McMahon-Hussein Correspondence refers to an exchange of letters between Sharif Husayn Ibn Ali of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon of Britain detailing the future of the Arab world in the face of a possible annexation by the Ottoman Turks. The background to this communication can be traced to early 1914 when Sharif Husayn’s son, Amir, paid a visit to the then British Consular in Egypt, Lord Kitchener, seeking British assurance that they would offer their support incase Arabs opted to revolt against Turkey.
While at first Kitchner was reluctant to make any commitment, his successor in the region, McMahon, upon sensing the dwindling British fortunes in the Middle East, made hefty promises to garner the Arabs support during the First World War. It is during this period that McMahon would initiate correspondence with Husayn. The Husayn family emerged to be an influential force in the Middle East as it lay claim to be the descendant of Muhammad and held the mantle leadership of a number of kingdoms in the region (Daly 215).
The issue of McMahon-Hussein correspondence has emerged highly controversial and is held to be at the core of the crisis in the Middle East. It is regarded as an important correspondence by the Palestinians as it was seen as a commitment by the British of granting them independence. In these series of letters, Husayn had asked for Arabs independence, he outlined these areas to be the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine and Iraq amongst others.
McMahon on the other hand made a commitment to ensure the independence of a number of territories which would not damage the existing cordial relations with France. Arabs in the Middle East have maintained that British had promised independence to the Palestinians; on the other hand, Britain claims that this was merely a declaration of intent that was not legally binding and cannot be used to lay claim of independence to the Palestinians (Mack 123).