100 years on: Move over Sykes Picot, Middle East borders due a radical re-mapping

Published May 19th, 2016 - 09:12 GMT

The Sykes Picot agreement laid the foundation for the current shape of the Middle East. A behind the scenes deal sealed while WWI was raging, it carved up the region for the benefit of French and British colonial powers, and disregarded the interests of local populations in what is now known as Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. To quote Sykes verbatim, it ran "from the E in Acre to the last K in Kirkuk", and its vestiges are still visible today, in Syria's border with Jordan and western Iraq.

Some now argue that Sykes Picot’s legacy is eroding.  The unsteady geopolitics of the Middle East beg a mapping exercise that redresses reality on the ground.  What comes next for the Middle East, particularly war-torn and increasingly fragmented Syria, Iraq, and Libya?

 

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Colonel Mark Sykes

Sykes Picot Background - Colonel Mark Sykes was an English traveler, politician and diplomatic adviser who was also rumored to have played a part in the signing of the Balfour declaration. François Georges-Picot was a French diplomat and lawyer who negotiated the Sykes-Picot agreement with Sykes in 1915.

Ottoman Empire

Map - The secret deal divided up the Ottoman's Arab provinces outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control and influence.

T.E.Lawrence

Betrayal - Lawrence of Arabia - The deal broke all the British promises made to Arabs by Colonel T. E. Lawrence for a national Arab homeland in the area of Greater Syria, in exchange for their siding with British forces against the Ottoman Empire. It is said "the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted."

Balfour declaration

Palestine (and Balfour declaration) - In 1917, the betrayal of the Arabs was reinforced by the Balfour Declaration in which the British promised a ‘homeland’ for the Jewish people in historical Palestine.

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky on Sykes Picot - “The Sykes-Picot agreement was an imperial imposition that has no legitimacy; there is no reason for…these borders, except the interests of the imperial powers. I think as far as Sykes-Picot is concerned, it is beginning to erode. Whatever happens in Syria, if anything survives, parts of Syria will be separated.”

Sykes Picot

Significance? - Some academics reject claims that Sykes Picot is the cause of all MENA woes. Their arguments include that the land demarcations allegedly had local political antecedents since the Ottoman era and prior, and that very little of the agreement was actually implemented.

Daesh

Daesh - Still, Sykes-Picot is obviously still a sore point. For the militant group Daesh, in its rampage through Syria and Iraq, the group declared that one of its main goals is to right the wrongs of Sykes-Picot. It has even produced a video called “The End of Sykes-Picot” where it famously bulldozed through the border dividing Iraq and Syria.

Daesh

In response to the emergence of Daesh and their claim to the Levant, it’s been suggested that the best solution may be creation of a new independent Sunni state, a ‘Sunni-stan’ in northeastern Syria and western Iraq. This controversial view could destroy any opportunity for diversity coexisting in the Middle East.

Kurdistan

Kurdistan - The agreement was particularly painful for the Kurds as it "divided Kurdistan between four countries in an appalling violation of the rights of the Kurdish people", one Kurdish man told Ara news. "The international community should consider our ambition to obtain our legitimate rights and establish our rightful homeland, Kurdistan."

Sykes Picot

SP - no longer relevant in today’s world? A century after Sykes-Picot, Middle Eastern borders remain volatile. Syrian nationalists continue to call for the destruction of the imperialist legacy. Now with the culmination of the protracted Syrian War, the future of these arbitrary borders, and the wider regional stability, hang in question.

Colonel Mark Sykes
Ottoman Empire
T.E.Lawrence
Balfour declaration
Noam Chomsky
Sykes Picot
Daesh
Daesh
Kurdistan
Sykes Picot
Colonel Mark Sykes
Sykes Picot Background - Colonel Mark Sykes was an English traveler, politician and diplomatic adviser who was also rumored to have played a part in the signing of the Balfour declaration. François Georges-Picot was a French diplomat and lawyer who negotiated the Sykes-Picot agreement with Sykes in 1915.
Ottoman Empire
Map - The secret deal divided up the Ottoman's Arab provinces outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control and influence.
T.E.Lawrence
Betrayal - Lawrence of Arabia - The deal broke all the British promises made to Arabs by Colonel T. E. Lawrence for a national Arab homeland in the area of Greater Syria, in exchange for their siding with British forces against the Ottoman Empire. It is said "the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted."
Balfour declaration
Palestine (and Balfour declaration) - In 1917, the betrayal of the Arabs was reinforced by the Balfour Declaration in which the British promised a ‘homeland’ for the Jewish people in historical Palestine.
Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky on Sykes Picot - “The Sykes-Picot agreement was an imperial imposition that has no legitimacy; there is no reason for…these borders, except the interests of the imperial powers. I think as far as Sykes-Picot is concerned, it is beginning to erode. Whatever happens in Syria, if anything survives, parts of Syria will be separated.”
Sykes Picot
Significance? - Some academics reject claims that Sykes Picot is the cause of all MENA woes. Their arguments include that the land demarcations allegedly had local political antecedents since the Ottoman era and prior, and that very little of the agreement was actually implemented.
Daesh
Daesh - Still, Sykes-Picot is obviously still a sore point. For the militant group Daesh, in its rampage through Syria and Iraq, the group declared that one of its main goals is to right the wrongs of Sykes-Picot. It has even produced a video called “The End of Sykes-Picot” where it famously bulldozed through the border dividing Iraq and Syria.
Daesh
In response to the emergence of Daesh and their claim to the Levant, it’s been suggested that the best solution may be creation of a new independent Sunni state, a ‘Sunni-stan’ in northeastern Syria and western Iraq. This controversial view could destroy any opportunity for diversity coexisting in the Middle East.
Kurdistan
Kurdistan - The agreement was particularly painful for the Kurds as it "divided Kurdistan between four countries in an appalling violation of the rights of the Kurdish people", one Kurdish man told Ara news. "The international community should consider our ambition to obtain our legitimate rights and establish our rightful homeland, Kurdistan."
Sykes Picot
SP - no longer relevant in today’s world? A century after Sykes-Picot, Middle Eastern borders remain volatile. Syrian nationalists continue to call for the destruction of the imperialist legacy. Now with the culmination of the protracted Syrian War, the future of these arbitrary borders, and the wider regional stability, hang in question.