Ibrahim Pasha (1789-1848) was an outstanding Turkish military and administrative leader in the eastern Mediterranean area of the Ottoman Empire.
Ibrahim Pasha was born in Kavalla in what is now Greek Macedonia but was then an important Ottoman provincial center. He joined his father, Mohammed Ali, in Egypt in 1805, the same year that the Ottoman sultan had reluctantly accepted Mohammed Ali as his governor and representative. Ibrahim became his father's right-hand man in military affairs, and Mohammed Ali's success in beginning the modernization of Egypt and in establishing an autonomous Egypt ruled by his own dynasty was due to the prowess and skill of both father and son.
In 1811 Mohammed Ali sent Ibrahim to Upper Egypt to defeat the remaining Mamluks, to control the Bedouin, and to assert the power of the new government. Ibrahim remained as local governor until 1816, when the Sultan rewarded him for his services to the Ottoman Empire with the title of pasha. In the same year Mohammed Ali transferred him to western Arabia, where the puritanical Wahhabi Moslems, in alliance with the Saudi family of central Arabia, were menacing the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina and challenging the political hegemony of the Ottoman sultan. Ibrahim succeeded in defeating the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance and in restoring Ottoman authority over western Arabia by 1819. In 1821 he returned for additional campaigns in the northern Sudan, particularly to meet his father's requirements for more troops and laborers for developing Egyptian armies and factories.
Campaign in Greece
In 1824 at the request of Sultan Mahmud II, Mohammed Ali sent Ibrahim and the new Egyptian army to the Peloponnesus to subdue Greek nationalist rebels. Ibrahim's well-trained troops routed the Greeks but lost the war and had to evacuate Egypt because of the naval intervention of the major European powers, whose combined fleets destroyed the joint Ottoman-Egyptian naval force at the battle of Navarino off the southern Greek coast in 1827. This cut the supply and communications route between Mohammed Ali in Egypt and Ibrahim in the Peloponnesus. Mohammed Ali had no alternative but to recall his otherwise triumphant son.
Disagreement with the Ottoman sultan over the Greek conflict covered Mohammed Ali's increasingly ambitious plans for a powerful Near Eastern state based on Egypt and led to his sending Ibrahim into Syria in 1831. This again demonstrated the superiority of the Egyptian army and the skillful military leadership of Ibrahim in defeating the Ottoman troops in a series of battles to within a hundred miles of Istanbul, the imperial capital. Bolstered by Russian intervention in 1833, Sultan Mahmud II secured a treaty with Mohammed Ali in which Egypt agreed to withdraw its troops from Anatolia in return for the administrative cession of the districts of Adana and Syria.
Governor of Syria
Mohammed Ali appointed Ibrahim as governor of the new areas. To win the support of the suspicious European powers, who with the exception of France feared the destruction of the status quo by Mohammed Ali's threat to Ottoman integrity and stability, Ibrahim opened greater Syria to the penetration of Western merchants and missionaries.
Ibrahim's 10 years in Syria permanently disrupted traditional society in the area and started the transition process already begun in Egypt by Napoleon's 1798 invasion. As a political ruler, Ibrahim proved less capable than in his military exploits. His utilization of tight and centralized control, his seizure of arms and conscription of troops, and his catering to Christian minorities for support caused dissatisfaction and, ultimately, rejection of Egyptian overrule by many Syrians.
The struggle between Sultan Mahmud II and his supposed subordinate, Mohammed Ali, the pasha of Egypt, continued. In 1839 the Sultan felt strong enough to challenge Ibrahim in Syria, but again Ibrahim overwhelmed the Ottoman forces on the Anatolian border. Mahmud II died before the news of his further defeat reached Istanbul. With the Sultan dead, Ibrahim victorious on the Anatolian border, the army scattered, and the navy already deserted to Egypt, the major European powers, except France, feared the final disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
Intervention of the powers in 1840 by blockading the Syrian coast, by landing troops near Mt. Lebanon, and by encouraging already dissident groups to revolt forced Ibrahim to withdraw to Egypt and Mohammed Ali to yield his claims to Syria and Adana. In return, the Ottoman Empire and the European powers recognized Mohammed Ali's hereditary rights to the position of pasha of Egypt.
Ibrahim participated in no further military campaigns and remained largely in Cairo assisting his father in administrative duties. Because of Mohammed Ali's apparent senility, Ibrahim became viceroy in September 1848 but died 2 months later. His widespread and capable military campaigns in support of Mohammed Ali's plans and ambitions made Ibrahim one of the leading figures in the 19th-century Near East.
Further Reading on Ibrahim Pasha
The only biography of Ibrahim is Pierre Crabitès, Ibrahim of Egypt (1935). See also the classic study of his father, Mohammed Ali, by Henry Dodwell, Founder of Modern Egypt (1931). For Near Eastern diplomacy, the latest and best book is Matthew Smith Anderson, The Eastern Question, 1774-1923 (1966). William R. Polk, The Opening of South Lebanon, 1788-1840: A Study of the Impact of the West on the Middle East (1963), is an excellent study that deals with Ibrahim's activities in part of greater Syria. For general background on 19th-century Egypt see John A. Marlowe, A History of Modern Egypt and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800-1956 (1954; 2d ed. 1965), and Tom Little, Modern Egypt (1967).