Seven Pillars of Fiction

“The modern Middle East was born when the European powers exploited the declining Ottoman Empire’s entry into World War I to gobble up its lands. They did so by duping naive Arab nationalists to rise against their Ottoman suzerain and then cheated the Arabs of the fruits of their uprising.

So goes the popular narrative about the origins of the region’s troubles. It’s an emotionally gripping tale, but it’s also the inverse of truth. It wasn’t British officials but a Meccan potentate, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of the Hashemite family, who in the summer of 1915 hatched the idea of overthrowing the Ottoman Empire.

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