Letter: ISIS’ bloody roots traced to 1919 treaty
Today our existential fear of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is propelling the president toward expanding military action in the Middle East. But Barack Obama, notwithstanding his Iraq and Afghanistan withdrawals, bears no historical responsibility for this latest Middle East inhumanity.
The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East for 450 years. With World War I, everything changed. Fearing Russian expansionism, the Turks belatedly entered the war allied with Russia’s enemy Germany. England and France, in spite of horrendous losses on the Western Front, now saw military and economic opportunity in the Eastern Mediterranean.
By far the best known of the forays that ensued was the England’s attempt to open a second front against Germany. The military disaster that was the land attack against the vastly underrated Turkish army on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the sea attack against the Turkish forts along the Dardanelles Straits is now legendary.
Forgotten is England’s later invasion of the Middle East from Egypt and separately, from Basra. The principal reason for these attacks, far from the war in Europe and with troops badly needed in France, was post-war colonial expansion. By provisions of a secret agreement, the Sikes-Picot treaty between England and France (predicated on the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire), the post-war Middle East was to be carved up to serve these victorious countries’ political and economic interests. Western bureaucrats drew arbitrary map lines creating Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Centuries-old animosities between Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other Muslim sects; economic equality of opportunity among the countries’ Arab peoples; and subjugation of religious majorities by ruthless minority sects were all considerations ignored. In addition and, for some, worst of all, the Balfour Declaration pledged England’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine under English supervision.
The result of the Sikes-Picot Treaty’s cynical perfidy remains the greatest single reason for the violence that has plagued the Middle East ever since 1919. European arrogance almost 100 years ago is a root cause of the subhuman desire for bloody terrorism that is ISIS.
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