The Sykes-Picot deal may be 100 years old this week, but that still hasn’t proved enough time to form a consensus on its legacy. What is generally agreed-upon is its arbitrary genesis: lines carved haphazardly across by European powers across the Middle East map without consulting its inhabitants and without regard to ethnic, cultural, or religious facts-on-the-ground, nor to already existing commitments or agreements forged with local people groups.

Officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, many of its detractors perceive it as a prime example of Western deceit. As already noted on this site, the agreement is rather viewed in the popular Middle East mindset as a conspiratorial innovation of the meddlesome West, designed to keep Arabs “divided and weak” for the benefit of Western interests. To many a local mind, Sykes-Picot was simply the latest iteration of a long series of European betrayals that foster deep distrust. A century on, some say, its legacy yields only “a purely malign influence without redeeming qualities.

Others are more inclined to mount a defense. Arbitrary borders don’t necessarily yield artificial countries. Not every nation resulting from the agreement was simply created whole-cloth. Some, like Iraq and Syria, are grounded in historic records reaching far into the past. Some people groups, the Lebanese among them, had cause to receive Sykes-Picot as a blessing, having finally won their freedom. Today even arbitrary borders, especially the ones obliterated by ISIL, are sorely missed by many and, with them, the religious and ethnic protections they afforded, however imperfectly…

…But whatever the problems of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, it remains clear that the problems in the Middle East are not simply cartographical. Therefore, the solutions to those problems are not going to be found in new drawn borders alone….

Read the rest at Philos Project

Image: Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916. (public domain)