The ‘Clean Break’ Doctrine: A Modern-Day Sykes-Picot Waging War and Havoc in the Middle East
In 1996 a task force, led by Richard Perle, produced a policy document titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” for Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then in his first term as Prime Minister of Israel, as a how-to manual on approaching regime change in the Middle East and for the destruction of the Oslo Accords.
The “Clean Break” policy document outlined these goals: 1) Ending Yasser Arafat’s and the Palestinian Authority’s political influence, by blaming them for acts of Palestinian terrorism 2) Inducing the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. 3) Launching war against Syria after Saddam’s regime is disposed of 4) Followed by military action against Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
“Clean Break” was also in direct opposition to the Oslo Accords, to which Netanyahu was very much itching to obliterate. The Oslo II Accord was signed just the year before, on September 28th 1995, in Taba, Egypt.
During the Oslo Accord peace process, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu accused Rabin’s government of being “removed from Jewish tradition…and Jewish values.” Rallies organised by the Likud and other right-wing fundamentalist groups featured depictions of Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform or in the crosshairs of a gun. In July 1995, Netanyahu went so far as to lead a mock funeral procession for Rabin, featuring a coffin and hangman’s noose.
The Oslo Accords was the initiation of a process which was to lead to a peace treaty based on the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and at fulfilling the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” If such a peace treaty were to occur, with the United States backing, it would have prevented much of the mayhem that has occurred since. However, the central person to ensuring this process, Yitzak Rabin, was assassinated just a month and a half after the signing of the Oslo II Accord, on November 4th, 1995. Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel seven months later. “Clean Break” was produced the following year.
On November 6th, 2000 in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, who was the chief negotiator of the Oslo peace accords, warned those Israelis who argued that it were impossible to make peace with the Palestinians:
“Zionism was founded in order to save Jews from persecution and anti-Semitism, and not in order to offer them a Jewish Sparta or – God forbid – a new Massada.”
On Oct. 5, 2003, for the first time in 30 years, Israel launched bombing raids against Syria, targeting a purported “Palestinian terrorist camp” inside Syrian territory. Washington stood by and did nothing to prevent further escalation.
“Clean Break” was officially launched in March 2003 with the war against Iraq, under the pretence of “The War on Terror”. The real agenda was a western backed list of regime changes in the Middle East to fit the plans of the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Israel. However, the affair is much more complicated than that with each player holding their own “idea” of what the “plan” is. Before we can fully appreciate such a scope, we must first understand what was Sykes-Picot and how did it shape today’s world mayhem.
[Feature Image: Prince Faisal party at Versailles Conference, 1919. Left to right: Rustam Haidar,, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal's slave (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri.]
WWI was to officially start July 28th 1914, almost immediately following the Balkan wars (1912-1913) which had greatly weakened the Ottoman Empire. Never one to miss an opportunity when smelling fresh blood, the British were very keen on acquiring what they saw as strategic territories for the taking under the justification of being in war-time, which in the language of geopolitics translates to “the right to plunder anything one can get their hands on”.
The brilliance of Britain’s plan to garner these new territories was not to fight the Ottoman Empire directly but rather, to invoke an internal rebellion from within. These Arab territories would be encouraged by Britain to rebel for their independence from the Ottoman Empire and that Britain would support them in this cause. These Arab territories were thus led to believe that they were fighting for their own freedom when, in fact, they were fighting for British and secondarily French colonial interests.
In order for all Arab leaders to sign on to the idea of rebelling against the Ottoman Sultan, there needed to be a viable leader that was Arab, for they certainly would not agree to rebel at the behest of Britain. Lord Kitchener, the butcher of Sudan, was to be at the helm of this operation as Britain’s Minister of War. Kitchener’s choice for Arab leadership was the scion of the Hashemite dynasty, Hussein ibn Ali, known as the Sherif of Mecca who ruled the region of Hejaz under the Ottoman Sultan. Hardinge of the British India Office disagreed with this choice and wanted Wahhabite Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud instead, however, Lord Kitchener overruled this stating that their intelligence revealed that more Arabs would follow Hussein.
Since the Young Turk Revolution which seized power of the Ottoman government in 1908, Hussein was very aware that his dynasty was in no way guaranteed and thus he was open to Britain’s invitation to crown him King of the Arab kingdom.
Kitchener wrote to one of Hussein’s sons, Abdallah, as reassurance of Britain’s support: “If the Arab nation assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give Arabs every assistance against foreign aggression.”
Sir Henry McMahon who was the British High Commissioner to Egypt, would have several correspondences with Sherif Hussein between July 1915 to March 1916 to convince Hussein to lead the rebellion for the “independence” of the Arab states.
However, in a private letter to India’s Viceroy Charles Hardinge sent on December 4th, 1915, McMahon expressed a rather different view of what the future of Arabia would be, contrary to what he had led Sherif Hussein to believe:
“[I do not take] the idea of a future strong united independent Arab State … too seriously … the conditions of Arabia do not and will not for a very long time to come, lend themselves to such a thing.”
Such a view meant that Arabia would be subject to Britain’s heavy handed “advising” in all its affairs, whether it sought it or not.
In the meantime, Sherif Hussein was receiving dispatches issued by the British Cairo office to the effect that the Arabs of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia (Iraq) would be given independence guaranteed by Britain, if they rose up against the Ottoman Empire.
The French were understandably suspicious of Britain’s plans for these Arab territories. The French viewed Palestine, Lebanon and Syria as intrinsically belonging to France, based on French conquests during the Crusades and their “protection” of the Catholic populations in the region. Hussein was adamant that Beirut and Aleppo were to be given independence and completely rejected French presence in Arabia. Britain was also not content to give the French all the concessions they demanded as their “intrinsic” colonial rights.
Enter Sykes and Picot.
Sykes-Picot: the Gentlemen’s Etiquette on Backstabbing
Francois Georges Picot was sent to negotiate with the British on November 23rd, 1915. He was chosen for this role due to his policy outlook of the “Syrian party” in France, which asserted that Syria and Palestine (which they considered a single country) were French property, for historical, economic, and cultural reasons. Approximately six months later, the top secret terms of the agreement were signed on May 16th, 1916. The map showcases the agreed upon ‘carving up’ of these Arab territories, to be the new jewels of Britain and France.
Notice Palestine is marked as an international zone in yellow. Palestine was recognised as something neither country was willing to forfeit to the other. And thus, according to the gentlemen’s etiquette, meant that one would simply have to take it while the other wasn’t looking, which is exactly what happened.
In 1916, Sir Mark Sykes created the Arab Bureau whose headquarters would be in Cairo, Egypt (which was under British rule), as a branch of British Intelligence and under the direction of Lord Kitchener. Among the notable members of the Arab Bureau was T.E. Lawrence, better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”. The raison d’être of the Arab Bureau was to exact British control over Arabia via British Egypt.
The Arab revolt, led under the façade of King Hussein, was launched in Hejaz in early June 1916, however, the hundreds of thousands of Arabs the British were expecting to defect from the Ottoman army and join the revolt…did not show up. Instead, British aircraft and ships were deployed, along with Muslim troops from British Egypt and elsewhere in the Empire. As the revolt continued to show its weaknesses and lack of support by the Arabs themselves, to such a point that Britain was starting to despair of its success, T.E. Lawrence (who was known as “the man with the gold”), organised a confederation of Bedouin tribal chiefs to fight alongside the British forces in the Palestine and Syria campaigns.
In 1917, War Minister Lloyd George ordered troops from British Egypt to invade Palestine, expressing his wish to General Allenby that Jerusalem be taken by Christmas. Obligingly, on December 11th 1917, Allenby walked into Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate and declared martial law over the city (see picture). Allenby explained to Picot, that Jerusalem would remain under British military administration, for some time.
The British India Office invaded Mesopotamia and took Baghdad on March 11th, 1917. The southern province of Basra, largely Shi’ite, was to be British, while the ancient capital of Baghdad was to be under some form of British protectorate.
After the British conquests of Palestine and Mesopotamia, Syria would be taken by September 1918 by British led forces and Damascus would ultimately, after a bit of squabbling, be left under French control or “advisory”.
The final settlement for allocation of territories was established in 1920 with the Treaty of Sevres which stipulated that Syria and Lebanon were to go to France, and that Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine would be under British control with Arabia (Hejaz) being officially “independent” but ruled by British puppet monarchs. Britain was also granted continued influence over Egypt, Cyprus and the Persian Gulf coast.
Faisal, the son of Hussein ibn Ali and who had been under the “tutelage” of T.E. Lawrence this whole time, was proclaimed King of Iraq, after his failed attempt as King over Greater Syria before the French chased him out with their military, recognising that he represented British interests.
As for Persia (Iran), the British established their control through the infamous Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919, with Ahmed Shah.
In 1926 the Mosul Treaty was signed where Iraq got nominal control over the oil region and the interests were divvied up among British (52.5%), French (21.25%) and American (21.25%) oil companies.
As far as central Arabia was concerned, Hussein laid claim to the title Caliph in 1924, which his rival Wahhabite Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud rejected and declared war, defeating the Hashemites. Hussein abdicated and ibn Saud, the favourite of the British India Office, was proclaimed King of Hejaz and Najd in 1926, which led to the founding of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Fate of Palestine
While the British were promising Arab rule and independence to the Hashemite Hussein and his sons, the British were simultaneously promising a homeland in Palestine to the Jews. In the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd, 1917 the following was declared:
“His majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object…”
Britain received the mandate over Palestine from the League of Nations in July 1922.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs took place in Palestine costing hundreds of lives. In 1936 a major Arab revolt occurred over 7 months, until diplomatic efforts involving other Arab countries led to a ceasefire. In 1937, a British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by William Peel concluded that Palestine had two distinct societies with irreconcilable political demands, thus making it necessary to partition the land.
The Arab Higher Committee refused Peel’s “prescription” and the revolt broke out again. This time, Britain responded with a devastatingly heavy hand. Roughly 5,000 Arabs were killed by the British armed forces and police. Following the riots, the British mandate government dissolved the Arab Higher Committee and declared it an illegal body.
In response to the revolt, the British government issued the White Paper of 1939, which stated that Palestine should be a bi-national state, inhabited by both Arabs and Jews. Due to the international unpopularity of the mandate including within Britain itself, it was organised such that the United Nations would take responsibility for the British initiative and adopted the resolution to partition Palestine on November 29th, 1947. Britain would announce its termination of its Mandate for Palestine on May 15th, 1948 after the State of Israel declared its independence on May 14th, 1948.
A New Strategy for Securing Whose Realm?
Despite what its title would have you believe, “Clean Break” is neither a “new strategy” nor meant for “securing” anything. It is also not the brainchild of fanatical neo-conservatives: Dick Cheney and Richard Perle, nor even that of crazed end-of-days fundamentalist Benjamin Netanyahu, but rather has the very distinct and lingering odour of the British Empire.
“Clean Break” is a continuation of Britain’s geopolitical game, and just as it used France during the Sykes-Picot days it is using the United States and Israel. The role Israel has found itself playing in the Middle East could not exist if it were not for over 30 years of direct British occupation in Palestine and its direct responsibility for the construction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which set a course for destruction and endless war in this region long before Israel ever existed.
It was also Britain who officially launched operation “Clean Break” by directly and fraudulently instigating an illegal war against Iraq to which the Chilcot Inquiry, aka Iraq Inquiry, released 7 years later, attests to. This was done by the dubious reporting by British Intelligence setting the pretext for the U.S.’ ultimate invasion into Iraq based off of fraudulent and forged evidence provided by GCHQ, unleashing the “War on Terror”, aka “Clean Break” outline for regime change in the Middle East.
In addition, the Libyan invasion in 2011 was also found to be unlawfully instigated by Britain. In a report published by the British Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2016, it was concluded that it was “the UK and France in March 2011 which led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi”. The report concluded that the Libyan intervention was based on false pretence provided by British Intelligence and recklessly promoted by the British government.
Therefore, though the U.S. and Israeli military have done a good job at stealing the show, and though they certainly believe themselves to be the head of the show, the reality is that this age of empire is distinctly British and anyone who plays into this game will ultimately be playing for said interests, whether they are aware of it or not.
[This article was originally published on May 18, 2020.]
Cynthia Chung is the President of the Rising Tide Foundation and a writer at Strategic Culture Foundation, consider supporting her work by making a donation and subscribing to her substack page. This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.