Russia returns to a Middle East it never really left

Sykes and Picot have taken the blame but actually it was a Russian who drew the map of the Middle East, writes Sean McMeekin

The World Today
Published 23 March 2016 Updated 30 November 2020 4 minute READ

Sean McMeekin

Professor of History, Bard College and author of The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908 – 1923

To judge from press coverage, the emergence of Islamic State has brought about a cartographic revolution in the Middle East. With the borders of Syria and Iraq in flux, journalists have resurrected the legend of Sykes-Picot, wherein Britain and France are said to have divided up the Ottoman empire between them in an agreement signed 100 years ago, in May 1916. Russia’s intervention in Syria, by upstaging the United States and her allies, seems in this view to be completing the rout of western influence in the Middle East, putting the final nail in the coffin of ‘Sykes-Picot’.

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