Sykes-Picot’s lies and Arab world
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