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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Understanding ISIS/ISIL

                What is the deal with ISIS/ISIL?  What is the Sykes-Picot Agreement?  How much do you know about it?  I had not even heard about this agreement and so knew nothing about it until Glenn Beck did a program on it.  Glenn claims that the whole ISIL/ISIS mess can be understood better by knowing what is in the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

                Glenn used his hour-long program to explain what is really happening with ISIS and ISIL.  “Out of all of the peace accords and the cease-fires and the nonviolent pledges, none of them ever get to the root of the problem, and that is the `why.’  Until the why is addressed, the cycle of violence and hate is just going to continue.”

                Glenn showed a timeline that included the 2014 Israeli/Hamas conflict, the 2012 Gaza conflict, the Second Intifada (2000), the First Intifada, the 1968 Six Day War, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War – and then took his timeline all the way to World War I.
                Glenn showed a map detailing the Allied Powers (U.S., Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Serbia), the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire).

                According to Glenn, his map shows the “root” of the modern-day tensions in the Middle East.  He was particularly interested in the Ottoman Empire.  “This is the last time the Arab world had a united Islamic state led by a religious leader, the Ottoman Empire, the caliphate.  … The Allies knew the Ottoman Empire could shut down key shipping routes effectively and then cripple Britain’s economy, France.  So they knew the Ottoman Empire was going to be a problem.  They had to neutralize it.

                The Ottoman Syria of 1851 encompassed the modern-day nations of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, parts of Iraq and Jordan.  These are the borders that ISIS/ISIL is trying to reestablish.  In order to divide the Ottoman Empire, Britain sent an army officer by the name of T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) to the Middle East “to convince the Arab leaders to fight against the Ottomans.”  Lawrence promised the Arabs whatever they wanted, but, according to Glenn, Great Britain did not intend to keep any of the promises.

                A new set of borders was decided by two countries – Great Britain and France – that sent representatives to lead the negotiations.  Those men were Francois Georges-Picot of France and Mark Sykes of Britain.   A secret agreement drawing up new borders - known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement - was signed on May 16, 1916, by Britain, France, and Russia.

                Glenn believes “there are five key points to keep in mind when considering the history of this conflict:  (1) The Sykes-Picot agreement, (2) The desire for a united Arab kingdom, (3) The quest to regain control of `Greater Syria,’ (4) The western desire to maintain economic control of the Middle East, [and] (5) The Jewish and Palestinian people are nothing more than pawns in this larger game.”  For more information on Glenn’s ideas, link here.

                I wanted to know more about the Sykes-Picot Agreement and found this information:  “The Sykes-Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I.  The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916.  The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.
                “The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence.  The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes.  The Russian Tsarist government was a minor party to the Sykes-Picot agreement, and when, following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement, `the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted.’”

                Under the agreement, “Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the 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 south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and the Ottoman Armenian vilayets.  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 the Sharif of Mecca.”

                At the same time, discussions were held about the future of Palestine and the Jewish people.  Glenn explained that the Arab leaders knew they had to have a common enemy in order to consolidate power once again.  They made the Jews that enemy.  Palestinians were offered their own land in 1947 when “a two state solution was proposed with 56% of the land going to the Jews and 43% to the Arabs.  Jerusalem would be international territory….
                “The Jews accepted the deal.  All the Arabs need to do is sign on the dotted line, and the land will be theirs.  But, alas, they refuse.  Why?  Because peace with Israel means the Jewish scapegoat the Arabs were using to cultivate power suddenly goes away.
                “`If the Palestinian homeland was the goal for the Arab world, not the Palestinians, the Arab world, all they had to do was agree.  But remember, the scapegoat goes away,’ Glenn said.  `If you make peace with Israel, that all goes out the window.  So when they were presented with what they said they wanted and always wanted, the nation of their own, they said no.  And then all hell broke loose.’”  

                The whole mess is very confusing to me, but this explanation gives me a better idea of why things are happening the way they are.  Knowing about and understanding the Sykes-Picot Agreement makes the mess easier to understand for me. Of course, it will take a whole lot more studying to truly understand it – and maybe there is no one who can truly understand it!  I encourage you to learn more about this 100-year-old agreement and how it affects the world today.

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