assurances, the Commissioners recommend that the Peace Conference, adopt for Mesopotamia a policy in general parallel to that recommended for Syria, in order that the Anglo-French Declaration may not become another "scrap of paper."
1. We accordingly recommend, as most important of all, and in strict harmony with our instructions, that whatever foreign administration is brought into Mesopotamia should come into Mesopotamia not at ail as a colonizing power in the old sense of that term, but as a mandatary under the League of Nations, with clear consciousness that "the well-being and development" of the Mesopotamian people form for it a sacred trust. To this end the Mandate should have a limited term, the time of expiration to be determined by the League of Nations, in the light of all the facts as brought out from year to year, whether in the annual reports of the Mandatary to the League or in other ways.
The entire text of the first recommendation for Syria, with its subordinate recommendations, applies point by point to Mesopotamia as truly as to Syria.
If the Peace Conference. the League of Nations, and the appointed Mandatary Power loyally carry out the policy of mandataries embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations, the most essential interests of Mesopotamia would be fully safeguarded-but only so.
2. We recommend, in the second place that the unity of Mesopotamia be preserved: the precise boundaries to be determined by a special commission on boundaries, after the mandate. has been assigned. It should probably include at least the Vilayets of Basra, Bagdad, and Mosul. And the Southern Kurds and Assyrians might well be linked up with Mesopotamia. The wisdom of a united country needs no argument in the case of Mesopotamia.
3. We recommend, in the third place, that Mesopotamia be placed under one Mandatary Power, as the natural way to secure real and efficient unity. The economic, political, social and educational development of the people all call for such a unified mandate. Only waste confusion, friction, and injury to the people's interests could come from attempting a division and "spheres of influence" on the part of several nations. But this implies that the Mandatary Power shall not itself be an exploiting power, but shall sacredly guard the people's rights.
4. Since it is plainly desirable that there be general harmony in the political and economic institutions and arrangements of Mesopotamia and Syria, and since the people themselves should have chief voice in determining the form of government under which they shall live we recommend that the Government of Mesopotamia, in harmony with the apparent desires of its people, be a Constitutional Monarchy, such as is proposed for Syria; and that the people of Mesopotamia be given opportunity to indicate their choice of Monarch, the choice to be reviewed and confirmed by the League of Nations. It may be fairly assumed that the 1,278 petitions from Syrians for the independence of Mesopotamia-68.5 per cent of the total number received-reflects the feeling in Mesopotamia itself; and such contact as we have been able to secure with Mesopotamians confirms the assumption, and leads to the belief that the program, presented at Aleppo by representative Mesopotamians, headed by Jaafar Pasha, Military Governor of the Aleppo District, and practically parallel to the Damascus Program, would be generally supported by the Mesopotamian people. Whether this support extends to each item in the program alike, and so to the naming of a King from the sons of the King of the Hedjaz, we have not sufficient data to determine, and so have recommended that a plebiscite be taken upon that point; although there is British evidence that many Mesopotamians have expressed themselves in favor of one of the sons of the King of the Hedjaz as Emir.
5. The Mesopotamian Program expresses its choice of America as Mandatary, and with no second choice. Undoubtedly there has been a good deal of feeling in Mesopotamia against Great Britain, and the petitions specifically charge the British authorities in Mesopotamia with considerable interference with freedom of opinion, of expression, and of travel,-much of which might be justified in time of military occupation. But feeling so stirred might naturally breed unwillingness to express desire for Great Britain as Mandatary.
On the other hand, the material in the pamphlet called "Copies and Translations of Declarations and other Documents relating to Self-Determination in Iraq" (Mesopotamia) was called out by an attempt on the part of the British Government in Mesopotamia to secure the opinions of leading men of all groups concerning "self-determination." This material just because reported directly to British officials, is doubtless somewhat more favorable to the British than it would otherwise be; hut it gives unquestionably good evidence of much opinion likely to choose a British mandate. And after all the range of choice of a mandatary, of sufficient power and experience and of essential justice, is decidedly limited, and it is by no means improbable that if the Mesopotamians were confronted by a refusal of America to take a mandate for Mesopotamia, they would make Great Britain at least second choice, as the majority of the Syrians did. There is supplementary evidence also upon this point.
Now it seems so unlikely that America could or would take a mandate for Mesopotamia, in addition to the possible consideration of Syria and Asia Minor, that the Commissioners recommend that the Peace Conference assign the mandate for Mesopotamia to Great Britain: because of the general reasons already given for recommending her as mandatary in Syria if America does not go in there, because she is probably best of all fitted for the particular task involved, in view of her long relations with the Arabs; in recognition of the sacrifices made by her in delivering Mesopotamia from the Turks, though with no acknowledgment of right of conquest, as her own statements expressly disclaim; because of the special interests she naturally has in Mesopotamia on account of its nearness to India and its close connections with Arabia; and because of work already done in the territory.
These reasons make it probable that the largest interests of the people of Mesopotamia as a whole will be best served by a British Mandate, in spite of the fact that from the point of view of world-interests, in the prevention of jealousy, suspicion, and fear of domination by a single Power, it were better for both Britain and the world that no further territory anywhere be added to the British Empire. A British mandate however, will have the decided advantage of tending to promote economic and educational unity throughout Mesopotamia and Syria whether Syria be under Great Britain or America-and so will reflect more fully than ever before, the close relations in language, customs, and trade between these parts of the former Turkish Empire.
In a country so rich as Mesopotamia in agricultural possibilities, in oil, and in other resources, with the best intentions there will inevitably be danger of exploitation and monopolistic control by the Mandatary Power, through making British interests supreme, and especially through large Indian immigration. This danger will need increasingly and most honestly to be guarded against. The Mesopotamians feel very strongly the menace particularly of Indian immigration, even though that immigration should be confined to Moslems. They dread the admixture of another people of entirely different race and customs, as threatening their Arabic civilization.
HENRY C KING,
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