How A 100 Year-Old British Colonial Contract Continues To Shape The Middle-East

One Palestinian living in Kuwait suggested the agreement created an atmosphere of defeatism and weakness: ‘Today, the Middle East continues to see itself as the result of Western dominance.’
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    The Ottoman surrender of Jerusalem to the British, December, 1917, One year after the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed.

    The Ottoman surrender of Jerusalem to the British, December, 1917, One year after the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed.

    AUSTIN, Texas — Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of a decision by French and English diplomats to divide the Middle East into competing empires — a decision that continues to influence unrest in the region even today.

    The historic Sykes-Picot agreement, named for its authors, diplomats Mark Sykes of Great Britain and François Georges-Picot of France, was secretly signed on May 16, 1916, although the world was not aware of its existence until after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

    Signed by the U.K. and France during a meeting at Downing Street in London, with the agreement of the Russian Empire, it was intended to divide the two imperialist nations’ sphere of influence after an anticipated victory against the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

    Britain took control of land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, including modern-day Jordan, southern Iraq, and the Mediterranean ports of Haifa and Acre. France took parts of Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, while Russia took Istanbul, Armenia, and the Turkish Straits.

    Dr. Neil Faulkner, in a video documentary produced for teleSUR English, said the agreement created “the image of the Middle East divided into the countries we know today, including Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.”

    He added that it’s “a deeply dysfunctional Middle East that is still riven by conflict 100 years later.”

    Watch “Rear Window: Forgotten Histories – The Story of Sykes-Picot” from teleSUR English:


    Today, many analysts have suggested that Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL) is a response to the tensions created by the agreement and the somewhat artificial national boundaries it created.

    “What we are witnessing in the swift and brutal military assault by ISIS over the weekend and the virtual collapse of the US-trained Iraqi army is nothing less than an attempt to erase the lines of the Sykes-Picot map — lines that have held the Middle East together for over a century,” Charles M. Sennott wrote in a June 17, 2014 analysis for MintPress News.

    Mohamed Hemish elaborated on the ties between Sykes-Picot and both Daesh and the Syrian civil war in a May 13 analysis on TeleSur English:

    “Iraq and Syria were made up of diverse ethnic and religious groups including Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Kurds who did in fact live side by side but with semi-defined territories under Ottoman assigned rulers.

    The nation-state model implemented by the Western powers simply brought this self rule within those ethnic and religious groups to an end, resulting in an evolving sectarian conflict that has been brewing for over a century.”

    The agreement established a history of imperial control over the region that continues to this day, and laid the groundwork for many of the current conflicts there. It established British “control” over Palestine, allowing them to carve up the region and support the displacement of its indigenous population in 1948. That year marked the establishment of Israel, an event the local Palestinian population call “Nakba,” an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe.”

    It even paved the way for the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., when Britain sought to pass on control and responsibility for the Gulf Kingdom at the 1948 Bitter Lake Agreement. Today, it’s a key U.S. ally in the region; it purchases billions of dollars in arms from the U.S. annually while the U.S. protects the Saudis from the consequences of their war crimes.

    However, Steven A. Cook and Amr T. Leheta argue that the agreement is given too much weight by historians and pundits. In a May 13 op-ed for Foreign Policy, they wrote that both Britain and France began to undermine the agreement almost as soon as it was signed. They continued:

    “Nor are the Middle East’s modern borders completely without precedent. Yes, they are the work of European diplomats and colonial officers — but these boundaries were not whimsical lines drawn on a blank map. They were based, for the most part, on pre-existing political, social, and economic realities of the region, including Ottoman administrative divisions and practices.”

    Yasir Tineh, a Palestinian living in Kuwait, suggested the real effects of Sykes-Picot are largely psychological, creating an atmosphere of defeatism in the region. In a May 15 editorial for teleSUR English, he wrote:  

    “The best thing to come out of the Sykes-Picot agreement for the powers-that-be is that it instilled the foundations for an internalized colonization. Today, the Middle East continues to see itself as the result of Western dominance. Yet it isn’t a 100-year-old agreement that has decided the fate of the Middle East; it is current and much more recent causes, from American wars, trade agreements, weapons deals, puppet-governments and several ongoing catastrophes.”

    Watch “Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration” from Khan Academy:


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    • James Wherry

      Let’s tell a hard truth: blame British incompetence all you want, but it’s been Arab and Muslim dictators and religious nutjobs who have been dividing the spoils, ever since, and milking their kingdoms dry, only to sock it all away in Swiss Bank accounts and the islands of the Bahamas.

    • James Wherry

      Gee, that’s funny: the ISIL leader, al-Baghdadi, recently vowed that HE would destroy Scopes-Picot.

      Is MintPressNews now joining him?

    • Pingback: 5.19.2016 Daily Links | Daily Links & News()

    • We condemn the actions of the Brits, then take advantage ourselves. I am speaking AS IF the government represents me which, of course, IT DOESN’T!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

    • Norm
      • You do realize that this is propaganda, right? And, even if this is all true, do you take land FROM one group to GIVE IT TO another group? There was a time when Jews & Israelis lived together peacefully. They are related to each other. They should not be enemies, but then that is the same trick the Dutch played on Rwandans to get them to kill each other, so I guess people will continue to justify murder, bombing & forcing people off their land as long as some other country can gain from that WAR (Call it what it is!).
        So, the Brits didn’t want the Jews in their land. This is why they wanted Israel for the Jews! That’s what these experts say! That’s what this expert Jew says.
        So, yes, the Jews have been hated for centuries. That does not justify taking land from one group & giving it to others!
        So what this shows is how the British created this problem. And now the US continues helping to create war here.
        It is true the Jews were treated badly, BUT NOT BY THE PALESTINIANS! It was by Western Europe!

        • Norm

          Dear sherpeace, so what exactly “is propaganda” in your view? The fact that the Brits reneged on their 1917 Balfour Declaration promise set forth by the League of Nations in the 1920 San Remo Conference as the reason for the British Mandate in Palestine? The 1929 massacre of Jews by Arabs encouraged by the Brits, with Jews then ethnically cleansed from Hebron by the Brits? The story of the Exodus refugee ship and others like it? The Jerusalem Mufti Amin al-Husseini meetings with Hitler to discuss a ‘Final Solution’ for the Jews in Palestine? The existence of the Holocaust, perhaps…? And FYI, no one “took land from one group & gave it to others.” The Zionists legally purchased all the land they settled on, with severe quota restrictions on Jewish immigration by the Brits. No similar restrictions on the massive influx of Arab immigration from neighboring Arab countries, though, once the Zionists started to cultivate the land. The region had been mostly desolate malaria-infested swampland and barren sand dunes before the first Zionists arrived in the late 19th century.

          “It is true the Jews were treated badly, BUT NOT BY THE PALESTINIANS!” – Well, who do you think committed the 1929 slaughter of Jewish women and children in Hebron? ( ) FYI, most of the Jews attacked in those riots were “Old Yishuv” Jews living there continuously for centuries. They were not Zionists.

          • Matt McLaughlin

            The Zionists legally purchased all the land they settled on,” Clueless.

            • Norm
              • Matt McLaughlin

                The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine


                Soon after modern European jews had decided to colonize Palestine in their First conference held Basle, Switzerland (1899),
                they created the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in order to start buying
                land properties in Palestine to pave the way for establishing the
                “jewish state”, But this project didn’t work well for them (dispite the
                huge capital the JNF collected worldwide for that purpose) as the
                Palestinians not only didn’t sell their land but fought against that
                policy., and in 1947 (and despite the British facilitation of the jewish
                activities in Palestine) the JNF didn’t buy but less than 5.8% from
                Palestine (a place less than Te-Aviv city now.

                that their (buy and sell) project wouldn’t work, The zionist colonizers
                needed and did an extreme violent path that can be summarized in two
                things as Ilan Pappe illustrates:

                1. A detailed information about the local Palestinian inhabitants which (the JNF was asked to compile)

                the JNF Arab village a inventory that was a blueprint completed by the
                late 1930s that included the topographic location of each village with
                detailed information including husbandry, cultivated land, number of
                trees, quality of fruit, average amount of land per family, number of
                cars, shop owners, Palestinian clans and their political affiliation,
                descriptions of village mosques and names of their imams, civil servants
                and more. The final inventory update was finished in 1947 with lists of
                “wanted” persons in each village targeted in 1948 for search-and-arrest
                operations with those seized summarily shot on the spot in cold blood.

                2. to create several terrorist gang groups like Lehi, Irgun and Sternwhich
                started operating as early as 1920s by assassinating the Palestinians
                that posed an obstacle to the zionist colonization project.

                Now, having done so .. the zionist needed a systematic plan for the actual ethnic cleansing which started way before 1948:

                President Franklin D. Roosevelt (enough time before the actual cleansing of Palestine) put it in December 1942
                , “I actually would put a barbed wire around Palestine, and I would
                begin to move the Arabs out of Palestine…. Each time we move out an Arab
                we would bring in another Jewish family…” And this was exactly what
                happened with planned massacres !!

    • Dave De La Rond

      How strange that this Publication doesn’t mention that Kuwait has expelled everyone of the 340.000 Palestinians living in their county. Not one Palestinian is left , Google it . The Kuwaitis hate them , Don’t forget The Palesriuans joined Saddam Hussein in raping and pillaging the country

      • Who are the “Palesriuans”?! Palestinians are refugees anywhere they go, including the land that has not been taken away yet. They have no power! Would you want 340,000 of ANY group in your country?! I think not! Palestinians are nothing but pawns to the entire world! So are the Israelis, actually. Only their leaders want this war to go on! They have no stability as long as their govt. keeps killing & bombing Palestinians.
        Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
        Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

      • TecumsehUnfaced

        And they all hate the ZioNazi invader-occupiers of Palestine.

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