Except for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaigns, the extensive combat operations in the Middle East during World War I have been largely overlooked in documentary programs. Given the historical significance of the Ottoman Empire’s demise in 1918, and the ongoing importance of Middle Eastern oil reserves to Western economies, a close study of this conflict provides two important lessons: 1. The Treaty of Versailles, agreed to by the Western Powers in 1919, paved the way for military and political chaos in the Middle East, which continues to this very day; 2. Oil reserves in the Middle East became an important strategic concern for Western Powers, helping to justify their economic, diplomatic and military interference in the region.
After the end of World War I, most of the Ottoman Empire was carved up into “spheres of influence”, controlled mostly by the British and French. The remaining territories became the modern state of Turkey in 1923 – after a five-year struggle by Turkish nationalists against Western domination. With little regard for cultural, historical, religious and demographic considerations, the West sponsored the creation of several new nations: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Thus, a “tinderbox” was built from Western greed, igniting a multitude of wars, revolts, coups and military occupations that truly have made the defeat of the Ottoman Empire little more than a hollow victory.
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