Satloff on the Collapse of Sykes-Picot Hype

Robert Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in other words, an expert.  Earlier this month he wrote a fairly long article defining and explaining some current trends among westerners in how the current situation in the region is viewed.  The two lead paragraphs:

Like fashion and food, political analysis of the Middle East has its fads, too.  At one time, there was the “days are numbered” fad, as in “King Hussein’s days are numbered” or “the Saudis’ days are numbered.”  In fact, the former died of natural causes after nearly five decades on the throne while the latter have proved surprisingly resilient, leader after leader.  For many years, there was the “linkage” fad, the fervently held belief that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unlocked the secret elixir to heal all of the region’s ills.  No serious person makes that case any more, marveling instead at the impermeable bubble in which Secretary of State John Kerry keeps Israeli-Palestinian peace talks quarantined from the chaos swirling around the region.

The current fad is about “the collapse of Sykes-Picot,” a phrase that triggers no fewer than 5.7 million hits in a Google search.  This thesis takes various forms but, at its core, it is the idea that the system of largely artificial nation-states invented by the British and French at the end of World War I to safeguard their colonial interests—a system kept in place in the post-colonial period by decades of strong-man rule—is finally collapsing.  In most versions of the story, the competing and often violently conflicting loyalties of tribe, sect, ethnicity, and religion are chiefly responsible for erasing these century-old lines in the sand.

Not so, says Satloff.  For those who like to delve a little deeper into understanding Middle Eastern affairs, the entire article is HERE.