TDISH: A Secret Agreement

May 16, 2016 is the one hundredth anniversary of one of the most controversial secret agreements in history – the Sykes-Picot Agreement.  This document, drawn up at the height of the First World War, was drawn up by the British and French diplomats, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot.  This agreement, drawn up by the British and French, gave the two countries zones of control in the Ottoman provinces of the Middle East, should the Allies win the war.  The pact, which was singed on May 16, 1916, was agreed upon by the British and 800px-MPK1-426_Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916.jpgFrench and authorized by the (still-tsarist) Russia.  However, no local concerns were taken into account upon drawing the lines.  Arab tribesman, who helped the Allied War effort, had been promised an independent state of their own – they would not receive one, but rather a second-tier state overseen by British and French benefactors.  You can only imagine how upset the nations who found out that they had been duped became when the existence of this agreement leaked out in 1917 when the Russian government (now Bolshevik) leaked the agreement from the tsar’s archives.

Why should we care about a 100-year old secret agreement?  Because it basically went into effect, drawing the borders of the modern Middle East: Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, etc.  Many historians believe that this agreement, unintentionally, has led to many of the problems in the Middle East today.  The reality of this on-the-ground can be shown by simply looking at Twitter.  When the Islamic State (ISIS) crossed the border between Syria and Iraq, the Sykes-Picot line, they tweeted in celebration #SykesPicotOver.

Image 1. Sykes-Picot Map. By Royal Geographical Society (Map), Mark Sykes & François Georges-Picot (Annotations) – This file is from the collections of The National Archives (United Kingdom), catalogued under document record MPK1/426. Public Domain.
Black, Ian. “Middle East still rocking from first world war pacts made 100 years ago.” The Guardian. December 30, 2015.
Black, Ian. “Isis breach of Iraq-Syria border merges two wars into one ‘nightmarish reality.’” The Guardian. June 18, 2014.

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