Today is the anniversary of ISIS’s least-favorite arbitrarily-drawn line on a map, the Iraq-Syria boundary delineated by the Sykes-Picot agreement. Al-Jazeera has a pretty handy explainer on the agreement, though I think the headline oversells the content a little bit. Here’s another explainer over at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment that is pretty good. Or you can read my long-ago look at badly-drawn colonial borders.
This is just a placeholder. If you’d like to read the rest please check out my new home, Foreign Exchanges!
2 thoughts on “Today in Middle Eastern history: Sykes-Picot is signed (1916)”
Stunning! Wow! This article is a real public service.
Whatever is to follow, the entire region, along with North Africa, will remain messy. There will probably be some new boundaries imposed by necessity to separate those who cannot be eliminated, more as demarcation lines that are of temporary nature than as real borders.
Regarding the Sykes-Picot celebrity of a deal… I wrote about it here https://turritopsisdohrniiblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/an-overwiev-of-the-drawing-board/ a little while ago. But in short, I agree with what you’ve said. It gets more blame assigned than it deserves, and in ways that end up obscuring its unintended negative effects. By the way, such deals were something of a norm in dealings between colonial powers defining zones of influence. See about the partitioning of Africa, or the Entente Cordiale. They all served the interests of the signatories pretty well. As for many others who were affected… No. But I would be surprised to find that morality was ever an obstacle to important geopolitical decisions.