In his second book, A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East 1914-1948, James Barr vividly portrays the convoluted and often deadly game played by these ostensible allies. The locals were often a sidelight to this main event. If the Arabs were revolting in the Levant against the French, the British could hardly have been less helpful. Later, when the Zionists rose against British rule in Palestine, it was the French who were blasé, and then some – indeed, many were only too happy to aid Jewish terrorists bent on killing Britons.
The Brits may have helped France twice against the Germans, but they weren’t as keen on sharing the Middle East with their historic rival. France, for its part, was desperate to regain its pride and status as a world power after a bumpy century highlighted by its humiliating collapse in World War II. At times, the Syrian front seemed more important to Frenchmen like Charles DeGaulle than the fight against Hitler.