At the end of the First World War the modern Middle East was created by Britain and France, who carved up the old Ottoman possessions with scant regard for the wishes of those who lived there. Frontiers were devised and alien dynasties imposed on the populations as arbitrarily as in mediaeval times. It was destined from the outset to failure. Promises had been made to the Arabs during the War, but were not honoured, and brief hopes for Arab unity were dashed, leading to a bitter belief in western perfidy that persists to the present day. Britain was quick to see the riches promised by the black pools of oil that lay on the ground around Baghdad, and when France too grasped their importance, bitter differences opened up between the two allies, and the areas became a focus of a return to the traditional enmity between them.
Walter Reid studied at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, and has written a number of highly acclaimed works of military history: Arras, 1917 (new edn. Birlinn 2011), Architect of Victory: Douglas Haig (Birlinn 2006) and Churchill 1940 -1945: Under Friendly Fire (Birlinn, 2008).