Thursday, 7 April 2016



In May 2016 it will be 100 years since the signing of a document which went down in history under the title “the SYKES–PICOT Agreement” (by the names of two diplomats—a FRENCHMAN FRANÇOIS GEORGES-PICOT and an ENGLISHMAN MARK SYKES). It defined the borderlines between the zones into which the ASIAN territories of the OTTOMAN EMPIRE were divided after the World War I. 

Today hardly anybody shows interest in this topic. It is regarded mostly as a closed case file, or a historical fact. But if you take a close look at the current developments in the MIDDLE EAST, you will notice the echo of that deal. Threads of history do not break but stretch through the decades.

Here is the historical background: none of the independent ARAB states currently depicted on the world map existed before the World War I. Instead, there were either FRENCH protectorates (e.g., MOROCCO and TUNISIA, with ALGERIA being an integral part of FRANCE), or BRITISH protectorates — countries in the southern part of ARABIA and provinces of the OTTOMAN EMPIRE. The later-formed ARAB countries participated in the World War I as colonies. ARABS were drafted to the so-called labor corps. They participated in combat operations (e.g. 80 thousand EGYPTIANS died at the WWI fronts).

Map of the mandate of Syria and Lebanon from 1920

Leading EUROPEAN states, and, first of all, BRITAIN and FRANCE, engaged in a fierce fight for these strategically important and rich in natural resources regions, located on the juncture of three continents. After long negotiations, a secret agreement between the governments of GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, RUSSIA and ITALY was signed on May 16, 1916. The agreement defined the spheres of interests of its parties in the MIDDLE EAST. GREAT BRITAIN was allocated control of the areas roughly comprising the territory of the modern JORDAN, IRAQ and small areas near HAIFA and ACRE. FRANCE inherited the southeastern part of TURKEY, NORTHERN IRAQ, SYRIA and LEBANON.
The tsarist RUSSIA, although it entered a number of military agreements with the Entente on the division of the OTTOMAN EMPIRE, decided against claiming any ARAB lands.

After the October Revolution, RUSSIA ceased its participation in the negotiations.


Thus, according to the SYKES–PICOT Agreement, after 400 years of the TURKISH domination, the ARABS of LEBANON, SYRIA, TRANSJORDAN and PALESTINE found themselves under the rule of BRITAIN and FRANCE.

But that did not put an end to the dispute between the two powers. They continued reshaping the map of the region against the backdrop of powerful anti-colonial protests of the local population. As English Prime Minister GEORGE LLOYD admitted, circumstances of that time required something more sufficient than secret agreements to preserve the positions of the countries involved. Then the mandate system was established under the Covenant of the League of Nations.


Just pay attention to the explanation of this phenomenon: the peoples who inhabited these territories were considered “not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” It sounds so familiar.

One hundred years later, the Western block continues harping about the inability of ARAB peoples to govern their lands and sets out on a mission to preach to them about genuine democracy. Is it not an outright (as it was the case at the beginning of the 20th century and even today, in 2016) intervention in the domestic affairs of other sovereign states?

These are attempts to impose recipes on them from outside, promote concepts of a regime change under one pretext or another. Before, it was done under the slogan of “humanitarian interventions,” now these entities are trying to do it under the slogan of struggle against violent extremism. Where in fact, only the peoples of the countries of the region, as of any country in the world, have the right to decide their own fate. This is an indisputable principle of the international law.

Let us travel back in time to the beginning of the 20th century. Disputes between BRITAIN and FRANCE competing for this region would not cease even after the PARIS Peace Conference. Sometimes we perceive archives as just a pile of papers, but they can describe events, people and countries in an expressive and vivid way. A curious phrase once uttered by a FRENCH prime minister somehow stood out and is worthwhile to recall. When asked what part of SYRIA and for how long FRANCE is planning to occupy, he answered, “The entire SYRIA and forever.”

Background Information: FRANC AND SYRIA

Click below to read entire report: 

After a long haggling during the SANREMO Conference, held in ITALY in April of 1920, the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council determined to allocate the mandates for the administration of the territories of the current IRAQ and PALESTINE to BRITAIN , and the mandates for the territories of the current SYRIA, LEBANON and current TURKISH HATAY Province to FRANCE. These resolutions were approved by the League of Nations on September 29, 1923.

Background Information: TURKEY AND HATAY

Click below to read entire report: 


The borderlines dividing the former provinces of the OTTOMAN EMPIRE were drawn to meet the interests of colonizers, while centuries-old traditional borders separating the territories of different groups of population were disregarded. It led to an onset of a whole range of ethnic and religious conflicts. The catastrophes the MIDDLE EAST has to deal now with were, so to say, pending catastrophes.


Just a short historical note. At that time SYRIA was split into six dwarf states regarded as sovereign countries: the State of DAMASCUS, the State of ALEPPO, the State of ALAWITESthe State of JABAL DRUZE, the State of GREATER LEBANON and the SANJAK of ALEXANDRETTA. Could it be then that the plans to break SYRIA down into a number of smaller states were taken off the shelf in one of these archives? The logic behind that is easy to discern. 

It is easier to manipulate a split country. It is easier to compel it to take unfavorable and even dangerous for its people decisions. Maybe a renowned Orientalist scholar BERNARD LEWIS was guided by these ideas when he proposed his famous plan envisaging the breakup of LEBANON into several microstates, IRAN into 4-5 parts, PAKISTAN into 3-4 parts, SYRIA into 4-5 parts and SUDAN into two parts. His plan for SUDAN has actually materialized.

Background Information: BALKANIZATION OF SYRIA

Click below to read entire report: October 2015 we wrote:


Just one hundred years has passed since the signing of the SYKES–PICOT agreement—a rather short span of time to compare to the span of human history. Perhaps it would take to look back in history to understand the root causes of some mind-boggling attitudes and approaches exercised by many EUROPEAN countries with respect to the current events in the MIDDLE EAST.

Today it would be reasonable to point out that since the MUSLIMS comprise 20% of the population of our planet, its welfare will largely depend on the trends prevailing in the ISLAMIC world.

BECHIR BEN YAHMED, Editor-in-chief of Jeune Afrique stated his opinion in the issue of the magazine published on 12/02/2016 that three major factors will determine the fate of the ARABIC and ISLAMIC world as a whole in the next two years: oil prices, termination of the Civil War in SYRIA and the future of DAESH (the so-called ‘Islamic State’), which continues to control significant areas of SYRIA and IRAQ. If the international community manages to uproot this terrorist organization, Sunni Islam will fizzle following the emasculation of its two masterminds—SAUDI ARABIA and DAESH, Mr. YAKHMED noted. He thinks that it is too early to predict what policy the current rulers of the Kingdom of SAUDI ARABIA will pursue. Whether they will act in a more sober way or remain opportunistic.

Background Information: SAUDI ARABIA AND WAHHABISM

Many political observers believe that the current situation is akin to a civilizational war between the Christian/Secular West and the Islamic Caliphate. Some argue that NORTH AMERICA, EUROPE and RUSSIA are natural allies in this struggle and need each other more than ever before. “Together they can withstand the hydra of pan-Islamism with its countless heads (DAESH, AL-QAEDA, JABHAT AL-NUSRA, SALAFIS, MUSLIM BROTHERS, and others), and stabilize the MIDDLE EAST, the cradle of Islamic fanaticism, and can stabilize EUROPE.” By deliberately overthrowing GADDAFI’S and MUBARAK’S regimes and having wedged war against ASSAD, the US destabilized the situation in NORTH AFRICA, the MIDDLE EAST and EUROPE. But today the US and RUSSIA are uniting  in order to strengthen the position of President of EGYPT AL SISI, to enable him to crush DAESH terrorists in SINAI and LIBYA and to achieve a political settlement of the SYRIAN crisis. And if the West is really striving for this alliance, it must recognize RUSSIA’S “near abroad” (i.e., UKRAINE, BELARUS, CRIMEA, CAUCASUS and CENTRAL ASIA) as a traditional zone of its influence.

An assessment provided in The Times is noteworthy as it dwells upon the ideas voiced by many political analysts. The article published on 17/02/2016 says, “B. OBAMA made many mistakes during the last Arab revolutions and gave V. PUTIN an opportunity to become the winner in the SYRIAN conflict that turned for us into a disaster, as now the West can play only the role of a spectator.” In most likelihood the US will be doing its best to avoid a third world war or a direct East - West confrontation, which could be interpreted as defeat.

This is what the current situation in the MIDDLE EAST looks like a hundred years after the signing of the SYKES–PICOT Agreement.

Adapted by Geopolitical Analysis and Monitoring from the original Article written by Veniamin Popov, via NEO

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