After almost a century of existence, the borders that form the modern Mideast nation states appear to be on the verge of disintegration. Part of the driving force behind this meltdown, as observers are beginning to acknowledge, is of course the intractable sectarian war in Syria. But a far bigger part of the picture is the accelerating destabilization of Iraq. The breakdown of Iraq, with its far-reaching regional ramifications, is attributable in no small part to President Obama’s abandonment of the U.S.’s mission in the country, a betrayal committed in total defiance of the military establishment’s recommendations, which squandered the hard-won victory handed down by President Bush. As predicted, our precipitous withdrawal has left the once pacified nation riven with sectarian strife, primarily among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds. As the region descends, the consequences of Obama’s folly are only becoming more obvious: a nation that once stood a chance at being a source of stability in the region is instead rapidly becoming its maelstrom.
In 1916, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France signed a secret agreement, with Russia’s approval, to dissolve the Ottoman Empire. The Sykes-Picot agreement was concerned with creating Middle East spheres of influence for France and Great Britain following their victory in WWl. The League of Nations facilitated the mandates over the territory captured by both nations. France got Syria and Lebanon, and Britain got Iraq. The agreement also separated the British mandatory Palestine, known by its Arab residents prior to WWI as “Surya al-Janubiyya” (Southern Syria), from the French mandatory of Syria to the north. For its approval of the deal, Russia received territory that eventually became Turkey.
Thus, the artificial borders of five countries were established. In the ensuing years, two critical realities were also realized: in Syria, the Alawite minority, the sect to which current president Bashar Assad belongs, was granted power over the Sunni majority. In Iraq, the Sunni minority was empowered at the expense of the Shi’ite majority. In other words, borders created to satisfy European sensibilities largely ignored the realities of historic ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions. these divisions were exacerbated by the rise of dictators, tyrants and Arab monarchs who maintained power after the French and British withdrew in the middle of last century.
It is those divisions that are now asserting themselves.
The current flashpoint involves the 370 mile border separating Iraq from Syria. The civil war on the Syrian side has drawn everyone in the region into the conflict. On the Shi’ite side, troops from Iran and their Lebanese-based proxy, Hezbollah, have aligned themselves with Bashar Assad. Troops from Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fighting on the side of the rebels, along with elements of al Qaeda. Turkey also has Sunni allies in Syria, but their main ambition appears to be separating Kurdish elements from both Syria and Iraq, because they have made peace with the Kurdish rebels within their own borders, and are seeking to expand their …read more