Kept secret when it was signed, the Sykes-Picot agreement has become a byword for the greed and arrogance of the colonial powers and blamed for creating weak states with unnatural borders in the Arab world. In 2014, the Islamic State group issued a video titled 'The End of Sykes-Picot' showing a bulldozer destroying the earthwork border between Syria and Iraq.
How much to you know of what was actually agreed in 1916?
In which capital was the agreement signed?
Who was the third signatory to the agreement whose name is now passed over in silence?
a) Emir Faisal, future King of Iraq
b) US ambassador Henry Morgenthau
c) Sergei Sazonov, Russian foreign minister
Which country was allocated the Ottoman capital Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul?
Which country was allocated Kurdistan and eastern Armenia?
The land which is currently divided between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was allocated to whom?
a) A future Israel
b) A future Palestine
c) An international zone
Which country was given control of the city of Mosul, in modern-day Iraq?
Whose grave was dug up in 2008 for medical research?*
a) Francois Georges-Picot
b) Sergei Sazonov
c) Sir Mark Sykes
If you answered ‘c’ to all questions, congratulations. You know your Sykes-Picot.
The point is to show that the 1916 carve-up should be called the Sazonov-Sykes-Picot agreement. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, was the prime mover. At the time, the Russian Empire was victorious on the Eastern Front while Britain had suffered a catastrophic defeat in Iraq. That all changed in 1917 when the Russian revolution toppled the Tsar, making many of the provisions of the treaty void. To understand more about the agreement, read Sean McMeekin’s article here…
*Sykes died in of the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919 and was shipped home from Versailles in a lead-lined coffin. Researchers looking to find the DNA of that flu strain thought it might have been preserved in Sykes’s remains. They uncovered the coffin but it had been badly damaged by the weight of soil on top.