Friday, April 15, 2016

Post Sykes-Picot


For John, BLUFThe solution isn't to be found in DC or Turtle Bay, but in the Middle East.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



"Does the Middle East Need New Borders?"  The question is from Ms Marina Ottawa, writing in Foreign Affairs Magazine.  The issue is "The Legacy of Sykes-Picot, 100 Years On.

Sykes-Picot.  That is probably an unknown subject for most of us, as it dates back to The Great War, World War I.  But, it is one of the items blamed for the turmoil in the Middle East.  I agree with that assertion, to a point.  The problems is that such a view soon becomes ethnocentric.  The fundamental issue is the people in the Region deciding on what they want and then voting for it and protesting for it and fighting for it.

At any rate, here is the lede plus two paragraphs:

On May 17, 1916, France and the United Kingdom signed the Sykes-Picot agreement, named after the two diplomats who conducted the negotiations.  The agreement was the first in a series of treaties that would eventually create the modern states of the Middle East following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.  One hundred years later, analysts such as Robin Wright and Jeffrey Goldberg predict that the region’s borders will soon be redrawn once more.  Indeed, in Iraq and Syria, where proto-states outside the government’s control have already emerged, the idea of new borders does not appear so far-fetched.  In Iraq, for example, the Kurds have already announced that they will hold a referendum on independence before the end of 2016.

New borders will not restore stability, however, because the present ones are not the cause of the region’s turmoil.  The states themselves must change if there is to be any sort of peaceful order that can accommodate the demands of the region’s diverse populations.  Yet the prospects for such a transformation are dim.

Often denounced as artificial lines in the sand drawn by ignorant European diplomats, the borders in the region are no more artificial than those established by conflict.  Even the most ardent critics of the status quo have given no indication of where the region’s natural borders lie, because there are no natural borders.  The Kurds, for example, aggrieved by a partition of the region that did not give them their own country, even disagree on whether there should be one Kurdistan or several Kurdish states.

Here is the conclusion:
The deep political reform that could possibly allow Iraq and Syria to become stable countries has not begun in either country. Abadi tried to take some modest steps and failed. Assad did not even try, insisting that all his country needs is new elections. And progress in the fight against ISIS may only make the Iraqi and Syrian governments more repressive and provide additional incentives for those who see new borders as the only solution. The region is stumbling toward the end of Sykes-Picot, but it is no closer to the end of turmoil.
What do you think about this?

Regards  —  Cliff

  We can help, but the locals have to want it.

  And they can't really do that from Europe, the UK or the US or Canada.
  Why are these folks not fleeing to Mexico, or are they?

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