Sykes-Pi­cot’s lies and Arab world

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS -

THE

se­cret agree­ment be tween Bri­tain and France in the mid­dle of the World War I to carve up the Ot­toman Em­pire be­tween them­selves has had a ter­ri­ble ef­fect on the Arab world. The di­vi­sions be­tween the Arabs and the deep sus­pi­cion of west­ern du­plic­ity have dam­aged the re­gion’s as­pi­ra­tions for gen­er­a­tions. The 1916 Sykes-Pi­cot agree­ment split the Arab lands into two spheres of in­flu­ence, north for France in Syria and Lebanon, and south for Bri­tain in Iraq, the Tran­sjor­dan and Pales­tine. In each of their ar­eas, Bri­tain and France gave them­selves the au­thor­ity to es­tab­lish what­ever kind of gov­ern­ments they wished. What made this cyn­i­cal power grab even worse was the bla­tant lack of in­tegrity around its prin­ci­ples, be­cause the Sykes-Pi­cot agree­ment was in di­rect con­flict with other Bri­tish prom­ises — made to Sharif Hus­sain Bin Ali of Makkah in the McMa­hon letters — that Arabs would even­tu­ally re­ceive in­de­pen­dence if they sup­ported the Al­lies against the Ot­tomans.

When this hypocrisy be­came pub­lic, it was fur­ther com­pounded by the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion that Bri­tain favoured a home for the Jews in Pales­tine, which was also di­rectly against the Bri­tish prom­ises made to the Arabs. The im­pe­rial carve-up of the Arab world led to the great pow­ers’ colo­nial gov­ern­ments that nat­u­rally failed to en­gage the peo­ple of the re­gion and led di­rectly to the rev­o­lu­tions and mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships in the 1950s and 1960s, and then on to the sub­se­quent chaos as many of the hol­low gov­ern­ments of the Arab na­tion states failed and col­lapsed in the past decade. But there is a dan­ger that blam­ing Sykes-Pi­cot for ev­ery­thing is an ex­cuse for nar­row-minded gov­ern­ments not to man­age in the mod­ern world, be­cause a hun­dred years af­ter the agree­ment, some of the Arab states have de­vel­oped flour­ish­ing struc­tures while oth­ers have failed. But what is a more ur­gent con­cern is the legacy of the lies con­tained in the Bri­tish and west­ern at­ti­tude to the Arab world. Th­ese be­tray­als have been echoed by the Amer­i­can in­va­sion of Iraq and the sub­se­quent fail­ure to sup­port Iraqi na­tion-build­ing, and this has led di­rectly to a deep con­cern that as west­ern pow­ers are once again in­volved in Syria, the West has still not fin­ished with in­ter­fer­ing in the shape the re­gion. As the Arabs watch Iraq be­ing dis­mem­bered into three parts, any hint of US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry’s no­to­ri­ous Plan B for Syria raises the same old spec­tre of di­vi­sion and ha­tred. — Gulf News

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