A new book examines the Kaiser's attempt to provoke a global Jihad in order to undermine the British Raj.
Helping to whip up passions was one of history’s most unlikely jihadists, Baron Max von Oppenheim, who directed the Kaiser’s “jihad bureau” for the duration of the war. The scion of a Jewish banking family, an archaeologist, writer, and veteran Near East hand, Oppenheim thundered that Muslims “should know that from today the Holy War has become a sacred duty and that the blood of the infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”. (Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians were granted exceptions, of course.)Did it work? Well...
Oppenheim supervised a crack team of Orientalists, among them Alois Musil, cousin of the novelist Robert, who trekked to central Arabia in 1915 to enlist Arab tribal sheikhs, and Oskar von Niedermayer, who made a perilous journey across the Persian desert to spur the Emir of Afghanistan into attacking the Indian Raj.
Almost everywhere – Persia, the Shia strongholds of southern Mesopotamia, Afghanistan and the Hejaz – German agents found themselves contending with endless logistical traps. With the British Navy in control of the seas, the still incomplete railway took on a vital importance. There was simply no way for the Ottomans to ship arms and materiel across vast distances to supply their would-be allies. The “jihad”, in actuality, turned into a series of cash transactions, with the Germans (and British) resorting to subventions, financial blandishments, and outright bribery.Logistics will get you every time.