Syria: another WWI decision backlash ?

map illustration of the ottoman sykes-picot roadmap

The League of Nations many failures

The motivation for writing this article comes from my long-term interest towards this very particular period of human history, which to my amusement E. Hemingway liked to call La Génération Perdue . As many know it, lot of long-term decisions with hefty consequences were made during the Great War and some parts of the world still pay their price. This analysis will try to identify the political causes of today's anarchy in the ex-Ottoman world, which is to say the Maghreb, Egypt, Middle-Eastern and Arabian regions with a special focus on current developments in Syria and Iraq. A historical approach to the "Syrian problem" will be interesting because so few medias have been thoroughly presenting the issue's origin, which I believe to be dated as far as 1916...

The situation at the end of Great War

Strongly influenced by the rise of nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire collapses after a long period of political turmoil followed by a coup d'état by the rising Young Turks and the military disaster of the Balkan Wars. Although the main reason for the Ottoman losses of the Balkan Wars was a technological delay. Its failure to modernize and constant diplomatic pressure of Russia, France and the United Kingdom did not help either. Following the coup, a nationalist pro-Turkish dictatoriship was set to drive the empire to its demise...

The attrocities commited on the Armenians, Anatolian Greeks and Assyrians during and at the end of the Great War were the final blow to empire as the old political hierarchy disentegrated in favour of few nationalist Turkish leaders.

An artificial state

sykes-picot map The French and British victors sat and discussed secretly how to dissolve the empire in the most profitable way. With that sole objective in mind, both sides agreed to draw the following map based on oil fields positions. A year later, the oil rich Mosul concessions were offered by the French to the British on a whim, a decision the Kurdish community was of course never consulted upon. Basically, Syria was not only created but also drawn by the Alliance powers.

Balkanization ?

syria sectarian map

The fact is: as far as we go, since its inception in 1946, Syria has not, even a single time, been balloting in a peaceful and regular way. A case some might say, is very similar to the one of the Balkans.

Moreover, Syrian communities mostly identify by religion: another clear proof of its artificiality. As a matter of fact, its political constituencies are mostly religious (Shia, Sunni, Alawi, Druze, etc). with the exception of the Kurds who seem to be the only ones to emphasize ethnicity over religion as key reference to their identity. Is the concept of statehood even possible without clear separation of the leadership from religious affairs, especially in a region with so many different beliefs ? The iron hand of the pan-arab nationalist long list of dictators that never even tried implementing democracy, didn't seem to believe it was possible either...