A war that began in Europe and ended global, sparked by a university student after he assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria in 1914, and ended with a four-year violent conflict in which more than 70 countries participated, killing about 22 million people, paving the way for major political changes, and was behind revolutions in many countries.

Direct and indirect causes

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian student named Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, during their visit to Sarajevo.

But scholars monitor a number of indirect reasons, which paved the way for the outbreak of war, most notably the tension in international relations at the beginning of the twentieth century due to the succession of crises, such as the crisis of the Balkans and the struggle of European countries to control it and expel the Ottoman Caliphate from it, as a result of which Austria took control of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, and the first and second Balkan wars broke out.

In addition to the struggle between France, Germany, and Italy for influence in North Africa, the growth of nationalism within Europe and the aspiration of some minorities to independence led to a strained interstate relations that led to strained international relations in 1913.

In addition, economic and commercial competition between the imperialist countries to share influence across the world and control markets to drain surplus industrial and financial production, and the supply of raw materials, as well as the entry of the imperialist countries into political and military alliances, which led to an arms race between rival countries that increased their military expenditures.

After the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria, Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia on July 23, 1914, asking for approval within 48 hours of 10 demands, and although Serbia agreed to most of these demands, Austria considered them a rejection and declared war on Serbia on July 28 despite international efforts to resolve the dispute.

The beginning of the war

After Austria declared war on Serbia, the mechanism of European alliances began to interact, as Russia supported Serbia and declared war on Austria because of its desire to control the straits, other than its dissatisfaction with the German prince ruling Albania, and military cooperation between Germany and the Ottoman Empire, which made Germany declare war on Russia on August 1, 1914, and two days later on France.

Germany's motives for the war were its desire for political and economic gains, while Britain wanted to eliminate German and Prussian expansion, and soon declared war on Germany on August 4.

On August 6, the Austrian Empress (Austria-Hungary) declared war on Russia, followed by France and England declaring war on Austria on August 10 and 11.

Two groups were formed, the first called the Allied Forces (Triple Entente) that included France, Britain, Serbia, Montenegro and Belgium, and the second Central Powers (Center) formed by Austria, Hungary (Hungary) and Germany, then Japan joined the Allies because of its desire to extend its influence over China, and control the Chinese region of Shantong, which was under the control of Germany, so China in turn joined the Allies' side.

The Ottoman Empire's position was neutral first, but it was forced to stand by the center countries on November 3 in defense of its borders, which are threatened by the influence of some countries from the "allies" side, and alliances expanded with the expansion of the war, either out of a desire for control, or a desire for independence.

Tilt the cuff in favor of the central countries

The war lasted more than four years, during which it turned from a European war to a world war, and the European war (1914-1916) witnessed two periods, the first known as the movement war and the second as trench warfare, and the war took the character of stability in the positions, and the opposite armies on the fronts dug trenches, fortified and equipped them, and used new weapons such as tanks and aircraft.

Senegalese wounded in World War I October 1917 (French Archive)

The first campaign began on the Western Front on August 20, 1914 after Germany was able to occupy Brussels, the capital of Belgium, enabling it to occupy the northern part of France, but soon the scales turned in the Battle of the Marne on September 6 and France stopped the German expansion, and the Germans switched from attack mode to defense in trench warfare with the Swiss border.

The Germans (NATO) in 1915 were able to achieve a number of victories over the Allies, the use of submarines contributed to turning the scales, defeating the Russians in the Battle of "Gorlis Tarnau" and occupying Poland and most of the cities of Lithuania, and tried to cut the lines of communication between the Russian armies and their bases to eliminate them.

Although the Russians achieved some partial victories over the Germans, their heavy losses (about 325,<> prisoners) did not allow their army to recover, German success over the Russians led to the subjugation of the Balkans, and Austrian and German forces crossed the Danube to fight the Serbs and inflicted a severe defeat on them.

In the same year, the Germans were able to achieve clear victories on some fronts, and their front remained coherent against the attacks of the French and British armies.

On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire had an important role for the central countries, due to its control of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, as it closed them to the supply of Russia by France and England, the Allied countries responded on March 18, 1915 with the Drandil campaign to control the straits, but it was defeated and forced to withdraw at the end of 1915, and declared a naval blockade on the shores of the Levant, which worsened the economic situation.

A clash occurred between the Ottoman Empire and the British presence to expel the British from the Arab region, but the British were finally able to tighten their grip on the Suez Canal, occupy Baghdad, and thwart the revolutions that broke out in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, in addition to their ability to incite Sharif Hussein to declare the "Great Arab" revolution on March 10, 1916, which helped occupy the Ottoman Empire.

The battles intensified during 1916, and witnessed the battles of "Verdun", which lasted seven months, and "Somme", which lasted four months, and took place on French soil and the tank appeared for the first time on the battlefields, and forced Germany to retreat, and eliminated its trained army to rely on young recruits.

Although the British failed to seize Gaza in April-May 1916, they succeeded in occupying Jerusalem in December of the same year, after which they were able to advance north and occupy Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.

America's Entry Turns the Tide Despite Russia's Withdrawal

The year 1916 was characterized by submarine warfare, one of the results of which was the entry of the United States of America into the war, during this year a war took place in the North Sea between the German and English fleets known as "Gatland".

The Germans also resorted to trying to sink any merchant ship to starve Britain and force it to surrender, and among the ships that were sunk were a number of American ships, which prompted the United States to enter the war on the side of the Entente countries on April 6, 1917.

Before entering the war, the United States embraced the Monroe doctrine, which is based on America's neutrality in its foreign policy from Europe, and not allowing any European country to interfere in American affairs, but Zionist pressure after obtaining the Balfour Declaration from Britain, and the United States' fear of Mexico's alliance with Germany to recover its territory made the US Congress agree to enter the war.

The Germans benefited from the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in October 1917 and the signing by the Bolsheviks of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk on March 1918, <>, which led Russia out of the war.

Russia's exit from the war encouraged the German leadership to take advantage of its forces that were on the Russian front and direct them to fight the English and the French, so the Germans were able to destroy the British Fifth Army in March 1918, and violent battles on both sides continued that caused heavy loss of life and money.

In return, the Allies took advantage of America's vast capabilities and supplies to strengthen their war effort, and were able to tighten the blockade on Germany in a way that weakened it: by the summer of 1918, ten thousand troops were sent daily to France.

The United States also sent a warship to the Scuba Flow waters to join Britain's Grand destroyer fleet to help escort convoys, and sent several regiments of U.S. Marines to France.

Arab soldiers who participated in the First World War (Al Jazeera)

In an effort to prevent the Allies from benefiting from America's entry into the war, Germany launched the "Spring Offensive of 1918" (Ludendorf's Offensive) along the Western Front on March 21 and divided British and French forces, hoping to end their war before the arrival of U.S. troops, who had large numbers of troops.

The Allies counterattacked the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918, which paved the way for the "Hundred Days" offensive, with more than four hundred tanks and 120,21 Allied troops, and several battles took place, including the Battle of Albert Bohm on August <>, the Second Battle of Arras, which included the Battle of Scarp, and the Battle of the Drukurt Kioyant Line, forcing Germany to retreat and demand an armistice.

In September 1918, American and French forces launched a final attack on the Hindenburg Line at the Battle of Argonne Forest, and a week later American and French units cooperated to penetrate into the French province of Champagne, and the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge began and the Germans were forced to retreat towards the borders of Belgium, and the Canadian Corps and the British First and Second Army were able to break through the Hindenburg Line and the Second Battle of Cambrie took place.

The forces of the "Central Powers" collapsed quickly and Bulgaria was the first to sign the armistice on September 29, 1918 in Thessaloniki, and the collapses rolled and the signing of surrender agreements, so that Germany signed the armistice of "Compigne" with the Allies inside a railway vehicle on November 11, 1918 at five o'clock in the evening, and the ceasefire enters into force at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.


The war caused heavy casualties, with more than 8.5 million soldiers killed and 20 million wounded, more than 13 million civilians killed, more than 29 million people captured, including civilians, and the Serbian army suffered the greatest losses with the loss of three-quarters of its soldiers (130,135 dead and <>,<> wounded).

The battles of Verdun and Somme in 1916 were the most significant battles in which there were great losses, so the battle of Al-Fardan alone caused 770,200 soldiers killed, wounded and missing, while the Battle of Al-Soum caused one million and <>,<> soldiers between dead, wounded and missing.

The war also captured 6 million prisoners, put 20 million civilians under occupation in 1915, took refuge over 10 million across Europe, widowed 3 million women, and orphaned 6 million children.

Political outcomes

The Peace Conference was held in Versailles in early 1919 in the presence of delegates of 32 countries, and delegates of the defeated countries came to hear the conditions issued against them, while the treaty was signed by Britain, France and the United States only.

Based on the peace treaty signed by Germany on June 28, 1919, part of its territory was divided and distributed to neighboring countries, and it was held responsible for war damage.

Austria followed with the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, which separated Hungary from it on September 10, 1919, Austria signed a treaty with Bulgaria on November 27, 1919, and with Hungary the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920.

The Ottoman Empire also signed the Treaty of Sèvres on August 10, 1920, which the Ottomans objected to, so it was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, and the borders of Turkey remained within Istanbul and part of Anatolia.

The war left great economic losses, poverty and unemployment spread, and the warring countries suffered from a stifling financial crisis due to the exorbitant expenses of the war, increasing the indebtedness of European countries and declining their economic dominance in favor of the United States of America and Japan.

The map of Europe changed after the war, the old imperial regimes disintegrated, the ruling families fell, the territorial borders of the European continent changed with the emergence of new states, and the Russian Revolution, which implemented the first socialist system within the framework of the Soviet Union.

The League of Nations was created in Geneva, Switzerland, which did not allow the accession of the "middle states" at first, and was eventually dissolved.

The results of the war on the Arabs

The Ottoman Caliphate joined the Central Powers in this war, marking the beginning of the end of Ottoman history, and the defeat of Germany and with it the Ottoman Empire put the fate of the Arab Mashreq in the hands of Britain and France.

Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, dreamed of establishing a major Arab state, and his relationship with the Ottoman Caliphate was very bad, and Britain was keen to attract Arabs to its side, so it entered into secret negotiations with him, and letters were exchanged between him and Sir Henry McMahon, Britain's representative in Egypt and Sudan.

Britain pledged to give him a major Arab country, so he entered the war on its side, declaring what was known as the "Arab Revolt" against the Ottomans in June 1916 with the participation of the famous British intelligence officer Lawrence of Arabia, and the movement was able to control the Hijaz with the help of the British.

His son Faisal advanced towards the Levant and arrived in Damascus after the exit of the Ottomans, where he declared the establishment of the Arab government loyal to his father, who had declared himself king of the Arabs, but the Allies recognized him only as king of the Hijaz and Transjordan.

Despite Britain's promises to the Arabs, it conducted secret negotiations and agreements with France and Russia under which the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, including the Arab countries, was shared, and then Britain and France were alone in a secret agreement known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) in relation to both the British delegate Mark Sykes and the French delegate François-Georges Picot.

Under this agreement, which was exposed after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, France and Britain shared the Arab countries and subjected all its regions to colonialism under the name of the Mandate, and in the same year Britain announced its promise to the Zionist leaders to establish a national home for the Jews in Palestine, in what is known as the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917.