The Sykes–Picot Agreement

Hey, remember the time in the middle of WWI when England and France agreed to divvy up the Middle East between them and screw over every Arab alive just as soon as they defeated the Ottoman Empire? No? Well, don’t worry about it; we don’t talk about it much in Western history classes so you might never have heard of it. We do NOT like to mention anything that makes us (not the USA; the West in general) look like the “bad guys”. Also, all decisions made forthwith by the REAL “bad guys” are treated as if they occurred in an ahistorical vacuum.

That’s how our narrative rolls, baby!

On 16 May 1916 the United Kingdom and the French Third Republic signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement wherein  they promised that they wouldn’t try to steal any territory from each other in the areas they were going to steal from the Arabs. Pictured below: Zones of French (blue), British (red) and Russian (green) influence and control established by the Sykes–Picot Agreement.


Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and a small area including the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean.France was allocated control of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia.The controlling powers were left free to decide on state boundaries within these areas.Further negotiation was expected to determine international administration pending consultations with Russia and other powers, including Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca.

In 1908/1909 the UK had sworn to the Young Turk Revolutionaries, via Colonel T. E. Lawrence, that they would totally recognize a national Arab homeland as long as the Young Turks helped the British forces fight the Ottoman Empire. Yeah, the English decided they didn’t want to keep their word on that so the Sykes-Picot Agreement made the earlier promise to the Arab revolutionaries null and void. Sucks to be you, Young Turks!

Instead of allowing Arabs to set up the constitution democracies they were fighting for, UK and France decided to be the regional puppet-masters for dictators:

An “international administration” was proposed for Palestine.The British gained control of the territory in 1920 and ruled it as Mandatory Palestine from 1923 until 1948. They also ruled Mandatory Iraq from 1920 until 1932, while the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon lasted from 1923 to 1946. The terms were negotiated by the British and French diplomats Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot.

Russia agreed to play along provided the UK and France gave them a piece of the Middle Eastern Pie. However, the Russian government would fall to the  Bolsheviks soon after, and those early idealist soviets told the whole world about the underhanded power-play on 23 November 1917, after which “the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted.”

This deal in 1916 has caused repercussions for 100 years now.

It has been argued that the geopolitical architecture founded by the Sykes–Picot Agreement disappeared in July 2014 and with it the relative protection that religious and ethnic minorities enjoyed in the Middle East. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claims one of the goals of its insurgency is to reverse the effects of the Sykes–Picot Agreement.

ISIL is clearly much worse than anything the Franco-British Imperialists came up with, but the sad fact remains that if Western forces had not sold Arab democracy down the river and used the Middle East as a money-maker for Oil Barons then there wouldn’t have been a fertile breeding ground for theocratic terrorist ideologies. The sick irony is that although the West is being hoist on it’s own petard, it is the individual Westerners who had NOTHING to do with the political rape of the Middle East that are dying from terrorist attacks.

So on this, the 100th anniversary of the Worst Agreement Ever, let us all raise a toast to the Western Oligarchies that continue to wantonly exploit, slaughter, and serve as the catalyst for killings of those less powerful. Then let us metaphorically break the glasses and use the shards to attack the systemic inequality inherent in the current system and stop murdering each other.



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