Cairo Conference, 1921

This formal photograph of the Cairo Conference of 1921, held to tie up the loose ends left from the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, emphasizes how the conference itself was a formality. The main decisions - Iraq and Transjordan wereto be British-controlled, Syria to become a French mandate, Hussein, an old ally, to be abandoned - had all been taken in advance. Sir Basil Liddell Hart later wrote: "Everything staged before they went out... Talk about leaving things to man on spot - we left nothing." Among the delegates are the principal conspirators: Churchill (centre front), Lawrence (second row, centre) and Gertrude Bell (second row, second from left).

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by Stephen Luscombe