I will be dealing in coming days with the war plans and key strategic interests and objectives of each side. But I want to begin with a particularly quirky situation: the highly anomalous legal position of Egypt.
De facto, Egypt had been a British protectorate in all but name since 1882; British troops controlled the country, and defended the Suez Canal, while a British official with the innocuous title of "Consul-General" ran the country with the powers of a virtual viceroy.
|Said Halim Pasha|
And now the British and Turks were about to go to war. But they weren't at war yet.
|The Last Khedive: ‘Abbas Hilmi II|
‘Abbas Hilmi was visiting Constantinople when, on June 25, 1914 (just days before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo), he was meeting with the Grand Vizier (his cousin) when an Egyptian student fired five shots at ‘Abbas Hilmi and severely wounded him in the hands. The Khedive is said to have suspected the Turkish government was involved, but remained in Constantinople during his convalescence. He would be deposed before he could return to Egypt; he was the last Egyptian ruler to bear the title Khedive.
|PM Hussein Rushdi Pasha|
Like Egypt's entire "veiled protectorate" status since 1882, this made little sense in international law. It asserts neutrality but goes far beyond "armed neutrality," and the late Peter Mansfield noted that "Egypt was de facto, if not de jure, a belligerent." Neutral belligerency may be no more anomalous than a British colonial administration in an Ottoman province, but it also confounds logic.
This Gordian Knot would soon be cut. Once Turkey and Britain went to war in early November, Britain moved quickly; by December the Khedive would be deposed and his uncle, Hussein Kamel, made ruler with the new title of Sultan, and Britain would declare a formal Protectorate over Egypt. But until that time, Egypt remained in its anomalous status, a sort of limbo of sovereignty or at least suzerainty.