By A. B. Gaunson
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Additional resources for The Anglo-French Clash in Lebanon and Syria, 1940–45
This mission was useful when the time came to fight in Syria, but for Anglo-Free French relations it was a stumbling-block. Without frustrating Free French plans to control the Levant, it nourished the myth of a ubiquitous network of Arabophiles. Yet it was not so much relentless British teamwork - as de Gaulle claimed - but the dilapidated machinery of British power in the Middle East which allowed such incidents to occur. However, recriminations were yet to come. As the winter receded, Middle East Command was largely preoccupied with other theatres; Catroux bided his time, looking for some chink in Dentz's armour; and de Gaulle made the arduous journey from London to central Africa, and north to Khartoum and Cairo.
Baxter was 'useless as Head of Eastern Department', and 'a bone-head' according to Eden's Secretary. 56 The subtle shift in responsibilities from Whitehall to various Middle Eastern centres was aided by the clumsy structure of Britain's Arab Ominous Overtures 25 empire. As mandates, Palestine and Transjordan came under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. The former was governed by MacMichael (High Commissioner), the latter carefully monitored by Kirkbride, who was attached to the government of Abdullah.
46 Events had compelled the Foreign Office to give more emphasis to Arab aspirations, in spite of French suspicions. The Rashid Ali revolt and the German threat had made Arab attitudes crucial to British security. In Cairo, as in London, the military decision raised urgent questions about the future political status of the Levant. What should be the political tactics and purposes of Operation Exporter in the context of Arab unrest? There was, of course, a standing agreement to implement Catroux's appeal to Levant nationalism ifthe circumstances were favourable.