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View series: The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century

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Arab Plans for Unity: “Greater Syria” and the “Fertile Crescent”

This map is part of a series of 18 animated maps showing the history of The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century.

The sons of Sharif Hussein, Faisal and Abdallah, were made kings of Baghdad and of Amman by the English. Because of the role they played in the 1916 Arab Revolt, they saw themselves as the natural defenders of Arab unity.

After 1920 and the arrival of his brother Faisal on the Iraqi throne, Abdallah in Transjordan never gave up hope of creating a Syrian kingdom. In the early 1930s, he drew up a plan for unity, known as “Greater Syria” which included Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

This plan met with opposition from another project being developed at the same time in Iraq: the “Fertile Crescent”, a single territory covering Iraq and Syria, with the possibility of extending later into Transjordan, Lebanon and Palestine.

Both these plans included a solution for the Palestine Question which included some autonomy for the Jewish nation and a halt to Jewish immigration.

During the 1940s, nationalist leaders in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine were passionately opposed to these initiatives since their own power was threatened and they suspected – wrongly, as it turned out – that the British supported the plans.

Egypt, fearing isolation at a time when it was seeking to extend its authority in the region, did everything in its power to undermine them with the support of Saudi Arabia, the implacable enemy of Sharif Hussein and his sons.