Who Exposed The Biggest Clandestine Colonial Carve-up In The Middle East?

The Sykes-Picot agreement was a secret pact reached between France and England in 1916. The Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy were also in on the secret decision to divide Ottoman territories in the middle east to protect European interests in the long run.

According to the agreement the French would capture or control Syria, Parts of Northern Iraq, Lebanon and Southern Turkey, while the English would get to rule over Egypt, Jordan, large parts of Kuwait and the rest of Iraq. Russia would get parts of eastern Turkey. Over a year after the agreement was signed the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II was overthrown by the Russian revolution and soon the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia. The text of the secret agreement was now in the hands of the revolutionary government of the Soviet Union.

In an attempt to thwart imperialist plans, when the Soviets discovered the text of the Sykes-Picot Agreement they decided to publish it in the Pravada, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. News of the sinister plot to divide and rule over middle eastern lands became public and spread across the world. The entire globe was now aware of the intentions of the colonial powers and the lengths to which they were willing to go to extend their power. The details of the Sykes-Picot prove that not only did the Europeans make false promises to Arabs that they used against the Ottomans during World War 1, but also promises made to the Zionists. The agreement laid the foundation for borders in the region to be drawn in a way (the actual borders were drawn during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and subsequent conferences) that would split up Arab majority regions into separate states only keeping in mind European interests and completely disregarding the local ethnic cultural and religious demographics. For instance, the border agreements divided other ethnicities like Kurds completely, leaving them without a unified state to this day.

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Although the historical importance of the Sykes-Picot Agreement after it was leaked by the Soviets is contested, what we can perhaps all agree on is that the Sykes-Picot Agreement turned into a symbol of clandestine colonial domination, and oppression of the inhabitants of the Middle East for many years to come.

The Middle East is a culturally diverse region with a rich political history. We should all try to find the time to read more about the history of individual states and peoples movements that have arguably shaped the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region. The Sykes-Picot controversy is an interesting starting point for students to consider reading about other events, movements and plans that have influenced politics in the Middle East.

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