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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Clayton, Iltyd
Cox, Percy
Hussein, Feisal bin al-

33.5138073, 36.2765279

Thurs. Oct. 9. [9 October 1919] Went with Major Clayton to see the
Amir Zaid who was very friendly. He had previously asked Clayton
whether he might speak openly to me and proceeded to do so. He
talked of Mesopotamian grievances and especially of the reports
brought back by Nafi Suwaidi. His return has certainly not redounded
to our credit. He said that the return of Sir Percy to Mesopotamia
would be welcomed by all. I went from him to Major Clayton's house
where my first visitor was Maulud Mukhlis, now a brigadier. His
mother was of the 'Ubaid tribe his father from somewhere near Mosul
[Mawsil, Al] and had always lived at Mosul. Maulud was an officer in
the Turkish army, came in soon after Sha'aibah and was sent to India
whence he joined the Sharif. He arrived in the Hijaz almost
immediately after the Thorat al 'Arab had begun and boasts that he
and Lawrence were the first officers of the Sharif's army. He was left
very badly wounded at Ma'an when the advance on Damascus
[Dimashq (Esh Sham, Damas)] began. A bearded man of about 30,
has the reputation of being an excellent soldier but nothing more. A
member of the Ahd al 'Iraqi. He questioned me as to the nature of the
Govt which we should set up in Mesopotamia and I was giving him an
outline of government under a mandate when Yasin Pasha came in
with [space left blank]. I asked him him views as to the army of
occupation in the 'Iraq explaining that there was no Arab army and
that without a show of force no Govt could collect taxes or preserve
order in our wild tribal districts. He was forced to acknowledge that a
British army of occupation was necessary at the very beginning but
maintained that an Arab army could be formed in 6 months and that
as long as we were in armed occupation the soverainty [sic] must be
in our hands. While he was talking 'Abdul Rahman came in and I
explained to him the matter under discussion. He agreed with me that
it would take longer than Yasin reckoned to form anything like an
adequate native army. Yasin then began to talk of education to which
he said we had purposely paid little attention. He would be content to
leave all soverainty and administration in our hands if we would
provide the young men of the 'Iraq with sound education and wished
to see a school there on the lines of the Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)]
Kolliyah. I explained our difficulties, lack of teachers chiefly, and said
it was better to go slowly till we had adequate men. He said it would
have been better to continue the Turkish schools and improve them
gradually; the fruit of a small tree being preferable to none; to which I
replied that the fruit which was being offered by the Turks was poison.
He disagreed on the advantage of setting up first a good system of
primary schools with a few secondary schools followed by technical
schools. He wants a university training to begin at once, "otherwise
you may create good farmers and engineers but after 50 years' time
we shall be no further forward in obtaining a class of highly educated
men fit to take on the government of the country." 'Abdul Rahman
asked me what I thought as to the future of the country. I said my own
opinion was that the French would not relinquish their claims but that
they had given way on the question of the independent Arab state
and that I saw no reason why it should not keep in close touch with the
'Iraq state or why the administrative institutions of both should not be
very similar. \n\nAfter these had left came Nuri Sha'lan with
complaints of Fahad ibn Hadhdhal. Three weeks ago the 'Amarat
under Mahrut had raided the Ruwallah and carried off camels. He
said we supplied them with arms and money. I denied that we gave
them arms and said that our money payments were insignificant as
compared with the subsidies received on this side. He said we had
no reason to be grateful to Ibn Hadhdhal who had never struck a blow
against the Turks and had failed to dislodge 'Ajaimi. I said that that
was our business and that I thought that Beduin would always be
raiders and that the best thing was to let them fight it out with one
another. In that case he would be fully in the right if he raided the
'Amarat and recaptured his camels. NB Major Clayton says it will be
a raid on a very large scale as he will take the Howaitat and others of
the 'Anazah group with him. Tazzu' Ibn Mijlad is now in his tents but
with few followers. If the 'Iraq administration decides to intervene, it will
have to make Ibn Hadhdhal give back the raided camels. Ibn
Sha'lan said it was all wrong that tribes who were allies of the English
should fight one another. Zaid had spoken to me of this matter and
urged that it was in the interest both of Syria and of the 'Iraq to
discourage tribal warfare so that the tribes on either side might settle
down peacefully, but when I spoke to Ibn Sha'lan of the settling of
Beduin and said it would be some time before it happened, he
laughed acquiescence. Nuri is between 70 and 80 but does not look
his age - a much younger man that Fahad Bey. Very attractive, a
twinkle in his eye combined with great dignity. \n\nOn his heels came
Ibrahim Hilmi, editor of the Lisan al 'Arab. A man of 25 or younger, a
Baghdadi, very pro-British in his views. He came here at the
occupation and was helped by Mr Lawrence to obtain a printing press
and start a paper. He has been writing articles favourable to our
administration in the 'Iraq and is anxious that his paper should obtain
a circulation there. He thinks that these views coming from a man who
is living under an independent Arab Govt would carry conviction and
be good propaganda for us. \n\nLt. Col Bell, who is at Aleppo [Halab]
in a {military} political job came to lunch. His telegraphic address is
Polnor, Aleppo. His area runs up to Kharput [Harput]. He says
Mustafa Kamal's army is worth nothing at all. \n\nMajor Clayton
developed the theme that the best bulwark against pan-Islamism was
a strong Arab block detached from the Turks. Pan-Islamism could
never flourish in contented and prosperous Arab dominions and the
wind would be taken out of Turkish propaganda. \n\nAfter lunch came
Muhammad Bassam who explained to me that to sell goods dear to
the enemy was a way of working against him! He has made a lot of
money (and lost some) by juggling with exchanges. \n\nThen Rashid
al Hashimi who is with Yasin. He is a violent member of the Ahd. In a
public speech he talked of the Tigris running with blood at some future
date; whose blood he did not mention, but since it could only be
British or Arab 'Ali Ridha Rikabi imprisoned him on the spot. I read
him a lesson. \n\nTo tea with 'Ali Ridha, accompanied by Major
Clayton, after which we called on Captain Brunton who is I.O. here and
knows the town like the inside of his pocket. He says the Shawam as
a whole are sick of the whole business and for the sake of peace and
quiet would probably accept a French mandate without a murmur.
They hate Baghdadi and Hijazi and even the halo of romance which
hung round Faisal is growing dim. For trade languishes and they
have had enough of uncertainty and insecurity and of a govt. worse
than that of the Turks. I asked about 'Izz ud Din al Saraji and heard
that he was considered quite untrustworthy. He had been used for
intelligence purposes and had to be discarded as he intrigued all
round, even with the French. The Damascenes fear that with an Arab
govt. they would find themselves under the thumb of the Beduin. Nuri
or Nawwaf are always here and have much influence with Faisal who
depends on them to hold the desert. \n\nDined with the Newcombs,
Zaid, Major Clayton, Col. Bell and I were the party. Very pleasant.
Zaid talked of the Shammar Jaiba'[?] and admitted that 'Abdul 'Aziz
bored him to tears. He's thankful that he has gone back.

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