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Lawrence of Arabia and the Capture of Damascus

Mark Caruthers holds a Bachelor's degree in Geography and History from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville).

Hejaz Railway 1914


Battle for Arabia

Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British officer whose exploits the First World War earned him the legendary name of Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence was an Oxford educated archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer. He was born in Tremdoc, Wales, on August 16, 1888.

Soon after graduating from Oxford, he began working for the British army as an intelligence officer in Egypt in 1914. Early in the First World War he spent more than a year in Cairo processing military intelligence.

Lawrence's exploits became legendary when he assumed the role as a British liaison during the Arab Revolt against the Turks in the First World War. His narrative about his activities and associations, were vividly described in his writings which earned him international fame.

In 1916, he accompanied a British diplomat to Arabia, where he met Hussein ibn Ali, the emir of Mecca, who had declared an uprising against Turkish rule. Lawrence convinced his superiors to aid Hussein's rebellion, and he was sent to join the Arabian army of Hussein's son Faisal as a British advisor.

In 1917 and 1918, he and a small force of Arab Calvary won back Arabia from an invading Turkish Army. Lawrence helped lead a two-year revolt against the Turks which included major battles and dangerous missions behind enemy lines.

The Hejaz Railway was one of the greatest civil-engineering projects of the early 20th century. It was Turkey's attempt at building an empire in the modern Middle East. If it would have been completed it would have been possible to travel from Constantinople all the way to the Arabian city of Medina over 1800 miles away.

For nearly two years Lawrence's raiders systematically attacked bridges and isolated supply depots breaking the supply lines to frontline Turkish forces. Lawrence an expert in demolitions led the British and Arab force during this campaign of attrition.

By his own account Lawrence and is raiders blew up 79 bridges along the railway, becoming so skilled that he perfected a technique of leaving a bridge scientifically shattered. The bridge was ruined, but still standing, forcing Turkish engineers the time-consuming task of dismantling the wreckage before the bridge could be replaced.

By the end of the First World War, the damage to the railway was so extensive that most of it was abandoned, leaving a trail of desolation that still today, ninety years later, stretches 600 miles into the Arabian Desert. As Lawrence of Arabia in a 1962 film based on his wartime activities, he would become a major international figure years after his death.

Sykes-Picot Agreement

As the desert war with the Turks continued senior British officials began to increasingly regard Lawrence as the enemy within. Lawrence was considered malcontent who stood in the way of victorious leaders of Britain and France. As they began dividing the spoils of war, he attempted to stop them from carving up the region for their own self interests.

Lawrence's dream was to create an independent Arab nation with Syria as its heart. At the end of the First World War, France and Britain basically turned their back on their Arab allies and signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

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The future independent Arab nation was given the wastelands of Arabia, while the regions of value basically Iraq and Syria, were put under the Imperial spheres of Britain and France.

Since this agreement was put into law, a catalog of war, religious strife and brutal dictatorships has haunted the modern Middle East. It is as if the Arab people today have taken a page out of T.E. Lawrence's playbook, what is happening today in the Middle East is very similar to what Lawrence did a century ago.

Lawrence understood how a small group of men with explosives could defeat a modern army. If we fast forward to today what we have seen today in Iran is a force that follows Lawrence's game plan, the Quds Force.

The Quds Force, also known as the Jerusalem Force, has been given the ultimate goal of occupying Jerusalem and the destruction of Israel. The size of the Quds Force is unknown, but it's estimated to number around 15,000 soldiers.

Quds Force commanders report directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran. The Quds Force headquarters is located in the former compound of the U.S. Embassy, which was overrun during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

The Quds Force is the cream of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, it has the most well-deserved reputation as being one of the most organized, disciplined, and violent terrorist organizations in the world today.

For the past 30 years the Islamic Republic has been based on a fundamental alliance between the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Today the dynamic has changed to where the Revolutionary Guards Corps does both the ruling and the guarding.

The Quds are also deeply involved in the civil war in Syria. Soldiers of the Quds force have aided Bashar al-Assad, the commander and chief of the Syrian Armed Forces, destroy rebel forces who are attempting to take over his country.

The war's death toll has reached over 130,000 with a third of those involving civilians on both sides of the battle lines leaving half of Syria's citizens homeless.


Anderson Scott. LAWRENCE IN ARABIA : War, Deceit Imperial Folly and The Making Of The Modern Middle East . Random House New York, New York USA. 2013

Ansari Ali M. Confronting Iran : The Failure Of American Foreign Policy And The Next Great Conflict In The Middle East. Perseus Book Group & Basic Books 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016.

Crist David. The Twilight War . Penguin Group Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA. 2013

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