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After Sykes-Picot
The Erased Borders of the Middle East

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave a wide-ranging and provocative interview to NPR earlier this week. Of particular interest was his recognition that the national borders that were created after World War I are dissolving:

The borders of many Arab states were drawn up by Westerners a century ago, and wars in recent years show that a number of them are doomed to break apart, according to Ya’alon, a career soldier who became Israel’s defense minister last year.

“We have to distinguish between countries like Egypt, with their history. Egypt will stay Egypt,” Ya’alon, who is on a visit to Washington, tells Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep.

In contrast, Ya’alon says, “Libya was a new creation, a Western creation as a result of World War I. Syria, Iraq, the same — artificial nation-states — and what we see now is a collapse of this Western idea.”

Asked if Middle Eastern borders are likely to change in the coming years, Ya’alon says: “Yes, absolutely. It has been changed already. Can you unify Syria? [President] Bashar al-Assad is controlling only 25 percent of the Syrian territory. We have to deal with it.”

Ya’alon is right. As our own Adam Garfinkle concluded in June about Iraq: “The Iraqi state in its historic territorial configuration is gone—solid gone, and it ain’t coming back.” The region’s other “artificial nation-states” aren’t going to return to the status quo ante bellum either. Whatever comes out of the current war, it won’t look like the old landscape, and we shouldn’t imagine that there are natural nations waiting to be created out of the ethno-tribal-religious anarchy that the Middle East is witnessing.

Yaalon’s entire interview is quite thought-provoking, particularly his analysis of the latest Gaza war and the Palestinian right of return. Read the whole thing here.

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  • Corlyss

    “it won’t look like the old landscape”
    The landscape will be the same. It’s the maps, liars at best, that won’t. Of course, the map of north America is gone too.

    • Andrew Allison

      Except for the destruction wrought during the undoing.

  • lehnne

    the only point of interest in this article is that the best and brightest thought the map meant something right up until the present

    • Zimriel

      At least the neocons can’t be blamed for this one. They had a more sensible map:

      But the map was evil because joos.

      • Tom

        Unfortunately, the Neocons didn’t draw the map, Ralph Peters did, and he did not fit in with the neoconservatives due to the fact that he actually believed that cultural differences were important.

  • Diggsc

    The countries whose existing borders surround oil-rich deposits will not easily yield to this new map drawing effort. As moronic as it was to ignore tribal affiliation with the antebellum border drawing, it will be equally moronic to ignore fossil fuel deposits today.

  • jaytrain

    So the vile and loathsome arabs will carve up other vile and loathsome arabs : what’s not to like .

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