The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies organized its sixth annual conference for historical studies in Beirut from 26-27 April 2019, under the title “The Arab Government in Damascus: 1918-1920.” More than twenty academics and researchers in history from Arab countries participated in the conference, with peer-reviewed research papers distinguished by original and fresh takes on the subject.

The conference began with a lecture by Ali Mohafazah (a Jordanian academic and historian), in which he stated that the Arab government in Damascus was “the first Arab nationalist attempt to establish an independent Arab political entity, and for the Arabs to restore their role in history after being without it for more than a thousand years.” Therefore, the lecturer considered it a “unique experience in the modern history of the Arabs. For the first time, military officers and civilian intellectuals from Syria, Iraq and the Hejaz met, and established the nucleus of an Arab state, two years after their establishment of the nucleus of an Arab state in Mecca, with the participation of military and civilian figures from the Hijaz, the Levant, Egypt and Iraq.” But Mohafazah noted in his research that “the Arab elites lacked administrative experience in building a modern state,” despite their success in “defining their political goals as the unity and independence of the Arab countries of Asia.” Regarding the leadership of the Arab movement at the time, he stated that “they did not have knowledge of the origins of modern diplomacy and international treaties and agreements,” according to Mohafazah, who argued that these elites were ignorant “of European political and diplomatic history, the history of relations between European countries in modern times, and the Zionist movement and its growing influence in Europe.” This contributed, in his opinion, to these elites “easily falling into the traps of British diplomatic deception.”

The conference program included six sessions, three on each day. The papers presented by the participating researchers and historians discussed an important number of comprehensive and outlying issues related to the Arab government in Damascus 1918-1920. Some researchers dealt with the Arab government from the perspective of state building theory, while many researchers talked about Arab and international reactions to the announcement of the establishment of the Arab government, as well as this government’s dealings with foreign forces and movements in the region and abroad.