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The Muslim Nation

After the end of the Ottoman Empire, the British had to make a choice about which side to support in the struggle for power on the Arabian Peninsula.  After much consideration, double-crossing and treachery (not all British), they supported a lord called Ibn Saud.  A Barbarian by the most charitable standards, Saud united and founded Saudi Arabia, which he then ran as a personal oilwell for his family – completely ignoring the people.  That family still rules Saudi today.

But there was another option.  The Hashemites ruled Mecca and Medina and were educated and reasonably tolerant – their one problem, from a British point of view, was that they wished to unite all the Arabs into a single nation, which would have thwarted British plans.  The British therefore backed Ibn Saud, who did not even have the grace to stay bought, who soon invited the Americans in when the British started to suggest a little change in the way that the nation was governed.  The resulting disaster area that is Saudi today is a direct result of that decision. 

Ibn Saud got British help for one main reason – he was lucky enough to have a British assistant and speaker.  Let’s give that person to the Hashemites instead.  He advises them that their best chance for a united Arabia is to co-operate with the British as a British dependency and they take his advice.  This suits the British as it assures them access to oil, luctitive trade contacts and not much need to do more then supply limited help to them to establish themselves.  The British can also so how they’re helping to keep the Muslim holy cities in the age-old hands that ran them for centuries.  This pleases Indian Muslim opinion. 

So, we have an expanding, more tolerant, Muslim nation rather than an expanding, intolerant nation.  The Hashemites try to cooperate with the other factions, pulling together an Arabian council, while fighting the groups that want total power.  Ibn Saud comes to an unpleasant end when he tries to defeat the united forces.  By 1935, we have a united, British-allied nation comprising modern Saudi, Jordan, bits of Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman and the smaller nations round there.  Palestine’s run directly from the UK because of its population and the contradictory promises Britain made, although many of the Arabs go south rather than fight. 

The years 1931-40 see slow development of the peninsula.  The Arabian Republic, as they call themselves, develop their infrastructure with British help and advice, while supplying oil and naval bases to the British.  The British train their forces and provide advisors.  However, the rise of the Nazis sees the British become more involved in Europe, while the Republic has troubles with the French in Syria and the first signs of trouble from India.  The Muslim League there is considering the creation of a ‘Pakistan’ and unification with the Arabian Republic.  This does not please either Gandhi, who wants a united India, or the Sikhs, who do not want to be in a Muslim-dominated nation.  Slowly, the Indian nation dissolved into chaos.  The beginning of World War Two, however, put a temporary end to the chaos. 

World War Two began badly for the British.  The fall of Poland, which the western allies had cynically betrayed, led swiftly to the fall of Norway, Denmark and France.  The AR had declared war on Germany with the British, and they had lost a detachment of volunteers in the battle of France.  The entry of Italy, however, offered the chance to build a more powerful nation.  The AR sent forces to aid the British in North Africa and sheer numbers told when inexperience was another factor.  The Italian forces were swiftly defeated in the desert, even before the Germans could send more than a limited force to assist.  Concerned by the threat of Japan, the British handed over government of Libya to the AR forces and moved most of their forces to the Far East.  This accidentally provoked the widening of the war.  The Algerian people wanted to be rid of the French and saw the defeat of the Italians as a chance.  They rose in revolt and invited the AR forces in. 

The Vichy French went berserk, as did the free French.  However, it was clear that the Algerians had risen and therefore nether the British or the AR had been responsible for the uprising.  Hitler allowed the French to move some of the POWs to Algeria, but they arrived too late to be of real assistance.  Algeria formally declared its independence from France in early 1941.  In a fit of rage, DeGaulle left the British Isles.  Spain, watching revolution threaten to spread to its colonies, demanded that the British reign in the AR, but the British refused.  Spain formally declared war on the British, but Franco lost most of his enthuesion for war when the British took the canaries from Spain and the Spanish African territories were invaded by the AR.  The consolation prize, which was Gibraltar, did not really satisfy, somehow. 

The British-German part of the war stalemated until 1942.  The Germans invaded Russia in late 1941 and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and widened the war in December.  The British fought a tough last stand at Singapore and then fought a visous war throughout Burma and Siam, finally driving the Japanese out of lower Asia in 1943.  The damage to the British navy in the battle of the Indian Ocean caused considerable panic, but the battle of Australia, in 1943, destroyed much of the Japanese Fleet. 

The remainder of the war is easy to summarise.  Both Iraq and Iran revolted in 1941.  Each time, the AR had to send occupying forces to them, as well as occupying the former French colony of Syria and supplying oil to Britain and the US.  In 1943, the US and UK launched the invasion of Europe, and soon the Germans were bogged down in serious fighting.  The allies soon occupied all of northern France, but they were unable to make further progress until 1945, when soviet offensives caused the German front in Russia to collapse.  The allies surged forward, occupied Berlin in 1946 and the war was over. 

The AR, with the coming of peace, had to make some hard choices very quickly.  They held most of the Muslim world in their hands, but that world was split up into different factions.  A bid for complete power there could have fantastic effects in terms of Muslim unity, but would be very difficult to sustain unless they had support from most of the population and perhaps from outside as well.  The USSR was beginning to look like a potential threat on the outskirts. 

The AR decided to try for Islamic unity.  The Grand Council of Muftis wrote a fatwa (Islamic ruling) that stated that humans had no right to decide which Islamic tradition (Sunni, Shia, etc) was the right one; such rights belonged only to Allah.  This was an essential prelimery to unity, as it removed most of the grounds for arguing.  Secondly, the AR announced the addition of the captured lands to the republic, and invited them to send repersentives to the council.  The lands would have local government, but the union would have control over defence, foreign-relations and many other things. 

The AR sought foreign recognition as well.  The British still supported the AR as it had made the task of splitting India much easier and less bloody.  The Americans were unhappy about how British business got most of the contracts, but knew that the AR would make a powerful soviet ally, so supported the AR.

On the other hand, the French and Turks were furious.  They both saw that the AR had taken lands they thought were theirs by rights.  Both nations would supply arms to Israel in the 1950 war, but the peace talks exposed their duplicity.  The AR imposed an oil embargo on them, and eventually the French, grudgingly, acknowledged the AR. 

The 1950 war with Israel, which was formally part of the AR, was a nasty grauella campaign.  Finally, Israel became an autonomous zone of the AR and was allowed complete local government.  No one was happy, but at least the killing stopped.

Long-Term:  There is no Iranian revolution, oil crisis, gulf war or September 11th.  Britain is more economically stable, as there are many contracts from the AR.  France, while ungrateful, has more stable politics, as they fought no wars in Algeria, as is Spain and Italy.  There is less of a Muslim influx to the western nations as there is a stable Muslim homeland, developed by the money from the oil.  There is no Meccan crisis or Iran-Iraq war.  The cold war is a little cooler as there is no opportunity for the USSR to meddle in the Middle East. 

Author’s Notes: Many of the current problems in the Middle East stem from two sources: Israel and Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi’s attempts to manipulate Middle Eastern politics, backed by their money and American connections, have twisted many other Arabs against them.  Their perversion of Islam has made it difficult for any Islamic revolution to take place within their nation – the religious establishment is a collaborator in the crimes of the royal family.  Forget Harry Turtledove’s Darkness nobles, the Saudi’s are real-life evil kings. 

Removing them from history quietly had to take place at the start.  Of the four main factions, the Hashemites were undoubtedly the best.  Britain supporting them would not have been a real change, by 1920’s standards; the Middle East would always be dirt-poor anyway.  Therefore, I ran with the tolerant Hashemites as my uniters of the Middle East. 

Tolerance is the other factor missing from the Middle East.  Its not a coincidence that the Middle Eastern nations are either Sunni-led or Shia-led, both repressing what members of the other sect remain in their lands.  As well as that, Israel is shown no tolerance because they’re Jews.  Again, that factor has to be removed or nullified.  The Fatwa I’ve described fits in with the Islamic tradition of avoiding shirk (associating anything with Allah), but the politics seem to make it impossible to issue such a Fatwa in OTL. 

A powerful, British-allied nation in the Middle East would change WW2 considerably.  I can’t see Britain turning down troops for the desperate middle east (no one realised how bad the Italians were, apart from the German staff) and once there, it would be very tempting to let power in the region into their hands.  Algeria, I admit, is a stretch, but the appearance of a Muslim power on the borders and the sigma of defeat might well push the Arabs into revolt.  That’ll unleash a chain reaction that will hit the Spanish colonies as well.  They’ll blame Britain for it and join the war. 

A 1943 invasion is possible if there’s no Op. Torch to provide a distraction.  If the invasion has similar timing to OTL Torch, it’ll take place just before Stalingrad.  The Germans won’t have time to become too involved in the city and will be able to withdraw before the soviet trap springs shut.  That means that the Germans will be able to throw considerable forces at the Allies and go on the defensive across the war.  Further, Vichy will be more committed to the German side in this TL, while Spain may send help to the Germans. 

An Arab union, closely allied with Britain, means that there will be no Suez to dent British confidence and many opportunities for British industries.  It won’t let the British retain superpower status, but it’ll keep them on a sounder footing than OTL.  The price may be complete absence from Europe, but, if they work to make something worthwhile out of the commonwealth, it might be worth it.