Indeed, Lawrence would never have imagined that a foreign power might invade an Arab country with so little knowledge of it. His own affection for the Arabs went so far that he committed treason in an attempt to save them. In 1917, France and Britain desperately wanted to take Aqaba from the Turks; the port would assure them dominance of the northern Arabian coastline, as well as easier supply lines to Egypt. Faisal, the leader of the Arab revolt tenuously allied with the British, needed Aqaba as a launching point for the Arab rebellion in Syria. Lawrence thought the invasion would be a Gallipoli-like disaster—and foresaw a still darker outcome for this adventure. Once Aqaba was conquered, he predicted, the Allied forces would block the Arabs from moving northward on their march to create a greater Arab nation, a maneuver that would establish France and Britain as the dominant military forces in the Middle East. Lawrence had read the Sykes-Picot accord; when both the Arabs and the French made claim to Syria, there was no question who would win. “So long as that treaty stood,” Anderson writes, “British betrayal of the Arab cause in deference to its French ally was virtually preordained.” Lawrence advised Faisal to avoid Aqaba entirely, and find an alternative path into Syria to lead his uprising. More astoundingly, he told Faisal the details of Sykes-Picot, thereby committing “a consummate act of treason.”

more from Suzy Hansen at Bookforum here.