Were Arabs betrayed by Sykes-Picot?

Britain and France carved up the Middle East following the Ottoman defeat in 1918.

The Sykes-Picot map of 1916 indicating French and British zones in the Middle East

We asked our readers from across the world whether the Arabs were betrayed by the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. What are the effects of the British-French accord which divided the Arab World into regions of influence?

Join our Arab Unity debate on the Your Views section of the site to let us know your thoughts.

Your comments

You mean the Ottoman Empire was a small number of groups of people? Come on, they ruled form Indonesia to Spain. As a true believer of Islam, I believed that unity among Muslims and Arab Muslims can only come from true Islam. As far as Shia Suuni is concerned, they can never unite because Shia believe Sunnis are their number one enemies – Qaisi, Karachi, Pakistan

It’s a great pity that there is no unity among the Arabs as well as among the Arab nations. Arabs are fighting Arabs and some of them profiting from Bush’s war and preparations to war. Many Arab countries are virtually dictatorships supported by the US. They are the satellite nations: Saudi Arabia; Egypt Jordan and Kuwait. If united they would together form a mighty power that would withstand American domination of the Middle East. But it seems that slowly at the horizon an Arab “surge” is emerging. It will take time, but I believe it’s inevitable – Tom, Christchurch, New Zealand

Where have the so called champions of Arab unity gone? One after the other they came and went leaving behind little to no success. Nasser, Assad, and Saddam, their flags draped with one, two, and three stars, called for unity for 50 years and failed. They failed because their aim was an alliance designed to destroy Zionism. Instead of designing an alliance to build Arabia, they preached hate and struggled amongst each other over leadership and power. Regardless, today, it is Islamic unity repeating the same mistake – 
Rainbow, Philadelphia, USA

Most of these Nations didn’t exist 100 years ago; the plan was to wipe off the Ottomans from this world in to history. The Arabs were successfully used at this battle and promised a united Arab land which never came to life. The lands were shared among world powers for their own interests; and our borders were drawn with rulers in straight lines. Then Kings were created for all these separated lands and they were told you are the King on this country, rule your nation and obey us. Everything is still fresh so I don’t think Arabs are interested in uniting at this stage. And my other personal theory is that Muslim world is living its 15th century, compare it to the 15th century Christianity. Europe was at its dark ages, slaughtering each other. Muslims aren’t at as bad a stage as that. I also think the Kings and leaders of these countries don’t think its necessary to share their power and wealth with other countries. There is still a very long time for the idea of unity among Arabs – Turk, Istanbul, Turkey

The Arabs will never unite as long as Gulf countries have oil and money. They are so selfish that they will never allow other poor Arab countries to part of that wealth. They would rather have money sitting in banks in Europe and the US building their economies and not helping their brothers – Carthagesam, Reston, USA

Having lived and worked in the Middle East, I come to recognized that there is no one Arab identity as there are many Arab identities, each still live in its own ways and having a different perspective on life and its position in the region and in the world, despite a common belief in Islam and speaking a common Arabic language. The various Arab nations did not come to being until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the British and local Bedos. Furthermore, Arabs suffered the same backlash from being western colonies after the Ottoman defeat and never had a chance to fully develop its own ethno-nationalism. Nasser tried and failed in Egypt – Max, San Francisco, USA

Sharing one culture, language and religion will never be enough to really unite a big ethnic group, the Christian states are a shining example for this fragile illusion. The last time I can think of the Arabs speaking with one voice was the oil embargo in the early 1970s, when even the mighty Saudi Arabia joined in, obviously without fearing a possible western military intervention. But the world has become more aggressive meanwhile, and with a view to most Arab nations these are probably rather deterred than encouraged by the fate of Saddam because of his unrelenting fight for the sovereignty and national pride of his people. The incredibly rich Gulf states, however, still seem to be satisfied with driving their German luxury cars and sometimes! Make us tourists jealous instead of using their vast resources to strengthen their self-confidence by building a counter-force against the West and thus also against the extremism on their soil – 
Ingeborg, Germany

Arab Unity? What about Muslim unity? Which one is more important? Which one will Allah smile upon? Which one did the Prophet (pbuh) himself dictate that we should adhere to? – Urban Bedouin, Freehold, NJ, USA

I think I see the steel in the Arab soul finally shining through. Al Jazeera may be the only example I can cite as a visible example. But, there are the not so overt signs that many of us cannot admit. I see other knees buckling under the pressure – Rainmaker, India

Arab unity is possible only when we get rid of dictators from the Middle East to North Africa. The list is appalling, the average age of a dictator exceeds 10 years in power or more in certain instances. We need a new breath of fresh air from military junior officers to take the helm of the country with a vision that takes into account the interest of the nation before the individual, family and tribe’s interests. We could have done better with the resources that we have, from oil to agriculture to tourism. This economic stagnation is due to fierce control of every citizen and what he does on a daily basis. This frustration is making the best qualified manpower in the Arab world emigrate to where they feel accepted and doing something positive for humanity at large. I also blame the stagnation of the so called religious leaders – Be Humble, United Kingdom.

Source: Al Jazeera


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