Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2014 Contents A45
June 15, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
but given the weakness of central
authority, that may not make much of
The Islamic State s campaign is helped
by Sunni discontent with Assad s Alaw-
ite-dominated Syrian government and
the Shiite-led government in Iraq, two
states whose borders were drawn by
Britain and France after World War I.
The militants capture of Iraq s cities
of Mosul and Tikrit makes their dream
of a new Islamic state look more realistic.
It already controlled a swath of eastern
Syria along the Euphrates River, with a
spottier presence extending further west
nearly to Aleppo, Syria s largest city.
In Raqqa, the biggest city it holds in
Syria, it imposes taxes, rebuilds bridges
and enforces the law---its strict version
Ancient trade route links
Historically, Raqqa and Mosul and the
surrounding areas that make up Northern
Mesopotamia---a region known as the
Jazira---have had more in common with
each other than they did with distant
Southern Mesopotamia centred on Bagh-
dad and Basra.
The desert wadi routes that the Islamic
State uses to smuggle its weapons, fight-
ers and money back and forth across the
border are the same trade routes established five
millennia ago when the first cities arose in the
Upper Tigris and Euphrates valleys.
And the Islamic State is not the only group
Iraq s Kurds, who run an autonomous region
in northern Iraq, seized control of the city of
Kirkuk, ostensibly to defend it from the militant
group s advance.
But they may not want to leave.
The ethnically mixed city historically holds a
revered status among Kurds and they claim it as
Holding it will only further stoke the longtime
hopes among many Kurds of declaring outright
Syria s Kurds, meanwhile, have taken advantage
of the turmoil of that country s civil war---now
in its fourth year---to take control of the pocket
of northeast Syria where they predominate.
Meanwhile, in Libya...
In North Africa, Libya is grappling with its own
centripetal forces since the 2011 fall of Moammar
The authority of the central government in
Tripoli has collapsed as multiple local militias
take power in cities and regions around the coun-
try.In the eastern half of Libya---historically a dis-
tinct entity centered around Benghazi---there are
calls for autonomy.
1916 Sykes-Picot accord
The contours and regimes of the Mideast are
rooted in the 1916 Sykes-Picot accord, named
after the two British and French diplomats, Mark
Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, who negotiated
it in complete secrecy.
Under the deal, London and Paris carved up
Ottoman Empire s Middle Eastern lands into
spheres of influence.
A series of later treaties after the end of World
War I set the final boundaries, eventually creating
Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and a British mandate
in Palestine that paved the way for the creation
The lines were drawn according to British and
French interests with little regard to realities on
For example, mainly Sunni Mosul---along with
Kurdish areas further north---was thrown together
with Baghdad and the overwhelmingly Shiite
south to form Iraq.
Syria was cobbled together from what had been
the Ottoman provinces of Aleppo and Damascus,
along with the long-separate coastal areas dom-
inated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Lebanon was broken away as a French-protected
Christian protectorate, and Sunni and Shiite Mus-
lim areas were added, creating a sectarian mix
that has erupted into civil war and constant tur-
Cities like Acre, Haifa, Nazareth---which by
administration, trade and clan were long connected
to areas now in Lebanon and Syria---were instead
looped into Mandate Palestine and now are in
Perhaps the most artificial creation was Jordan.
An old joke has it that a strange zigzag in Jordan s
border with Saudi Arabia was the result of a tipsy
Winston Churchill hiccupping as he drew the line
on the map.
Its main population centres like Amman had
historically been a hinterland for Syria and
• From Page A39
Continues on Page A47
Sunni discontent fuels Islamic State's campaign
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