British Prime Minister Lloyd George, during his speech to Parliament on January 5, 1918, reassured Parliament’s Members that there wouldn’t be a war for Istanbul, Anatolia or Thrace. In these lands, the Turkish population was the majority. The truth is, Lloyd George was only trying to cause a diversion and tried to convince his people and the Ottoman Empire that it would not claim these territories.
Furthermore, there was no suggestion of the occupation of Istanbul in the Armistice of Mudros that marked the end of WWI for the Ottoman Empire. On the contrary, Admiral Calthorpe, who signed the Armistice on behalf of the Allied Powers, gave his verbal assurance that the British didn’t intend to occupy Istanbul and terminate the Ottoman administration or seize the control of the Ottoman military forces. The Ottoman delegation that returned to Istanbul after the Armistice brought along the personal letter of Calthorpe with them. In this letter, Calthorpe reassured that French and British soldiers would be stationed only at the Straits and a small unit from the Turkish army would be allowed to remain there as a sign of Ottoman sovereignty.
However, only thirteen days after the Armistice, the British and French troops entered Istanbul. Calthorpe, who had personally promised that Istanbul wouldn’t be occupied, was appointed as the British high commissioner and the first thing he did was arrest two hundred people from Tevfik Pasha’s government and exile thirty of them to Malta. All those who were arrested were Turkish and Muslim administrators. With this move, Calthorpe gave a clear message that Istanbul was under occupation and that anyone refusing to cooperate with the occupational forces would be punished in the harshest manner. He later sent a message to Foreign Office, assuring them that the arrests were “very satisfactory“ and intimidated the leaders of a potential insurgency in Istanbul. (Gary Jonathan Bass, Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals, Princeton University Press, p. 121)
Many officers, who were previously blacklisted during the war, were also exiled. When the British set foot in Istanbul, they started a manhunt not only in Istanbul, but all of Turkey. Their first demand was the capture and punishment of nine Turkish commanders: Ali Ihsan Pasha (Commander of the Sixth Army), Fahrettin Pasha (Commander of V Cavalry Corps), Nuri Pasha (Commander of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus), Mürsel Bey (Commander of the 5th Caucasian Division), Yakub Shevki Pasha (Commander of the Ninth Army), Nihat Pasha (Chief of Staff of the Second Army in Pozanti), Galip Pasha (Commander of the 40th Yemen division) and Tewfik Pasha (Commander of the Seventh Corps in Yemen). It was clear that these Turkish commanders were specifically selected for their outstanding performance against and/or defeat of the British as they bravely defended their country. However, the British deep state failed terribly in its judgment of Turkish patriotism as it believed that targeting commanders would work. As the following days would make clear, capturing and exiling 100-150 people of a deeply patriotic nation who had always lived independently would do nothing to cause them to falter in their fight for independence.
Yakub Shevki Pasha, who refused to dissolve the Ninth Army, ignored the British order to hand over arms and ammunition and instead moved his food stocks to the West. Naturally, he was on top of the ‘to be exiled to Malta’ list of the British. Like him, all the members of the Kars Parliament would be exiled to Malta. Halil Pasha and Mehmed Djemal Pasha from the Caucasian Army, and many Turkish officers like Ali Rifat and Mürsel Bey, who were division commanders, were blacklisted by the British in the first months of the Armistice. Meanwhile, the plans to capture, try and exile these commanders were underway in the occupation headquarters.
Many pro-British intellectuals and diplomats considered the promises made prior to the occupation as guarantees. However, after the Armistice, British Prime Minister Lloyd George claimed that his previous statements weren’t a guarantee for the Turks, but were rather intended to reassure his own public and particularly the Indian Muslims who didn’t want to fight other Muslims. He hoped that this would justify the occupation.
It is important to keep one thing in mind: the British deep state might make statements to create a diversion, they might pretend to be friends, make promises or sign official letters. However, all these promises have absolutely no effect on the representatives of the deep state and their determination to carry out their original plans. They will never stop trying to realize their sinister plans made centuries ago behind closed doors. Therefore, falling for deceptive words could prove disastrous for the future.