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Enver Pasha and the Britain

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Published: Thu, 21 Sep 2017

Ä°smail Ä°lker Yürüyen

Ismail Enver was born in near Constantinople, Istanbul, on 23 November 1881 to a working-class family from Monastir, today’s Macedonia. His father, Ahmed, was a Turk, who rose from being a porter to a railway official and acquired the honorable title Bey. Enver’s mother, Aisha, was an Albanian from the Monastir region.

He was an Ottoman general and commander in chief, a hero of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, and a leading member of the Ottoman government from 1913 to 1918. He became the main leader of the Ottoman Empire in both the Balkan Wars in 1912-13 and in World War I in 1914-18. In the course of his career, he was known by increasingly elevated titles as he rose through military ranks, including Enver Efendi, Enver Bey, and finally Enver Pasha.

By January 13, 1914, Enver had made himself Minister of War and played a key role in the Ottoman entry into World War I on the side of Germany. He influenced his associates into an alliance with Germany signed secretly on August 2. Subsequently, he approved the German bombardment of Odessa and Sevastopol, which precipitated the Ottoman Empire’s entry into World War I.

An organizer of the Young Turk Revolution, Enver joined General Mahmud Åževket, under whose command an “Army of Deliverance” advanced to Constantinople to depose the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II. In 1911, when warfare broke out between Italy and the Ottoman Empire, he organized the Ottoman resistance in Libya, and in 1912 he was appointed the governor of Benghazi.

Back in Constantinople, he participated in the politics of the Committee of Union and Progress, leading the coup d’état of January 23, 1913, which restored his party to power. In the Second Balkan War of 1913, Enver was chief of the general staff of the Ottoman army. On July 22, 1913, he recaptured Edirne from the Bulgars; and until 1918, the empire was dominated by the triumvirate of Enver, Talat PaÅŸa, and Cemal PaÅŸa.

In 1914, Enver, as minister of war, was instrumental in the signing of a defensive alliance with Germany against Russia. When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers in November 1914, Enver cooperated closely with German officers serving in the Ottoman army. His military plans included Pan-Turkic, or Pan-Turanian, schemes for uniting the Turkic people of Russian Central Asia with the Ottoman Turks.

These plans resulted in the disastrous defeat in December 1914 at Sarıkamış, where he lost most of the 3rd Army. However, he recovered his prestige when the Allied forces withdrew from the Dardanelles in 1915-16. In 1918, following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Russia’s withdrawal from the war, he occupied Bakü. After the Armistice in Europe, Enver fled to Germany on November 1918.

In Berlin, he met the Bolshevik leader Karl Radek, and in 1920 he went to Moscow. He proposed the idea of overthrowing the regime of Mustafa Kemal in Turkey with Soviet aid, but this plan received no support from Moscow. Though the Russian leaders became suspicious of him, Enver was nevertheless allowed to go to Turkistan with a plan for helping to organize the Central Asian republics. Yet, in 1921, the revolt of the Basmachi in Bukhara against the Soviet regime flared up, and Enver joined the insurgents. He was killed in action against the Red Army.

After having provided Enver Pasha’s short biography, this essay will try to state Enver’s relation with the Britain by considering the situation of his being minister of war, the person who is responsible of the whole Ottoman army.

In 1909 or 1910, Enver Bey was sent to London to fetch military goods. The British media announced him as the ‘Turkish Garibaldi’ because Garibaldi was an Italian general who revolutionized Italy and made it what it is today. It’s clearly understood that the British media admired Enver PaÅŸa and considered him equal to Garibaldi.

Enver PaÅŸa was persona non grata for Britain. By 1908, Britain joined the alliance between France and Russia against the alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italia. Thus, Britain started to welcome Russia’s interests on Istanbul and France’s interests on Syria.  Enver Bey, who is considered to be the leader of the unionists, had no choice but to ask for Germany’s help. Since France and Britain rejected the Ottoman’s demand for money for its own debts, it was Germany that helped Ottoman Empire. As Enver Bey joined the alliance with Germany, a powerful country, he was always disliked by Britain, for he blocked their interests.

During the Italo-Turkish War in 1911-12, Enver Bey went to Libya to defend the Ottoman’s territory along with Mustafa Kemal. He was a major and had the highest rank there. Since the previously overthrown Sultan, Abdülhamid II, made the navy dysfunctional, Enver needed army troops. Ottoman Empire couldn’t send the necessary troops since Britain had invaded Egypt and she didn’t allow Ottoman troops go through Egypt. Eventually, Ottoman Empire lost Tripolitania mostly because of Britain.

The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from Britain and the Indian Empire, and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire. It took place between 6 November 1914 and 14 November 1918. Enver PaÅŸa was the minister of war and Ottoman forces was defeated in this campaign. It was resulted in allied victory and the Treaty of Sèvres.

The only success for Ottoman Empire during this campaign was the Siege of Kut. Halil Bey, uncle of Enver Pasha, managed to capture the British general Townshend along with his garrison. British leaders attempted to buy their troops out. Aubrey Herbert and T. E. Lawrence were part of a team of officers sent to negotiate a secret deal with the Ottomans. The British offered £2 million (£122,300,000 today) and promised they would not fight the Ottomans again, in exchange for Townshend’s troops. Enver Pasha ordered that this offer be rejected. Historian Christopher Catherwood has called the siege “the worst defeat of the Allies in World War I”.

The Raids on the Suez Canal, also known as Actions on the Suez Canal, took place between 26 January and 5 August 1916 after a German-led Ottoman Army force advanced from Southern Palestine to attack the British Empire-protected Suez Canal, before the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. Ottoman troops were led by Cemal PaÅŸa, Minister of the Navy, who was under the command of Enver PaÅŸa, Minister of War. These two raids resulted in failure for Ottoman Empire.

As conjectured in the story published in the Telegraph, Britain offered $5 million to the Ottomans to allow them to cross the straits of Çanakkale, and another $2 million to the Ottomans to get them to pull their troops out of Palestine. The story also says that an international arms dealer by the name of Basil Zaharoff was responsible for the talks between the two sides. The Telegraph story also says that Enver Pasha was contacted by a civil servant by the name of Kerim Bey in Vienna, who was working for the Ottoman Empire’s Loan Bureau there, and that the suggested bribe later went up to the astonishing figure of $10 million dollars.

It can be easily understood these bribe offers were made before the outbreak of the WWI because it outbroke on July 28 and Ottoman Empire joined the war five days later on August 2 in alliance with Germany. Britain wouldn’t make such an offer when Ottoman Empire was already her enemy. Enver PaÅŸa could accept these offers for the sake of his country’s economy but he rejected them because he knew that his country would be under the risk of Russians if they received aid from the British. Thus, he prevented British navy from sailing to Black Sea.

Although it seems to be ‘win for Britain’ and ‘lose for Ottoman’ between the relations of the British and Enver PaÅŸa, his great struggles for both Ottoman Empire and Turkic people haven’t been forgotten; thus, his funeral was brought to Turkey by the Republic of Turkey and buried in Istanbul on his death anniversary in 1996. Rest in peace.


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