Just as hysteria about the demise of Sykes-Picot was starting to die down, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has revived it by declaring its intention to revive the caliphate at least over what is now Iraqi and Syrian territory. The news arrived in two separate ISIS videos, one featuring a Chechen militant presiding over the dismantling of an outpost on the Syrian-Iraqi border and the other showcasing an English-speaking Chilean jihadist.
Amid the post–Arab Spring everything-has-changed anxiety, fears that Syria’s dismemberment would lead to the unraveling of all the hard work that Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot did back in 1916–17 have loomed large. The civil war in Syria seemed to presage the breakup of the state and the rejiggering of its borders to serve Iraqi Sunni, Israeli, Lebanese, Kurdish, and Turkish purposes. Ankara, for example, had threatened to seize the Syrian city of Idlib if refugee flows out of the country exceeded a very low threshold, which has long since been crossed. Syria’s Kurds, meanwhile, were expected to cordon off their part of Syria from the rest of the country and then join Iraqi Kurdistan in declaring independence. Along the Lebanese-Syrian border, Hezbollah was expected to expand its territory at Syria’s expense to preserve lines of communication to a coastal Alawite enclave if Assad lost control of the rest of the country. And, if Israel felt threatened by radical Sunnis in Syria, the thinking went, it might want to push its
- Full website and iPad access
- Magazine issues
- New! Books from the Foreign Affairs Anthology Series