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in shades of pink indicate British possessions.
Once part of
the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Egypt was invaded by Napoleon
in 1798 to try to restrict British trade with the east. They were
driven out in 1801 by British and Turkish armies. In 1802 Egypt was restored
to the Ottoman Empire but ruled almost independently from Cairo by its
With the building and subsequent opening of the Suez Canal in 1869
Egypt became strategically important hastening Britain's purchase of the
canal in 1875. A nationalist revolt caused Britain to protect its
interests by occupying the country in 1882. Britain ruled the country
through its agent and Consul General Lord Cromer and in 1914 it
became a British Protectorate. With the establishing of a constitutional
monarchy headed by
King Faud I, Egypt was granted nominal independence on 28th February 1922. Britain retained control of defence and communications.
1936 saw the Anglo-Egyptian Alliance which ensured a British garrison remained for twenty years and then gradual withdrawal, but the plan was interrupted by WWII which saw heavy fighting between the British and Axis forces in North Africa.
Events after WWII particularly with the emerging state of Israel caused major political problems which in 1952 saw the overthrow of the monarchy led by Colonel Nasser of the Egyptian army and the proclamation of a Republic.
Egypt was never a member of the Commonwealth.
Built by the
French engineer Lesseps and opened in 1869, the canal was
purchased by Britain in 1875 and held as a British military
base from 1882 to 1955. In 1956 Egypt under President Nasser nationalized
the Suez Canal Company, causing the Suez War, which temporarily closed
the Canal. Attempts to establish an international authority to operate
the Canal failed.
The British and French entered into a military agreement with Israel who, concerned at the increasing number of Arab guerrilla raids, was ready to attack Egypt anyway. On 29th October Israel launched their attack, Britain and France issued an ultimatum demanding that both Israel and Egypt should withdraw from the Canal. This was rejected by President Nasser. British and French forces attacked Egyptian bases, and troops were landed at Port Said. The canal zone was secured but under pressure from the USA, who wanted to start influencing the area to forestall the Soviets, and mounting criticism of other nations, the British and French halted their operations and withdrew.
Further wars in the area closed the canal from 1967-1975.
being the reason for British control of former areas of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1913 Britain had acquired the Abadan oil field of Persia, and with the advent of WWI it was concerned to protect both the oil fields and the route to India. When the Ottoman Turks joined the war in October 1914 British and Indian troops occupied Basra in Mesopotamia. They began to advance towards Baghdad, but were halted at Kut-al-Amara. General Maude captured Kut in February 1917, entering Baghdad on 11th March. One contingent of British troops reached the oil fields of Baku in May 1918, which it occupied until September, when the Turks reoccupied it. A further contingent moved to capture Ramadi in September 1917 and another to capture Tikrit in July 1918, before advancing on Mosul. Meanwhile from Egypt General Allenby was advancing north into Palestine, aided by Arab partisans organized and led by T. E. Lawrence. (Lawrence of Arabia). In December 1917 Jerusalem was occupied, from where Allenby moved north towards Damascus in October 1918. After the armistice of Mudros on 30th October, British troops briefly reoccupied Baku from November 1918 until August 1919 aiming to deprive the Bolsheviks (after the Russian Revolution of 1917) of its oil. Britain had now occupied all Mesopotamia, and considered the possibility of creating a single British dominion of Mesopotamia, consisting of Palestine, and the present day areas of Jordan, Iraq, and parts of Iran.
After WWI Britain was given control of Palestine, Transjordan and Mesopotamia by mandate from the League of Nations.
With the British
Mandate and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain
recognised Jewish demand for a homeland, the Jewish population increased
from 10% in 1918 to 30% in 1936. In 1937 it was decided to partition Palestine
with Jewish and Arab states, this idea was dropped as WWII loomed. After
WWII Jewish immigration grew to such an extent that Britain, trying to
avert confrontation between Arab and Jew slowed the process resulting in
Jewish terrorism against British troops. The Palestine problem was submitted
to the UN in 1947 who passed the resolution of partition. Britain ended
the mandate on 14th May 1948 when the independent state of Israel
Palestine was established. In spite of the UN plan of 1947 Palestine ceased
to exist as a political entity after the Arab Israeli war of 1948. Problems
in the area continue.
Israel has never been a member of the Commonwealth.
the area was taken from the Turks and after WWI became part of the British
Mandate of Palestine. It was ruled by Abdullah ibn Hussein of the Hashemite
family under British auspices. On 25th March 1946 the country was
independence as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan with Hussein as King.
Jordan was never a Commonwealth member.
Under the British
Mandate from the League of Nations, Ahd Allah Faisal, son of Hussein
was recognized as King Faisal in 1921. On 3rd October 1932 independence
was granted and Britain's influence remained strong until the overthrow
of the monarchy in 1958. It was never a member of the Commonwealth.
Kuwait is a
constitutional monarchy and has been ruled by the al-Sabah family since
1756. In 1899 a treaty was signed with Britain effectively forming
a British Protectorate. Kuwait's vast oil reserves began to be tapped
by the Anglo-American Kuwait Oil Company in the 1930's. Becoming independent
on 19th June 1961 Kuwait warded off claims by Iraq with British
military assistance, it retained British military defence until 1971 and
did not join the Commonwealth.
of Bahrain dates from 1820, formally becoming a Protectorate in
1916. Bahrain took independence on
15th August 1971 and did not join the Commonwealth.
Qatar was tributary
to the Ottoman Turks until 1913. In 1916 it became a British
Protectorate and independence was achieved on 3rd September
1971. As with most Arab states it did not join the Commonwealth.
Made up of
several small Sheikhdoms who made treaties with Britain from 1820, they
became the British Protectorate
of the Trucial States in 1892. Each Sheikhdom rules with autonomy and became an independent federation called the
United Arab Emirates on 2nd December 1971, in the same year signing a Treaty of Friendship with Britain but not
joining the Commonwealth.
Oman (Muscat & Oman)
Oman was never a formal British possession. The East India Company set
up trading rights which were so advantageous administration of the area
was unnecessary. Various treaties of 'Peace, Friendship and Navigation'
were however signed with the British Government that guaranteed favourable
treatment. In return Britain would provide military assistance to support
the ruling Sultans. The Kuria Muria Islands off the coast of Oman
were a formal British possession having been ceded to Britain in 1854
and returned to Oman in 1967.
Muscat and Oman became Oman in 1970.
Various tribal insurrections were put down with British military assistance the latest in 1976. Britain's relationship with Oman remains strong.
South Yemen (Aden Protectorate)
The city port
of Aden was taken by the British in 1839, annexed to British
India it was strategically important especially after the opening of the
Suez Canal. Treaties with the neighbouring sheikhdoms and sultanates substantially
enlarged the original possession of Aden which became a Crown
Colony in 1937 including the islands of Kamaran, Perim and Socotra.
The whole area surrounding the Crown Colony became the Aden Protectorate.
Which in 1962 formed The Federation of South Arabia with Aden joining in
1963. During the civil war of 1965-1967 Britain attempted to keep the peace
but withdrew and on 30th November 1967 independence came as The
Peoples Republic of South Yemen, to become The Peoples Democratic Republic
of Yemen in 1970. It has since thrown off the communist yoke and united
with The Arab Republic of Yemen or North Yemen to become The Republic of