Why Did the British Want to Divide the Ottoman Empire in Two after World War One?

This article is an edited transcript of The Sykes-Picot Agreement with James Barr, available on Our Site TV.

Historian James Barr explains the Sykes-Picot Agreement, 100 years after it was signed.

Listen Now

At the end of 1914, when there was deadlock on the eastern and western fronts of World War One, a group within the British government known as the “Easterners” started to think about an attack on Ottoman Empire to knock the Ottomans out of the war. They planned to open up a new front in south-east Europe that the Germans would have to divert troops to.

The idea of that, even before the Gallipoli landings happened, provoked what was then called the “Eastern Question”: what would happen after the Ottomans had been defeated? To both pursue and answer that question, the British government set up a committee.

Mark Sykes (main image) was the youngest member of the committee and he spent the most time of all its members on the subject, thinking through what the options were.

In this fascinating discussion with Dan Snow, Cambridge University’s Dr Kate Fleet takes us on a tour of the hugely successful and long lasting empire, and questions how we should view its legacy in the modern era.

Watch Now

Who was Mark Sykes?

Sykes had been a Conservative MP for four years by 1915. He was the son of Sir Tatton Sykes, a very eccentric Yorkshire baronet who had three joys in life: milk pudding, church architecture and the maintenance of his body at a constant temperature.

Sir Tatton Sykes had taken Mark to Egypt for the first time when he was about 11 years old. Mark was blown away by what he saw, like many tourists have been since, and he went back there repeatedly as a young man and as a student.

After he got a job as an attaché in the British Embassy in Constantinople, the younger Sykes returned to Egypt repeatedly. This all culminated in 1915 with the publication of his book The Caliphs’ Last Heritage, which was a part-travel diary and a part-history of the decay of the Ottoman Empire. The book established him as an expert on that part of the world.

A caricature of Mark Sykes dating to 1912.

But was he actually an expert?

Not really. Mark Sykes was rather what we’d think of as an adventurous tourist. You would get the impression (as people did within the British cabinet) that he could speak a number of Eastern languages, including Arabic and Turkish. But, in fact, he could speak none of them beyond sort of saying marhaba (hello) or shukran (thank you), and things like that.

But the book, which is about two inches thick, gave him this kind of air of learning, not to mention that he’d actually been to that part of the world.

That in itself was a relatively rare thing. Most British politicians had not been there. They would have even struggled to place many of the most important towns and cities on a map of the area. So in contrast to the people he was dealing with, Sykes knew a lot more about it than they did – but he didn’t know that much.

The strange thing was that the people who did know about it had by and large been posted out to Cairo or to Basra or were based in Deli. Sykes enjoyed influence because he was still back at the seat of power and knew something about the subject. But there were many people who knew more about the issues than he did.

After the First World War broke out, Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson established a hospital in a vast and derelict old workhouse in Covent Garden's Endell Street. The medical marvel which sprung up treated 26,000 wounded men over the next four years, and was staffed entirely by women. Wendy Moore joined Dan on the pod to tell this remarkable story, and discuss the legacy of these pioneering women.

Listen Now

Splitting the sick man of Europe in two

The committee that was set up to determine Britain’s strategic interest in the Middle East finalised its views in the middle of 1915 and Sykes was sent out to Cairo and to Deli to canvas British officials about what they thought about the ideas.

The committee originally thought about dividing the Ottoman Empire up along its existing provincial lines and creating a kind of Balkan system of mini-states in which Britain could then pull the strings.

But Sykes had a much clearer idea. He proposed to divide the empire in two, “down the line that ran from the E in Acre to the Last K in Kirkuk” – with this line in practice being a British-controlled defensive cordon across the Middle East that would protect the land routes to India. And, surprisingly enough, the officials in Egypt and India all agreed with his idea rather than the idea of the majority of the committee.

So he went back to London saying, “Well, actually, no one likes your idea, but they like my idea of this belt of English-controlled country” – that was the phrase he used – that would go from the Mediterranean coast to the Persian frontier, and act as a way of keeping Britain’s jealous European rivals away from India.

Dan talks to Richard van Emden about his new book - Missing: the need for closure after the Great War. It is the story of one woman’s relentless search for her missing son’s body. Richard also looks at the bigger picture: how long should the nation search for its dead and the mistakes made identifying the dead, when exhumation parties were under such intolerable pressure.

Listen Now

Did oil play a big part in this British decision?

The British knew about oil in Persia, now Iran, but they didn’t at that point appreciate how much oil there was in Iraq. So the bizarre thing about the Sykes-Picot agreement is that it’s not about oil. It’s actually about the fact that the Middle East is a strategic crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa.


Back in 1915, the British needed the help of the Arabs in defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I. In a set of letters called the 'McMahon–Hussein Correspondence,' they promised the Arabs that if they rebelled against The Ottoman Empire (which had sided with Germany in the war), that they would get their own independent state (as depicted in the first map above). However, at the very same time the British made this promise, there was clandestine agreement in the works with France and Russia to carve up the Ottoman Empire amongst themselves. This was known as the 'Sykes-Picot Agreement.' Suffice it to say, the territory promised to the Arabs was not a part of their bargain. Then to make matters even more confusing, there was a third - and completely separate agreement with the Zionist community called the 'Balfour Declaration', promising the Jews their own ethno-state within the borders of Palestine.

So with these three contradictory agreements all made at the same time, it was clear that somebody was going to get deceived. In the end, the British promises to the Arabs were a fraud.

The Arabs fought and died for the British, thinking that they would gain their independence as a reward for their sacrifice. Yet what ended up happening instead, is that the British and French marched into their territory and claimed the remains of empire for themselves.

The Sykes-Picot agreement is without a doubt a watershed event in the creation of the modern Middle East. As you can see from the map of above, the creation of states like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan were a product of Sykes-Picot. Many of the people living within these borders feel that the division was arbitrary, and indeed this has been a catalyst for bloody ethnic conflicts that continue up until today.

The Sykes-Picot is also responsible for the establishment of hostilities between the Western and Arab world. While almost every school child in the Arab world knows about the betrayal of the Sykes-Picot agreement, many in the West are still ignorant about this inconvenient truth.

Imagine if the French had promised America that they'd help us fight the British in the Revolutionary War, only to march into America themselves and take over in the aftermath of war.

So there is still a lot of bitterness in the Arab world about this betrayal, and this betrayal set the ground work for chaos and catastrophe in the years to come.

Below we include some more in depth information about these three different agreements.


The Sykes-Picot Agreement, also known as the 'Asia Minor Agreement,' was made between the governments of Great Britain, France, and Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence in taking control of the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I. The negotiation of the agreement occurred between November 1915 and March 1916, and was concluded on May 16th, 1916.

The agreement divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside of the Arabian Peninsula. These were carved into areas of future colonial control. The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes.

The Russian Tsarist government was also a minor party to the Sykes–Picot agreement. Things got pretty interesting however, when following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement to the public. "The British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted [1]." The Zionists were also upset with the Sykes-Picot agreement becoming public only three weeks after the Balfour Declaration, which pretty much exposed the Balfour Declaration as a fraud.


Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the sea and River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and a small area including the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean.


France was allocated control of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.


Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and the Ottoman Armenian vilayets.


The McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, or the Hussein–McMahon Correspondence, was an exchange of letters (July 14th, 1915 - January, 30th 1916) during World War I, between the Sharif of Mecca, Husayn bin Ali, and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, concerning the political status of lands under the Ottoman Empire. Now the Arab side was already planning a large revolt against the Ottoman Empire however, the British further encouraged the Arabs to revolt under their direction and command, with promises of independence and their own territory.

Hussein specified the areas he wished to include in the “Sharifian Arab Government” after Arab independence. Hussein’s proposed land included the Arabian Peninsula other than Aden, Palestine, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In his response to Hussein’s letter, McMohan agreed to post-war Arab independence on behalf of the British Government, limited only by the constraints and reservations of non-Arab territories or related to what Britain was not at liberty “to act without detriment to the interests of her ally, France”.

“The districts of Mersin and Alexandretta, and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo” were the territories not assessed as Arab by the British. As the exact meaning couldn’t be derived from this, similar to the later Balfour Declaration, Arab spokesmen has asserted since the time of the correspondence that Palestine was included in the proposed Arab Peninsula.

Sharif Hussein saw World War I as an opportunity to liberate Arab lands from the Turks. The Arabs felt that the Turks had abandoned their pluralistic and pan-Islamic policies to pursue a secular Turkish nationalism. Thus the Great Arab Revolt was launched on June 5, 1915. The Arabs trusted the word of British officials that they would get their own unified, independent state. In 1918 Damascus was released from Ottoman rule at the end of the war Arab forces had taken control of most of the Arabian Peninsula, Southern Syria and all of the modern Jordan.

Yet in the aftermath of the war, Britain walked out on their promise of a unified, independent Arab state.


The Balfour Declaration was a short letter by Arthur Balfour to arguably one of the most influential Jewish families - the Rothchild's. It was assumed that this letter gave the British government's support to the creation of a Jewish homeland.

Specifically, Balfour stated:

"His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

The British indeed were very busy making promises towards the end of World War I. While they promised the Arabs their own independent state, they also made a similar but conflicting promise to the Zionist community. The Zionists were interested in the creation of a Jewish ethno-state in Israel. James Gelvin, a Middle East history professor, claims that the British made these promises in order to appeal to Woodrow Wilson as well as the Russians.

"The British did not know quite what to make of President Woodrow Wilson and his conviction (before America's entrance into the war) that the way to end hostilities was for both sides to accept "peace without victory." Two of Wilson's closest advisors, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, were avid Zionists. How better to shore up an uncertain ally than by endorsing Zionist aims? The British adopted similar thinking when it came to the Russians, who were in the midst of their revolution. Several of the most prominent revolutionaries, including Leon Trotsky, were of Jewish descent. Why not see if they could be persuaded to keep Russia in the war by appealing to their latent Jewishness and giving them another reason to continue the fight?" . These include not only those already mentioned but also Britain's desire to attract Jewish financial resources [2]."

The British believed that expressing support would appeal to Jews in Germany, America and Russia - and thusly would help the war effort.

Even David Llyod George, who was the Prime Minister at the time the Balfour Declaration was issued, admitted later in 1937 that the declaration was made for 'propagandist reasons'.[3]

"The idea was, and this was the interpretation put upon it at the time, that a Jewish State was not to be set up immediately by the Peace Treaty without reference to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants. On the other hand, it was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunity afforded them by the idea of a national home and had become a definite majority of the inhabitants, then Palestine would thus become a Jewish Commonwealth [3]."

While the Arabs promoted tolerance for the Jews at the time, they were opposed to the idea of turning Palestine into a Jewish ethno-state. The Sharif of Mecca even called on the Arabs to "welcome the Jews as brethren and co-operate with them for the common welfare." [4] What many people in the West don't understand today, is that before World War I, relations between the Arabic and Jewish population in the Middle East were fairly tolerant. Much of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is a direct result of the territorial divisions made in the aftermath of World War I and World War II.

However, Israel as a Jewish State was not established in the aftermath of World War I, as the Balfour declaration promised. Israel was not established until 1948. So, the Zionist community was disappointed and later David Lloyd George confirmed their disappointment when he admitted that the British promises were a fraud from the beginning, propaganda designed to gain the interest of the Jewish community in the war.


The Treaty of Sevres (August 10th, 1920) was one of a series of treaties that the Central Powers in World War I were made to sign in the subsequent event of their defeat. The treaty abolished the Ottoman Empire and obliged Turkey to renounce all rights over Arab Asia and North Africa. The pact also provided for an independent Armenia and an autonomous Kurdistan, and for a Greek presence in eastern Thrace and on the Anatolian west coast, as well as Greek control over the Aegean islands commanding the Dardanelles.

This marked the beginning of the partition that would end up in the ultimate annihilation of the Ottoman Empire (an empire that had lasted 600 years). This treaty triggered hostility and nationalistic feelings amongst the Turks, which ultimately led to the Turkish War of Independence, when a new treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne was accepted by Atatürk and Turkish nationalists, and which effectively brought into being the modern day republic of Turkey. Had it not been for Atatürk (which means 'Father of the Turks'), what we know as Turkey today would probably not exist.


Up until the 20th century, Islam for the most part was a fairly moderate and tolerant world religion in comparison to Christianity. It wasn't perfect non-muslims such as Christians and Jews were forced to pay a tax called the Jizya and were often treated like second class citizens in Islamic lands like The Ottoman Empire. Yet the Middle East was actually the place that Jews often fled to in order to escape the brutal persecutions and genocides that were more common place in Christian lands.

One of the sad realities of the Ottoman Empire's collapse is the resulting take over of Mecca (the center of Islam) by an ultra, conservative, puritanical Muslim sect called the Wahabbis. The Al Saud dynasty and the Wahabbi religion spread to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Before the discovery of petroleum oil near the Persian Gulf in 1939, Western forces were ambivalent about the fate of Islam's holy lands. Yet once oil was discovered, The Al Saud dynasty gained billions of dollars in revenue. This money—spent on books, media, schools, universities, mosques, scholarships, fellowships, lucrative jobs for journalists, academics and Islamic scholars—gave Wahhabism a "preeminent position of strength" in Islam around the world.

Saudi Arabia has become a chief exporter of Wahabbism, intolerance and terrorist ideology around the globe. Indeed much of the corruption of Islam and radical ideology that exists in the Middle East today is a direct result of The Ottoman Empire's fall back in 1920.


So the betrayal of The Allied Powers was the turning point when relations between The West and The Arabs began to sour, for obvious reasons.

Even today, terrorist groups such as 'The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIS or ISIL) claim one of their major goals is to reverse the effects of the Sykes-Picot agreement. While the people in this group are certainly the scum of the Earth in terms of the crimes they have committed against humanity, many of the people under their control see this issue as a legitimate grievance. And they aren't the first terrorist group to cite Sykes-Picot as the cause of their actions. The Sykes-Picot Agreement is well known in The Middle East, and taught to every Arab child in school. Yet most in The West are not taught this inconvenient truth, as it may distort the image of the Allied powers - and consequently today's leaders - as a benevolent force.


[1]: Peter Mansfield, The British Empire magazine, no. 75, Time-Life Books, 1973

[2]: Gelvin, James (2005). The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War. New York: Cambridge. pp. 82 and 83.

[3]: Palestine Royal Commission Report, Cmd 5479, 1937, pp23–24.

[4]: Palestine, a Twice-promised Land?: The British, the Arabs & Zionism, 1915–1920 By Isaiah Friedman, page 171

The Partitioning Of The Middle East

If you want to understand part of why the Middle East is such a volatile region today, a good place to start finding answers is the partitioning of the region between 1918 and 1920. The Allies defeated the Ottoman Empire in WWI, and needed to decide what would happen to areas previously under Ottoman control. These covered modern-day Syria, The Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Iran. Theoretically, their people could have gained independence, after years of being colonial subjects. However, this wasn’t to be. The British, French and Russians had signed a secret treaty in 1916 (the Sykes-Picot Agreement), whereby they had decided to carve up the Middle East among themselves (like a nice, oil-flavoured cake).

This secret agreement was extremely underhanded the Allies supported Arab rebellions against the Ottomans during the war, and promised them they were fighting for self-governance. However, Arab oil fields, as well as other economic and political motivations, made them break their promise. To excuse this U-turn, western governments claimed the Arabs weren’t ready to govern themselves, and that they needed British and French control in order to progress.

The League of Nations (the predecessor of the UN) supported the signing of a second treaty, the Treaty of Sevres, in 1920, which legitimised the European presence in the Middle East. France was given a mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, while Britain was entrusted with Palestine and Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).

Ostensibly, the Europeans were helping to build new, independent nations. In reality, the mandates were thinly disguised licences for imperialism. The governments they established were basically colonial governments with minimal local representation. Obviously, the local people were less than happy with these arrangements, and there was serious civil unrest across the Arab world.

The European response to this opposition was horrific and brutal. In 1920, the Iraqi people rose up against the British who had showed no signs of honouring their promise to grant independence, and were instead ruthlessly exploiting Iraq’s economic resources. The Iraqis rose up in full strength in an attempt to force the British to leave Mesopotamia. The British responded with a savage bombing campaign, dropping 97 tonnes of bombs on the rebels, and on some civilian targets. The Iraqi death toll is estimated to have been between 7,000 and 10,000. Needless to say there was a great deal of collateral damage.

In Syria the locals attempted to put a leader of their own choice, King Faisal, on the throne to try to escape colonial rule. The French responded in a similar fashion and crushed the rebels in 1920 at the Battle of Maysalun once again thousands died and the French retained control. Admittedly, the Europeans did learn lessons from these uprisings and they did transfer some power back to local populations, but they still ruled indirectly through puppet leaders, and economic exploitation continued.

This isn’t nearly the full story, but even these examples show in part why historians generally agree that the actions of the Europeans in the decades after WWI set the negative tone for relationships in the Middle East for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is also claimed by many that the colonial style of government and ruthless economic exploitation has had serious knock on effects. Western foreign policy has undeniably had an enduring negative impact on the population of the Middle East. That is why it is so important for us to be aware the events of 1920 today it set the tone for East-West relations in the twenty-first century.

This doesn’t mean we should feel crippling guilt for something that happened so long ago. However, we should be more able to understand why there is so much hatred towards the West in places like Syria and Iraq. Children of these countries learn in schools about the past exploitation of their countries by western nations for many it defines their perception of Europeans.

On our social media and on TV today discussion of the actual history of European foreign policy in the Middle East is woefully neglected. People are unaware of how far that policy has exacerbated or even created the problems of extremism and disunity. The example of partitioning and political and economic exploitation by the colonial powers after WWI does show that there were serious negative consequences for the countries of the Middle East. With a better understanding of this period of history, perhaps we can feel more empathy towards those suffering because of extremism or civil war.


The island of Cyprus was first inhabited in 9000 BC, with the arrival of farming societies who built round houses with floors of terazzo. Cities were first built during the Bronze Age and the inhabitants had their own Eteocypriot language until around the 4th century BC. [12] The island was part of the Hittite Empire as part of the Ugarit Kingdom [13] during the late Bronze Age until the arrival of two waves of Greek settlement.

Cyprus experienced an uninterrupted Greek presence on the island dating from the arrival of Mycenaeans around 1100 BC, when the burials began to take the form of long dromos. [14] The Greek population of Cyprus survived through multiple conquerors, including Egyptian and Persian rule. In the 4th century BC, Cyprus was conquered by Alexander the Great and then ruled by the Ptolemaic Egypt until 58 BC, when it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. In the division of the Roman Empire around the 4th century AD, the island was assigned to the predominantly Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire.

Roman rule in Cyprus was interrupted in 649, when the Arab armies of the Umayyad Caliphate invaded the island. Fighting over the island between the Muslims and Romans continued for several years, until in 668 the belligerents agreed to make Cyprus a condominium. This arrangement persisted for nearly 300 years, until a Byzantine army conquered the island in around 965. Cyprus would become a theme of the Byzantine Empire until the late 12th century.

After an occupation by the Knights Templar and the rule of Isaac Komnenos, the island in 1192 came under the rule of the Lusignan family, who established the Kingdom of Cyprus. In February 1489 it was seized by the Republic of Venice. [ citation needed ] Between September 1570 and August 1571 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, [ citation needed ] starting three centuries of Turkish rule over Cyprus.

Starting in the early 19th century, ethnic Greeks of the island sought to bring about an end to almost 300 years of Ottoman rule and unite Cyprus with Greece. The United Kingdom took administrative control of the island in 1878, to prevent Ottoman possessions from falling under Russian control following the Cyprus Convention, which led to the call for union with Greece (enosis) to grow louder. Under the terms of the agreement reached between Britain and the Ottoman Empire, [ citation needed ] the island remained an Ottoman territory.

The Christian Greek-speaking majority of the island welcomed the arrival of the British, [ citation needed ] as a chance to voice their demands for union with Greece.

When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers, Britain renounced the Agreement, rejected all Turkish claims over Cyprus and declared the island a British colony. [ citation needed ] In 1915, Britain offered Cyprus to Constantine I of Greece on condition that Greece join the war on the side of the British, which he declined. [15]

1918 to 1955 Edit

Under British rule in the early 20th century, Cyprus escaped the conflicts and atrocities that went on elsewhere between Greeks and Turks during the Greco-Turkish War, and the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriots consistently opposed the idea of union with Greece.

In 1925, Britain declared Cyprus a crown colony. [ citation needed ] In the years that followed, the determination of Greek Cypriots to achieve enosis continued. In 1931 this led to open revolt. [ citation needed ] A riot resulted in the death of six civilians, injuries to others and the burning of Britain's Government House in Nicosia. [ citation needed ] In the months that followed, about 2,000 people were convicted of crimes in connection with the struggle for union with Greece. Britain reacted by imposing harsh restrictions. Military reinforcements were dispatched to the island and the constitution suspended. [16] [17] A special "epicourical" (reserve) police force was formed consisting of only Turkish Cypriots, press restrictions instituted [18] [19] and political parties banned. Two bishops and eight other prominent citizens directly implicated in the conflict were exiled. [20] Municipal elections were suspended, and until 1943 all municipal officials were appointed by the government. [ citation needed ] The governor was to be assisted by an Executive Council, and two years later an Advisory Council was established both councils consisted only of appointees and were restricted to advising on domestic matters only. In addition, the flying of Greek or Turkish flags or the public display of visages of Greek or Turkish heroes was forbidden. [ citation needed ]

The struggle for enosis was put on hold during World War II. In 1946, the British government announced plans to invite Cypriots to form a Consultative Assembly to discuss a new constitution. The British also allowed the return of the 1931 exiles. [21] Instead of reacting positively, as expected by the British, the Greek Cypriot military hierarchy reacted angrily because there had been no mention of enosis. [ citation needed ] The Cypriot Orthodox Church had expressed its disapproval, and Greek Cypriots declined the British invitation, stating that enosis was their sole political aim. The efforts by Greeks to bring about enosis now intensified, helped by active support of the Church of Cyprus, which was the main political voice of the Greek Cypriots at the time. [ citation needed ] However, it was not the only organisation claiming to speak for the Greek Cypriots. The Church's main opposition came from the Cypriot Communist Party (officially the Progressive Party of the Working People Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζόμενου Λαού or AKEL), which also wholeheartedly supported the Greek national goal of enosis. However the British military forces and colonial administration in Cyprus did not see the pro-Soviet communist party as a viable partner. [ citation needed ]

By 1954 a number of Turkish mainland institutions were active in the Cyprus issue such as the National Federation of Students, the Committee for the Defence of Turkish rights in Cyprus, the Welfare Organisation of Refugees from Thrace and the Cyprus Turkish Association. [ citation needed ] Above all, the Turkish trade unions were to prepare the right climate for the main Turkish goal, the division of the island (taksim) into Greek and Turkish parts, thus keeping the British military presence and installations on the island intact. By this time a special Turkish Cypriot paramilitary organisation Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) was also established which was to act as a counterbalance to the Greek Cypriot enosis fighting organisation of EOKA. [22]

In 1950, Michael Mouskos, Bishop Makarios of Kition (Larnaca), was elevated to Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus. In his inaugural speech, he vowed not to rest until union with "mother Greece" had been achieved. [ citation needed ] In Athens, enosis was a common topic of conversation, and a Cypriot native, Colonel George Grivas, was becoming known for his strong views on the subject. In anticipation of an armed struggle to achieve enosis, Grivas visited Cyprus in July 1951. He discussed his ideas with Makarios but was disappointed by the archbishop's contrasting opinion as he proposed a political struggle rather than an armed revolution against the British. From the beginning, and throughout their relationship, Grivas resented having to share leadership with the archbishop. Makarios, concerned about Grivas's extremism from their very first meeting, preferred to continue diplomatic efforts, particularly efforts to get the United Nations involved. The feelings of uneasiness that arose between them never dissipated. In the end, the two became enemies. In the meantime, on 16 August [Papagos Government] 1954, Greece's UN representative formally requested that self-determination for the people of Cyprus be applied. [23] Turkey rejected the idea of the union of Cyprus and Greece. Turkish Cypriot community opposed Greek Cypriot enosis movement, as under British rule the Turkish Cypriot minority status and identity were protected. Turkish Cypriot identification with Turkey had grown stronger in response to overt Greek nationalism of Greek Cypriots, and after 1954 the Turkish government had become increasingly involved. In the late summer and early autumn of 1954, the Cyprus problem intensified. On Cyprus the colonial government threatened publishers of seditious literature with up to two years imprisonment. [24] In December the UN General Assembly announced the decision "not to consider the problem further for the time being, because it does not appear appropriate to adopt a resolution on the question of Cyprus." Reaction to the setback at the UN was immediate and violent, resulting in the worst rioting in Cyprus since 1931. [ citation needed ]

EOKA campaign and creation of TMT, 1955–1959 Edit

In January 1955, Grivas founded the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston – EOKA). On 1 April 1955, EOKA opened an armed campaign against British rule in a coordinated series of attacks on police, military, and other government installations in Nicosia, Famagusta, Larnaca, and Limassol. This resulted in the deaths of 387 British servicemen and personnel [25] and some Greek Cypriots suspected of collaboration. [26] As a result of this a number of Greek Cypriots began to leave the police. This however did not affect the Colonial police force as they had already created the solely Turkish Cypriot (Epicourical) reserve force to fight EOKA paramilitaries. At the same time, it led to tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In 1957 the Turkish Resistance Organisation (Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı TMT), which had already been formed to protect the Turkish Cypriots from EOKA, took action. In response to the growing demand for enosis, a number of Turkish Cypriots became convinced that the only way to protect their interests and identity of the Turkish Cypriot population in the event of enosis would be to divide the island – a policy known as taksim ("partition" in Turkish borrowed from (تقسیم)"Taqsīm" in Arabic) – into a Greek sector in the south and a Turkish sector in the north.

Establishment of the constitution Edit

By now the island was on the verge of civil war. Several attempts to present a compromise settlement had failed. Therefore, beginning in December 1958, representatives of Greece and Turkey, the so-called "mother lands" opened discussions of the Cyprus issue. Participants for the first time discussed the concept of an independent Cyprus, i.e., neither enosis nor taksim. Subsequent talks always headed by the British yielded a so-called compromise agreement supporting independence, laying the foundations of the Republic of Cyprus. The scene then naturally shifted to London, where the Greek and Turkish representatives were joined by representatives of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots (represented by Arch. Makarios and Dr Fazil Kucuk with no significant decision making power), and the British. The Zürich-London agreements that became the basis for the Cyprus constitution of 1960 were supplemented with three treaties – the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee, and the Treaty of Alliance. The general tone of the agreements was one of keeping the British sovereign bases and military and monitoring facilities intact. Some Greek Cypriots, especially members of organisations such as EOKA, expressed disappointment because enosis had not been attained. In a similar way some Turkish Cypriots especially members of organisations such as TMT expressed their disappointment as they had to postpone their target for taksim, however most Cypriots that were not influenced by the three so called guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey, and Britain), welcomed the agreements and set aside their demand for enosis and taksim. According to the Treaty of Establishment, Britain retained sovereignty over 256 square kilometres, which became the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, to the northeast of Larnaca, and the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area to the southwest of Limassol.

Cyprus achieved independence on 16 August 1960.

According to constitutional arrangements, Cyprus was to become an independent, non-aligned republic with a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president. General executive authority was vested in a council of ministers with a ratio of seven Greeks to three Turks. (The Greek Cypriots represented 78% of the population and the Turkish Cypriots 18%. The remaining 4% was made up by the three minority communities: the Latins, Maronites and Armenians.) A House of Representatives of fifty members, also with a seven-to-three ratio, were to be separately elected by communal balloting on a universal suffrage basis. In addition, separate Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Communal Chambers were provided to exercise control in matters of religion, culture, and education. According to Article 78(2) "any law imposing duties or taxes shall require a simple majority of the representatives elected by the Greek and Turkish communities respectively taking part in the vote". Legislation on other subjects was to take place by simple majority but again the President and the Vice-President had the same right of veto—absolute on foreign affairs, defence and internal security, delaying on other matters—as in the Council of Ministers. The judicial system would be headed by a Supreme Constitutional Court, composed of one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot and presided over by a contracted judge from a neutral country. The Constitution of Cyprus, whilst establishing an Independent and sovereign Republic, was, in the words of de Smith, an authority on Constitutional Law, "Unique in its tortuous complexity and in the multiplicity of the safeguards that it provides for the principal minority the Constitution of Cyprus stands alone among the constitutions of the world". [27] Within a short period of time the first disputes started to arise between the two communities. Issues of contention included taxation and the creation of separate municipalities. Because of the legislative veto system, this resulted in a lockdown in communal and state politics in many cases.

Crisis of 1963–1964 Edit

Repeated attempts to solve the disputes failed. Eventually, on 30 November 1963, Makarios put forward to the three guarantors a thirteen-point proposal designed, in his view, to eliminate impediments to the functioning of the government. The thirteen points involved constitutional revisions, including the abandonment of the veto power by both the president and the vice-president. Turkey initially rejected it (although later in future discussed the proposal). A few days later, on Bloody Christmas (1963) 21 December 1963 fighting erupted between the communities in Nicosia. In the days that followed it spread across the rest of the island, resulting in the death of 364 Turkish Cypriots, 174 Greek Cypriots and the forced displacement of 25.000 Turkish Cypriots. At the same time, the power-sharing government collapsed. How this happened is one of the most contentious issues in modern Cypriot history. The Greek Cypriots argue that the Turkish Cypriots withdrew in order to form their own administration. The Turkish Cypriots maintain that they were forced out. Many Turkish Cypriots chose to withdraw from the government. However, in many cases those who wished to stay in their jobs were prevented from doing so by the Greek Cypriots. Also, many of the Turkish Cypriots refused to attend because they feared for their lives after the recent violence that had erupted. There was even some pressure from the TMT as well. In any event, in the days that followed the fighting a frantic effort was made to calm tensions. In the end, on 27 December 1963, an interim peacekeeping force, the Joint Truce Force, was put together by Britain, Greece and Turkey. After the partnership government collapsed, the Greek Cypriot led administration was recognised as the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus at the stage of the debates in New York in February 1964. [28] The Joint Truce Force held the line until a United Nations peacekeeping force, UNFICYP, was formed following United Nations Security Council Resolution 186, passed on 4 March 1964.

Peacemaking efforts, 1964–1974 Edit

At the same time as it established a peacekeeping force, the Security Council also recommended that the Secretary-General, in consultation with the parties and the Guarantor Powers, designate a mediator to take charge of formal peacemaking efforts. U Thant, then the UN Secretary-General, appointed Sakari Tuomioja, a Finnish diplomat. While Tuomioja viewed the problem as essentially international in nature and saw enosis as the most logical course for a settlement, he rejected union on the grounds that it would be inappropriate for a UN official to propose a solution that would lead to the dissolution of a UN member state. The United States held a differing view. In early June, following another Turkish threat to intervene, Washington launched an independent initiative under Dean Acheson, a former Secretary of State. In July he presented a plan to unite Cyprus with Greece. In return for accepting this, Turkey would receive a sovereign military base on the island. The Turkish Cypriots would also be given minority rights, which would be overseen by a resident international commissioner. Makarios rejected the proposal, arguing that giving Turkey territory would be a limitation on enosis and would give Ankara too strong a say in the island's affairs. A second version of the plan was presented that offered Turkey a 50-year lease on a base. This offer was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and by Turkey. After several further attempts to reach an agreement, the United States was eventually forced to give up its effort.

Following the sudden death of Ambassador Tuomioja in August, Galo Plaza was appointed Mediator. He viewed the problem in communal terms. In March 1965 he presented a report criticising both sides for their lack of commitment to reaching a settlement. While he understood the Greek Cypriot aspiration of enosis, he believed that any attempt at union should be held in voluntary abeyance. Similarly, he considered that the Turkish Cypriots should refrain from demanding a federal solution to the problem. Although the Greek Cypriots eventually accepted the report, despite its opposition to immediate enosis, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots rejected the plan, calling on Plaza to resign on the grounds that he had exceeded his mandate by advancing specific proposals. He was simply meant to broker an agreement. But the Greek Cypriots made it clear that if Galo Plaza resigned they would refuse to accept a replacement. U Thant was left with no choice but to abandon the mediation effort. Instead he decided to make his Good Offices available to the two sides via resolution 186 of 4 March 1964 and a Mediator was appointed. In his Report (S/6253, A/6017, 26 March 1965), the Mediator, now rejected by the Turkish Cypriot community, Dr Gala Plaza, criticized the 1960 legal framework, and proposed major amendments which were rejected by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

The end of the mediation effort was effectively confirmed when, at the end of the year, Plaza resigned and was not replaced.

In March 1966, a more modest attempt at peacemaking was initiated under the auspices of Carlos Bernades, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Cyprus. Instead of trying to develop formal proposals for the parties to bargain over, he aimed to encourage the two sides agree to settlement through direct dialogue. However, ongoing political chaos in Greece prevented any substantive discussions from developing. The situation changed the following year.

On 21 April 1967, a coup d'état in Greece brought to power a military administration. Just months later, in November 1967, Cyprus witnessed its most severe bout of intercommunal fighting since 1964. Responding to a major attack on Turkish Cypriot villages in the south of the island, which left 27 dead, Turkey bombed Greek Cypriot forces and appeared to be readying itself for an intervention. Greece was forced to capitulate. Following international intervention, Greece agreed to recall General George Grivas, the Commander of the Greek Cypriot National Guard and former EOKA leader, and reduce its forces on the island. [29] Capitalising on the weakness of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed their own provisional administration on 28 December 1967. Makarios immediately declared the new administration illegal. Nevertheless, a major change had occurred. The Archbishop, along with most other Greek Cypriots, began to accept that the Turkish Cypriots would have to have some degree of political autonomy. It was also realised that unification of Greece and Cyprus was unachievable under the prevailing circumstances.

In May 1968, intercommunal talks began between the two side [30] under the auspices of the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General. Unusually, the talks were not held between President Makarios and Vice-President Kucuk. Instead they were conducted by the presidents of the communal chambers, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktaş. Again, little progress was made. During the first round of talks, which lasted until August 1968, the Turkish Cypriots were prepared to make several concessions regarding constitutional matters, but Makarios refused to grant them greater autonomy in return. The second round of talks, which focused on local government, was equally unsuccessful. In December 1969 a third round of discussion started. This time they focused on constitutional issues. Yet again there was little progress and when they ended in September 1970 the Secretary-General blamed both sides for the lack of movement. A fourth and final round of intercommunal talks also focused on constitutional issues, but again failed to make much headway before they were forced to a halt in 1974.

The intercommunal strife was partly overshadowed by the division of the Greeks between the pro-independence Makarios, and the enosist National Front supported by the military junta of Greece. Grivas returned in 1971 and founded the EOKA-B, a militant enosist group, to oppose Makarios. Greece demanded Cyprus submit to its influence and the dismissal of the Cypriot foreign minister. Makarios survived an assassination attempt and retained enough popular support to remain in power. Enosist pressure continued to mount although Grivas died suddenly in January 1974, a new junta had formed in Greece in September 1973.

In July 1974, Greece and the Cypriot National Guard launched a coup d'état that installed the enosist Nikos Sampson as president. Makarios fled the country with British help. Faced with Greek control of the island, Turkey demanded that Greece dismiss Sampson, withdraw its armed forces, and respect Cyprus' independence Greece refused. From the United States, envoy Joseph Sisco could not persuade Greece to accept Ecevit's Cyprus settlement which included Turkish-Cypriot control of a coastal region in the north and negotiations for a federal solution Kissinger seemed willing to support enosis. The Soviet Union did not support enosis as it would strengthen NATO and weaken the left in Cyprus.

Turkish intervention was driven by the assertive foreign policy of Bülent Ecevit, its prime minister, who was supported by his junior coalition partner. Turkey decided upon unilateral action after an invitation for joint action, made under the Treaty of Guarantee, was declined by Britain. On 20 July, Turkey invaded Cyprus with limited forces. The invasion achieved limited initial success, resulting in Greek forces occupying Turkish-Cypriot enclaves across the island. Within two days, Turkey secured a narrow corridor linking the northern coast with Nicosia, and on 23 July agreed to a cease-fire after securing a satisfactory bridgehead.

In Greece, the Turkish invasion caused political turmoil. On 23 July, the military junta collapsed and was replaced by Konstantinos Karamanlis's civilian government. On Cyprus the same day, Sampson was replaced by Acting President Glafcos Clerides in the absence of Makarios.

Formal peace talks convened two days later in Geneva, Switzerland, between Greece, Turkey and Britain. During the next five days, Turkey agreed to halt its advance on the condition that it would remain on the island until a political settlement was reached. Meanwhile, Turkish forces continued to advance as Greek forces occupied more Turkish-Cypriot enclaves. A new cease-fire line was agreed. On 30 July, the powers declared that the withdrawal of Turkish forces should be linked to a "just and lasting settlement acceptable to all parties concerned", with mentions of "two autonomous administrations - that of Greek-Cypriot community and that of the Turkish-Cypriot community".

Another round of talks was held on 8 August, this time including Cypriot representatives. Turkish Cypriots, supported by Turkey, demanded geographical separation from the Greek Cypriots it was rejected by Makarios, who was committed to a unitary state. Deadlock ensued. On 14 August, Turkey demanded that Greece accept a Cypriot federal state, which would have resulted in the Turkish Cypriots - making up 18% of the population and 10% of land ownership - receiving 34% of the island. The talks ended when Turkey refused Clerides' request for 36 to 48 hours to consult with the Cypriot and Greek governments. Within hours, Turkey launched a second offensive. [ citation needed ] Turkey controlled 36% [31] of the island by the time of the last ceasefire on 16 August 1974. The area between the combatants became a United Nations-administered buffer zone, or "green line". [32]

The Greek coup and Turkish invasion resulted in thousands of Cypriot casualties. [ citation needed ] The Government of Cyprus reported providing for 200,000 refugees. [33] 160,000 [31] Greek Cypriots living in the Turkish-occupied northern region fled before Turkish forces or were evicted they had made up 82% of the region's population. The United Nations approved the voluntary resettlement of the remaining 51,000 Turkish Cypriots in the south in the northern area many had fled to the British areas and awaited permission to migrate to the Turkish-controlled area.

At the second Geneva Conference on 9 August, Turkey pressed for a federal solution to the problem against stiffening Greek resistance. Whilst Turkish Cypriots wanted a bi-zonal federation, Turkey, under American advice, submitted a cantonal plan involving separation of Turkish-Cypriot areas from one another. For security reasons Turkish-Cypriots did not favour cantons. Each plan embraced about thirty-four per cent of the territory.

These plans were presented to the conference on 13 August by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Turan Güneş. Clerides wanted thirty-six to forty-eight hours to consider the plans, but Güneş demanded an immediate response. This was regarded as unreasonable by the Greeks, the British, and the Americans, who were in close consultation. Nevertheless, the next day, the Turkish forces extended their control to some 36 per cent of the island, afraid that delay would turn international opinion strongly against them.

Turkey's international reputation suffered as a result of the precipitate move of the Turkish military to extend control to a third of the island. The British prime minister regarded the Turkish ultimatum as unreasonable since it was presented without allowing adequate time for study. In Greek eyes, the Turkish proposals were submitted in the full awareness that the Greek side could not accept them, and reflected the Turkish desire for a military base in Cyprus. The Greek side has gone some way in their proposals by recognising Turkish 'groups' of villages and Turkish administrative 'areas'. But they stressed that the constitutional order of Cyprus should retain its bi-communal character based on the co-existence of the Greek and Turkish communities within the framework of a sovereign, independent and integral republic. Essentially the Turkish side's proposals were for geographic consolidation and separation and for a much larger measure of autonomy for that area, or those areas, than the Greek side could envisage.

1975–1979 Edit

On 28 April 1975, Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary-General, launched a new mission of good offices. Starting in Vienna, over the course of the following ten months Clerides and Denktaş discussed a range of humanitarian issues relating to the events of the previous year. However, attempts to make progress on the substantive issues – such as territory and the nature of the central government – failed to produce any results. After five rounds the talks fell apart in February 1976. In January 1977, the UN managed to organise a meeting in Nicosia between Makarios and Denktaş. This led to a major breakthrough. On 12 February, the two leaders signed a four-point agreement confirming that a future Cyprus settlement would be based on a federation. The size of the states would be determined by economic viability and land ownership. The central government would be given powers to ensure the unity of the state. Various other issues, such as freedom of settlement and freedom of movement, would be settled through discussion. Just months later, in August 1977, Makarios died. He was replaced by Spyros Kyprianou, the foreign minister.

In 1979 the ABC plan was presented by the USA, as a proposal for a permanent solution of the Cyprus problem. It projected a Bicommunal Bizonal Federation with a strong central government. It was first rejected by the Greek Cypriot leader Spyros Kyprianou and later by Turkey. [34] [35]

In May 1979, Waldheim visited Cyprus and secured a further ten-point set of proposals from the two sides. In addition to re-affirming the 1977 High-Level Agreement, the ten points also included provisions for the demilitarisation of the island and a commitment to refrain from destabilising activities and actions. Shortly afterwards a new round of discussions began in Nicosia. Again, they were short-lived. For a start, the Turkish Cypriots did not want to discuss Varosha, a resort quarter of Famagusta that had been vacated by Greek Cypriots when it was overrun by Turkish troops. This was a key issue for the Greek Cypriots. Second, the two sides failed to agree on the concept of 'bicommunality'. The Turkish Cypriots believed that the Turkish Cypriot federal state would be exclusively Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot state would be exclusively Greek Cypriot. The Greek Cypriots believed that the two states should be predominantly, but not exclusively, made up of a particular community.

Turkish Cypriots' declaration of independence Edit

In May 1983, an effort by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, then UN Secretary-General, foundered after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all occupation forces from Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots were furious at the resolution, threatening to declare independence in retaliation. Despite this, in August, Pérez de Cuéllar gave the two sides a set of proposals for consideration that called for a rotating presidency, the establishment of a bicameral assembly along the same lines as previously suggested, and 60:40 representation in the central executive. In return for increased representation in the central government, the Turkish Cypriots would surrender 8–13 per cent of the land in their possession. Both Kyprianou and Denktaş accepted the proposals. However, on 15 November 1983, the Turkish Cypriots took advantage of the post-election political instability in Turkey and unilaterally declared independence. Within days the Security Council passed a resolution, no.541 (13–1 vote: only Pakistan opposed) making it clear that it would not accept the new state and that the decision disrupted efforts to reach a settlement. Denktaş denied this. In a letter addressed to the Secretary-General informing him of the decision, he insisted that the move guaranteed that any future settlement would be truly federal in nature. Although the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' (TRNC) was soon recognised by Turkey, the rest of the international community condemned the move. The Security Council passed another resolution, no.550 [36] (13–1 vote: again only Pakistan opposed) condemning the "purported exchange of ambassadors between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership".

In September 1984, talks resumed. After three rounds of discussions it was again agreed that Cyprus would become a bi-zonal, bi-communal, non-aligned federation. The Turkish Cypriots would retain 29 per cent for their federal state and all foreign troops would leave the island. In January 1985, the two leaders met for their first face-to-face talks since the 1979 agreement. However, while the general belief was that the meeting was being held to agree to a final settlement, Kyprianou insisted that it was a chance for further negotiations. The talks collapsed. In the aftermath, the Greek Cypriot leaders came in for heavy criticism, both at home and abroad. After that Denktaş announced that he would not make so many concessions again. Undeterred, in March 1986, de Cuéllar presented the two sides with a Draft Framework Agreement. Again, the plan envisaged the creation of an independent, non-aligned, bi-communal, bi-zonal state in Cyprus. However, the Greek Cypriots were unhappy with the proposals. They argued that the questions of removing Turkish forces from Cyprus was not addressed, nor was the repatriation of the increasing number of Turkish settlers on the island. Moreover, there were no guarantees that the full three freedoms would be respected. Finally, they saw the proposed state structure as being confederal in nature. Further efforts to produce an agreement failed as the two sides remained steadfastly attached to their positions.

The "Set of Ideas" Edit

In August 1988, Pérez de Cuéllar called upon the two sides to meet with him in Geneva in August. There the two leaders – George Vasiliou and Rauf Denktaş – agreed to abandon the Draft Framework Agreement and return to the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements. However, the talks faltered when the Greek Cypriots announced their intention to apply for membership of the European Community (EC, subsequently EU), a move strongly opposed by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. Nevertheless, in June 1989, de Cuellar presented the two communities with the "Set of Ideas". Denktaş quickly rejected them as he not only opposed the provisions, he also argued that the UN Secretary-General had no right to present formal proposals to the two sides. The two sides met again, in New York, in February 1990. However, the talks were again short lived. This time Denktaş demanded that the Greek Cypriots recognise the existence of two peoples in Cyprus and the basic right of the Turkish Cypriots to self-determination.

On 4 July 1990, Cyprus formally applied to join the EC. The Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, which had applied for membership in 1987, were outraged. Denktaş claimed that Cyprus could only join the Community at the same time as Turkey and called off all talks with UN officials. Nevertheless, in September 1990, the EC member states unanimously agreed to refer the Cypriot application to the Commission for formal consideration. In retaliation, Turkey and the TRNC signed a joint declaration abolishing passport controls and introducing a customs union just weeks later. Undeterred, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar continued his search for a solution throughout 1991. He made no progress. In his last report to the Security Council, presented in October 1991 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 716, he blamed the failure of the talks on Denktaş, noting the Turkish Cypriot leader's demand that the two communities should have equal sovereignty and a right to secession.

On 3 April 1992, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the new UN Secretary-General, presented the Security Council with the outline plan for the creation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that would prohibit any form of partition, secession or union with another state. While the Greek Cypriots accepted the Set of Ideas as a basis for negotiation, Denktaş again criticised the UN Secretary-General for exceeding his authority. When he did eventually return to the table, the Turkish Cypriot leader complained that the proposals failed to recognise his community. In November, Ghali brought the talks to a halt. He now decided to take a different approach and tried to encourage the two sides to show goodwill by accepting eight confidence building measures (CBMs). These included reducing military forces on the island, transferring Varosha to direct UN control, reducing restrictions on contacts between the two sides, undertaking an island-wide census and conducting feasibility studies regarding a solution. The Security Council endorsed the approach.

On 24 May 1993, the Secretary-General formally presented the two sides with his CBMs. Denktaş, while accepting some of the proposals, was not prepared to agree to the package as a whole. Meanwhile, on 30 June, the European Commission returned its opinion on the Cypriot application for membership. While the decision provided a ringing endorsement of the case for Cypriot membership, it refrained from opening the way for immediate negotiations. The Commission stated that it felt that the issue should be reconsidered in January 1995, taking into account "the positions adopted by each party in the talks". A few months later, in December 1993, Glafcos Clerides proposed the demilitarisation of Cyprus. Denktaş dismissed the idea, but the next month he announced that he would be willing to accept the CBMs in principle. Proximity talks started soon afterwards. In March 1994, the UN presented the two sides with a draft document outlining the proposed measures in greater detail. Clerides said that he would be willing to accept the document if Denktaş did, but the Turkish Cypriot leader refused on the grounds that it would upset the balance of forces on the island. Once again, Ghali had little choice but to pin the blame for another breakdown of talks on the Turkish Cypriot side. Denktas would be willing to accept mutually agreed changes, but Clerides refused to negotiate any further changes to the March proposals. Further proposals put forward by the Secretary-General in an attempt to break the deadlock were rejected by both sides.

Deadlock and legal battles, 1994–1997 Edit

At the Corfu European Council, held on 24–25 June 1994, the EU officially confirmed that Cyprus would be included in the Union's next phase of enlargement. Two weeks later, on 5 July, the European Court of Justice imposed restrictions on the export of goods from Northern Cyprus into the European Union. Soon afterwards, in December, relations between the EU and Turkey were further damaged when Greece blocked the final implementation of a customs union. As a result, talks remained completely blocked throughout 1995 and 1996.

In December 1996, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered a landmark ruling that declared that Turkey was an occupying power in Cyprus. The case – Loizidou v. Turkey – centred on Titina Loizidou, a refugee from Kyrenia, who was judged to have been unlawfully denied the control of her property by Turkey. The case also had severe financial implications as the Court later ruled that Turkey should pay Mrs Loizidou US$825,000 in compensation for the loss of use of her property. Ankara rejected the ruling as politically motivated.

After twenty years of talks, a settlement seemed as far off as ever. However, the basic parameters of a settlement were by now internationally agreed. Cyprus would be a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. A solution would also be expected to address the following issues:

  • Constitutional framework
  • Territorial adjustments
  • Return of property to pre-1974 owners and/or compensation payments
  • Return of displaced persons
  • Demilitarisation of Cyprus
  • Residency rights/repatriation of Turkish settlers
  • Future peacekeeping arrangements

August 1996 incidents Edit

In August 1996, Greek Cypriot refugees demonstrated with a motorcycle protest in Deryneia against the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. The ‘Motorcyclists March’ involved 2000 bikers from European countries and was organised by the Motorcyclists’ Federation of Cyprus. [37] The rally begun from Berlin to Kyrenia (a city in Northern Cyprus) in commemoration of the twenty-second year of Cyprus as a divided country and aimed to cross the border using peaceful means. [37] The demonstrators' demand was the complete withdrawal of Turkish troops and the return of Cypriot refugees to their homes and properties. Among them was Tassos Isaac who was beaten to death. [38]

Another man, Solomos Solomou, was shot to death by Turkish troops during the same protests on 14 August 1996. [39] An investigation by authorities of the Republic of Cyprus followed, and the suspects were named as Kenan Akin and Erdan Emanet. International legal proceedings were instigated and arrest warrants for both were issued via Interpol. [40] During the demonstrations on 14 August 1996, two British soldiers were also shot by the Turkish forces: Neil Emery and Jeffrey Hudson, both from 39th Regiment Royal Artillery. Bombardier Emery was shot in his arm, whilst Gunner Hudson was shot in the leg by a high velocity rifle round and was airlifted to hospital in Nicosia then on to RAF Akrotiri.

Missile crisis Edit

The situation took another turn for the worse at the start of 1997 when the Greek Cypriots announced that they intended to purchase the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. [41] Soon afterwards, the Cyprus Missile Crisis started. [42] The crisis effectively ended in December 1998 with the decision of the Cypriot government to transfer the S-300s to Crete, in exchange for alternative weapons from Greece.

Why the Ottoman Empire rose and fell

One of the greatest empires in history, the Ottomans reigned for more than 600 years before crumbling on the battlefields of World War I.

Known as one of history’s most powerful empires, the Ottoman Empire grew from a Turkish stronghold in Anatolia into a vast state that at its peak reached as far north as Vienna, Austria, as far east as the Persian Gulf, as far west as Algeria, and as far south as Yemen. The empire’s success lay in its centralized structure as much as its territory: Control of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes led to vast wealth, while its impeccably organized military system led to military might. But all empires that rise must fall, and six centuries after the Ottoman Empire emerged on the battlefields of Anatolia, it fell apart catastrophically in the theater of World War I.

Osman I, a leader of a nomadic Turkic tribe from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), began conquering the region in the late 13th century by launching raids against the weakening Christian Byzantine Empire. Around 1299, he declared himself supreme leader of Asia Minor, and his successors expanded farther and farther into Byzantine territory with the help of foreign mercenaries.

In 1453, Osman’s descendants, now known as the Ottomans, finally brought the Byzantine Empire to its knees when they captured the seemingly unconquerable city of Constantinople. The city named for Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, then also became known as Istanbul (a version of stin polis, Greek for “in the city” or “to the city.”

Now a dynastic empire with Istanbul as its capital, the Ottoman Empire continued to expand across the Balkans, the Middle East, and North Africa. Though it was a dynasty, only one role—that of the supreme ruler, or sultan—was hereditary. The rest of the Ottoman Empire’s elite had to earn their positions regardless of birth.

Under the reign of Süleiman the Magnificent, whose 16th-century lifetime represented the peak of the Ottomans’ power and influence, the arts flourished, technology and architecture reached new heights, and the empire generally enjoyed peace, religious tolerance, and economic and political stability. But the imperial court left casualties behind, too: female slaves forced into sexual slavery as concubines male slaves expected to provide military and domestic labor and brothers of sultans, many of whom were killed or, later, imprisoned to protect the sultan from political challenges.

At its height, the Ottoman Empire was a real player in European politics and was home to more Christians than Muslims. But in the 17th century, it began to lose its stronghold. Until then, there had always been new territory to conquer and new lands to exploit, but after the empire failed to conquer Vienna for a second time in 1683, it began to weaken.

Political intrigue within the sultanate, strengthening of European powers, economic competition because of new trade routes, and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution all destabilized the once peerless empire. By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was derisively called the “sick man of Europe” for its dwindling territory, economic decline, and increasing dependence on the rest of Europe.

It would take a world war to end the Ottoman Empire for good. Already weakened beyond recognition, Sultan Abdul Hamid II briefly flirted with the idea of constitutional monarchy before changing course in the late 1870s. In 1908, the reform-minded Young Turks staged a full-fledged revolt and restored the constitution.

The Young Turks who now ruled the Ottoman Empire wanted to strengthen it, spooking its Balkan neighbors. The Balkan Wars that followed resulted in the loss of 33 percent of the empire’s remaining territory and up to 20 percent of its population.

As World War I loomed, the Ottoman Empire entered into a secret alliance with Germany. The war that followed was disastrous. More than two thirds of the Ottoman military became casualties during World War I, and up to 3 million civilians died. Among them were around 1.5 million Armenians who were wiped out in massacres and in death marches during their expulsion from Ottoman territory. In 1922, Turkish nationalists abolished the sultanate, bringing an end to what was once of history’s most successful empires.

Palestine 1918 to 1948

Palestine is the name (first referred to by the Ancient Greeks) of an area in the Middle East situated between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Palestine was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 and remained under the rule of the Turks until World War One. Towards the end of this war, the Turks were defeated by the British forces led by General Allenby. In the peace talks that followed the end of the war, parts of the Ottoman Empire were handed over to the French to control and parts were handed over to the British – including Palestine. Britain governed this area under a League of Nations mandate from 1920 to 1948. To the Arab population who lived there, it was their homeland and had been promised to them by the Allies for help in defeating the Turks by the McMahon Agreement – though the British claimed the agreement gave no such promise.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video

The same area of land had also been promised to the Jews (as they had interpreted it) in the Balfour Declaration and after 1920, many Jews migrated to the area and lived with the far more numerous Arabs there. At this time, the area was ruled by the British and both Arabs and Jews appeared to live together in some form of harmony in the sense that both tolerated then existence of the other. There were problems in 1921 but between that year and 1928/29, the situation stabilised.

The main problem after the war for Palestine was perceived beliefs. The Arabs had joined the Allies to fight the Turks during the war and convinced themselves that they were due to be given what they believed was their land once the war was over.

Clashing with this was the belief among all Jews that the Balfour Declaration had promised them the same piece of territory.

In August 1929, relations between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine broke down. The focal point of this discontent was Jerusalem.

The primary cause of trouble was the increased influx of Jews who had emigrated to Palestine. The number of Jews in the region had doubled in ten years

The city of Jerusalem also had major religious significance for both Arabs and Jews and over 200 deaths occurred in just four days in August (23rd to the 26th).

Arab nationalism was whipped up by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haji Amin al-Husseini. He claimed that the number of Jews threatened the very lifestyle of the Arabs in Palestine.

The violence that occurred in August 1929 did not deter Jews from going to Palestine. In 1931, 4,075 Jews emigrated to the region. In 1935, it was 61,854. The Mufti estimated that by the 1940’s there would be more Jews in Palestine than Arabs and that their power in the area would be extinguished on a simple numerical basis.

In May 1936, more violence occurred and the British had to restore law and order using the military. Thirty four soldiers were killed in the process. The violence did not stop. In fact, it became worse after November 1937.

For the Arabs there were two enemies – the Jews and the British authorities based in Palestine via their League mandate.

For the Jews there were also two enemies – the Arabs and the British.

Therefore, the British were pushed into the middle of a conflict they had seemingly little control over as the two other sides involved were so driven by their own beliefs. In an effort to end the violence, the British put a quota on the number of Jews who could enter Palestine in any one year. They hoped to appease the Arabs in the region but also keep on side with the Jews by recognising that Jews could enter Palestine – but in restricted numbers. They failed on both counts.

Both the Jews and the Arabs continued to attack the British. The Arabs attacked because they believed that the British had failed to keep their word after 1918 and because they believed that the British were not keeping the quotas agreed to as they did little to stop illegal landings into Palestine made by the Jews.

The Jews attacked the British authorities in Palestine simply because of the quota which they believed was grossly unfair. The British had also imposed restrictions on the amount of land Jews could buy in Palestine.

An uneasy truce occurred during the war when hostilities seemed to cease. This truce, however, was only temporary.

Many Jews had fought for the Allies during World War Two and had developed their military skills as a result. After the war ended in 1945, these skills were used in acts of terrorism. The new Labour Government of Britain had given the Jews hope that they would be given more rights in the area. Also in the aftermath of the Holocaust in Europe, many throughout the world were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews at the expense of the Arabs in Palestine.

However, neither group got what they were looking for. The British still controlled Palestine. As a result, the Jews used terrorist tactics to push their claim for the area. Groups such as the Stern Gang and Irgun Zvai Leumi attacked the British that culminated in the destruction of the British military headquarters in Palestine – the King David Hotel. Seemingly unable to influence events in Palestine, the British looked for a way out.

In 1947, the newly formed United Nations accepted the idea to partition Palestine into a zone for the Jews (Israel) and a zone for the Arabs (Palestine). With this United Nations proposal, the British withdrew from the region on May 14th 1948. Almost immediately, Israel was attacked by Arab nations that surrounded in a war that lasted from May 1948 to January 1949. Palestinian Arabs refused to recognise Israel and it became the turn of the Israeli government itself to suffer from terrorist attacks when fedayeen (fanatics) from the Palestinian Arabs community attacked Israel. Such attacks later became more organised with the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). To the Palestinian Arabs, the area the Jews call Israel, will always be Palestine. To the Jews it is Israel. There have been very few years of peace in the region since 1948.

Indirect Rule and "Benevolent Paternalism"

Britain's favored method of rule in the Middle East was indirect and inexpensive: this was a limited liability empire. The model was not India but Egypt, where British advisers had guided government policy since the start of the British occupation. Hardly anywhere did direct rule by a British administration survive intact until after World War II. Typical of British attitudes throughout the region during the period was the comment of the colonial secretary, Lord Cranborne, in 1942: "We not only disclaim any intention of establishing direct rule, but also quite sincerely and genuinely do not wish to do so." Warning against direct British administration of the tribal hinterland of Aden colony, Cranborne added: "We must keep steadily in front of us the aim of establishing in Aden protectorate a group of efficient Arab authorities who will conduct their own administration under the general guidance and protection of His Majesty's government." The characteristic tone of British governance was set by Sir Percy Cox in Iraq and by Allenby in Egypt: benevolent paternalism in time of peace readiness to resort to brute force in reaction to civil unrest.

The British did not believe in large public investment in this new empire. They nevertheless greatly improved the primitive economic infrastructure bequeathed them by their Ottoman predecessors, established sound public finances, built solid judicial and (though slowly) educational systems, rooted out corruption, and protected minorities. Efficient government was not the primary purpose of imperial rule, but the British installed it almost by reflex.

The mandatory system in Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq was a constitutional innovation. Formally, the British ruled these territories not as a colonial power but under the ultimate authority of the League of Nations. Mandatory government was to last for a limited period with the specific goal of preparing the countries for self-rule. All this, in the eyes of most observers, was merely a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of imperial acquisition. Although Britain was ultimately responsible to the league for its conduct of affairs in the mandated territories and was obliged to render account annually of its administration, the league exercised little influence over policy. In effect, Britain ruled the mandated territories as if they were colonies, though here too they sought to establish limited local self-government.

As in other parts of the empire, British power ultimately rested on a collaborative equation with local elements. Its exact form varied depending on local contingencies. In some places, the British practiced a variant of the politics of notables inherited from the Ottomans. In others, they established mutually beneficial alliances with minorities — as with the Jews in Palestine for a time. Elsewhere, they combined these policies with patronage of dynastic rulers, particularly with the family of Sharif Husayn.

Britain's patronage of the Hashimites was dealt a blow in 1925 when Sharif Husayn was driven out of the Hijaz by the resurgent Wahhabi army of Ibn Sa ʿ ud, ruler of Najd. Husayn escaped in a British ship bound for Cyprus. Although Ibn Sa ʿ ud had been granted a British subsidy in 1916, he had not joined in the Arab revolt and had remained jealous of his Hashimite neighbor. Compelled to accept realities, the British quickly came to terms with Ibn Sa ʿ ud. In 1927, they signed a treaty with him that recognized his sovereignty over the Hijaz and, as a result, his leading position among native rulers in the Arabian Peninsula.

Although Ibn Sa ʿ ud employed a freelance British adviser, Harry St. John Bridger Philby, a convert to Islam, the Saudi regime's relations with Britain were never intimate. In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which Ibn Sa ʿ ud proclaimed in 1932, U.S. rather than British companies were favored in the scramble for oil concessions. At the time, this seemed of minor importance later, when vast oil reserves were discovered, the British regretted the failure. Oil production on a large scale, however, did not begin in the country until after World War II.

Until the late 1930s, the limited liability system survived more or less intact. The independence granted to Egypt in 1922 and Iraq in 1932 did not fundamentally affect Britain's paramountcy. In each case, Britain retained effective control over vital strategic and economic interests. The continuation of this "veiled protectorate," as it became known in the Egyptian case, exacerbated nationalist frustrations and resentments, but these posed no imminent threat to Britain. Independence in Iraq was followed by the mass killing of members of the Nestorian Christian community, known as Assyrians. Thousands fled overseas. Like other minorities, they had looked to the British for protection the failure to assure their security left a dark stain on Britain's imperial record in the country.

How the Curse of Sykes-Picot Still Haunts the Middle East

In the Middle East, few men are pilloried these days as much as Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Sykes, a British diplomat, travelled the same turf as T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), served in the Boer War, inherited a baronetcy, and won a Conservative seat in Parliament. He died young, at thirty-nine, during the 1919 flu epidemic. Picot was a French lawyer and diplomat who led a long but obscure life, mainly in backwater posts, until his death, in 1950. But the two men live on in the secret agreement they were assigned to draft, during the First World War, to divide the Ottoman Empire’s vast land mass into British and French spheres of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement launched a nine-year process—and other deals, declarations, and treaties—that created the modern Middle East states out of the Ottoman carcass. The new borders ultimately bore little resemblance to the original Sykes-Picot map, but their map is still viewed as the root cause of much that has happened ever since.

“Hundreds of thousands have been killed because of Sykes-Picot and all the problems it created,” Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the governor of Iraq’s Erbil Province, told me when I saw him this spring. “It changed the course of history—and nature.”

May 16th will mark the agreement’s hundredth anniversary, amid questions over whether its borders can survive the region’s current furies. “The system in place for the past one hundred years has collapsed,” Barham Salih, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, declared at the Sulaimani Forum, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in March. “It’s not clear what new system will take its place.”

The colonial carve-up was always vulnerable. Its map ignored local identities and political preferences. Borders were determined with a ruler—arbitrarily. At a briefing for Britain’s Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, in 1915, Sykes famously explained, “I should like to draw a line from the ‘E’ in Acre to the last ‘K’ in Kirkuk.” He slid his finger across a map, spread out on a table at No. 10 Downing Street, from what is today a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to the northern mountains of Iraq.

“Sykes-Picot was a mistake, for sure,” Zikri Mosa, an adviser to Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani, told me. “It was like a forced marriage. It was doomed from the start. It was immoral, because it decided people’s future without asking them.”

For a century, the bitter reaction to the Sykes-Picot process has been reflected in the most politically powerful ideologies to emerge—Nasserism, in Egypt, and Baathism, in Iraq and Syria—based on a single nationalism covering the entire Arab world. For three years, Egypt and Syria, despite being on different continents, actually tried it, by merging into the United Arab Republic the experiment disintegrated after a 1961 coup in Damascus.

Even the Islamic State seeks to undo the old borders. After sweeping across Syria and Iraq in 2014, Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced, “This blessed advance will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes-Picot conspiracy.”

Yet the premise of American policy (and of every other outside power) today—in stabilizing fractious Iraq, ending Syria’s gruesome civil war, and confronting the Islamic State—is to preserve the borders associated with Sykes-Picot. Since August, 2014, the United States has invested more than eleven million dollars a day in military operations, including almost nine thousand airstrikes on Iraq and more than five thousand on Syria. For the world’s worst humanitarian refugee crisis, which is now spilling out of Syria across countries and continents, Washington has pledged seven hundred million dollars in 2016, with more promised. The rest of the world—from Europe to the Gulf sheikhdoms, Russia to Iran—has poured billions into perpetuating the borders, even as they vie for different political outcomes.

In its final months in office, the Obama Administration is intensifying that strategy. Since April 8th, senior officials—Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defense Secretary Ash Carter—have made surprise visits to Baghdad to prop up Iraq’s increasingly fragile government. Baghdad’s political crisis predates its war with ISIS. Recent debates in parliament have disintegrated into brawls and water-bottle fights dozens of lawmakers held a sit-in this month to demand the resignation of their Speaker. Tens of thousands have demonstrated in several provinces for months to demand political and economic reforms, as well as an end to rampant corruption. On Saturday, protesters breached fortified blast walls around the Green Zone—bringing down a section as if it were the Berlin Wall—and stormed Parliament. Reuters reported that the demonstrators waved flags, danced in the aisles, and chanted, “The cowards ran away!” of fleeing lawmakers, who had once again failed to reach a quorum for a vote on a new Cabinet of technocrats to replace the current top officials, who were chosen according to quotas based on sect and ethnicity. Iraq declared a state of emergency and closed all roads into the capital. The U.S. Embassy, the U.N. mission, and other embassies inside the Green Zone were on lockdown.

“Now is not the time for government gridlock or bickering,” President Obama said earlier this month. Biden’s visit “focussed on encouraging Iraqi national unity,” the White House said. But Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi increasingly risks becoming Iraq’s Humpty Dumpty.

The United States is upping its military footprint, too. On April 18th, President Obama announced the deployment of Apache helicopters, sophisticated mobile rockets, and another two hundred troops to Iraq. The total is now around five thousand American forces. Airstrikes are up sixty per cent this year over the same period last year.

The situation is even worse in Syria, as the United States ratchets up its role there, too. The peace talks launched in January are precarious, at best, after three unsuccessful rounds. The ceasefire collapsed in an explosion of fighting this week, especially around Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its former commercial capital. On Monday, Obama called for another two hundred and fifty U.S. Special Forces to be sent to Syria to boost the fifty already there and “keep up the momentum.” It’s the largest expansion in the U.S. role since the civil war erupted, in 2011.

The United States claims progress in the military campaign against the Islamic State. Since November, ISIS’s pseudo-caliphate has lost forty per cent of its territory in Iraq and ten per cent in Syria, as well as tens of thousands of fighters, tons of arms, and hundreds of millions of dollars stored in warehouses that have been bombed by the U.S.-led coalition. Pentagon officials said last week that the number of new ISIS recruits in Iraq and Syria has plunged—from fifteen hundred a month last year to two hundred a month now. ISIS fighters are dying faster than they can be replaced. For the first time, ISIS no longer seems invincible.

The region is now beginning to peer nervously beyond both the political chaos and the challenge from ISIS. There’s a well-rooted fear that both Iraq and Syria—an area stretching from the Mediterranean to the Gulf—have become so frail that they may not be sustainable, regardless of whether ISIS is defeated. It’s the subject of political debate, media commentary, teahouse chatter, and academic conferences.

“Can Iraq remain the same as it was the day before ISIS attacked? No, I believe not,” Jan Kubis, the U.N. representative for Iraq, said at the Sulaimani Forum. “People must understand that something was wrong when ISIS was able to sweep through the country. And something is wrong when part of its territory has been liberated, but people know that things are not yet right to return.”

The debate about Iraq’s future has shifted since Senator Joe Biden wrote a controversial Times Op-Ed, in 2006, proposing three autonomous regions, for Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds to have their own political space. After thirteen years of war, the fabric of the young nation is threadbare. Iraq, in in current form, is less than a century old Saddam Hussein ruled it for a quarter of its existence. Since his ouster, Baghdad has not devised a political formula to insure that its disparate constituencies feel invested in saving the country as is. The economy—of a major oil producer—has also been hit by a crippling mix: grossly wasteful mismanagement, a bureaucracy bloated by unqualified personnel, escalating greed, a five-hundred-per-cent budget increase since 2004, and plummeting oil prices. Nationalism has unravelled. Iraqis take great pride in their land’s ancient civilization it’s the connection with their present state that is the existential challenge.

In Syria, the sheer physical and human devastation undermines the prospects of a viable state for years to come. The stats are almost incomprehensible: more than half the population depends on humanitarian aid to make it through the day. Some three million kids are not attending school—in a population of twenty-two million. Besides a staggering death toll, one and a half million people have been injured or permanently disabled. Life expectancy is down fifteen years from when the civil war started, in 2011. Almost one out of five citizens has fled the country altogether. They may have little incentive to return. Physical destruction totals at least two hundred and fifty billion dollars, in a state the size of Washington. And it increases every day.

A century after Sykes-Picot, the dual crises have stripped away the veneer of statehood imposed by the Europeans and have exposed the emptiness underneath. Iraq was managed by Britain and Syria by France, with limited nation-nurturing, before both were granted independence. They flew new flags, built opulent palaces for their leaders, encouraged commercial élites, and trained plenty of men in uniform. But both had weak public institutions, teeny civil societies, shady and iniquitous economies, and meaningless laws. Both countries were wracked by coups and instability. Syria went through twenty coups, some failed but many successful, between 1949 and 1970, an average of one a year, until the Assad dynasty assumed power—in another coup. Increasingly, the glue that held both countries together was repressive rule and fear.

The outside world, led by the United States, has reëngaged to help salvage both countries. After its eight-year intervention, however, Washington is not eager to again assume responsibility for the political aftermath. “We have to have real humility about our ability to affect the course of events,” Brett McGurk, Obama’s point man for the anti-ISIS coalition, told me in Washington last month. “We have to be really careful before we get overinvested. We have to define our interests very narrowly and focus very aggressively on achieving those interests.”

At the Sulaimani Forum, McGurk foreshadowed other dangers undermining prospects of reconstituting the Iraqi state. He recounted an anecdote about an Iraqi leader urging a Yazidi not to focus on revenge after the ISIS slaughter of his people on the mountains of Sinjar, in 2014. The massacre, along with the enslavement of hundreds of Yazidi women, was the flashpoint that led to the original U.S. airstrikes. McGurk said the Yazidi replied, “They took my wife, my daughter, and my sister. All I have left is my revenge.” McGurk warned, “This is something that Iraq will be dealing with for decades.”

In Syria, the death toll is many times higher, the sectarian and ethnic divide at least as deep as in Iraq. The test in both countries is not just finding a way to re-create states more viable than the various formulations attempted since the Sykes-Picot process was launched. It’s also rallying public will in the current environment.

“You can liberate. You can hold. And you can build,” Salman al Jumaili, Iraq’s Minister of Planning, said at the Sulaimani Forum last month. “But you may not be able to sustain.”

Some of the political alternatives may be just as problematic. The reconfiguration of either Iraq or Syria into new entities could be as complicated, and potentially as bloody, as the current wars. The breakups of India, Yugoslavia, and Sudan spawned huge migrations, cycles of ethnic cleansing, and rival claims to resources and territory, which in turn sparked whole new conflicts, some still unresolved years later.

“Civilization started here in the sixth century B.C.,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari said at the Forum. “We don’t want Iraq without sects or nationalities. But we want Iraq without radicalism. We would like Iraq to be like a bouquet of flowers.” As the chaos mounts by the day in Baghdad, that is surely an illusion.

“We don’t know the fate of the people in this region,” Salih, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told me this week. “But, for sure, this time—unlike a hundred years ago, when Mr. Sykes and M. Picot drew the lines in the sand—the people of the region will have much to do with shaping the new order.” The problem, for them and the outside world, is that they only know what they don’t want. They have yet to figure out which political systems—and which borders—will work.

How the British Divided Up the Ottoman Empire

The development of the modern nation states throughout the Arab world was a heartbreaking process.

About 100 years ago, most Arabs were part of the Ottoman Empire/Caliphate. Today, the political map of the Arab world looks like a very complex jigsaw puzzle. A complex and intricate course of events in the 1910s brought about the end of the Ottomans and the rise of these new nations with borders running across the Middle East, diving Muslims from each other.

While there are many different factors leading to this, the role that the British played in this was far greater than any other player in the region. Three separate agreements made conflicting promises that the British had to stand by. The result was a political mess that divided up a large part of the Muslim world.

In 1914, war broke out in Europe. A complex system of alliances, a militaristic arms race, colonial ambitions, and general mismanagement at the highest government levels led to this devastating war that claimed the lives of 12 million people from 1914 to 1918. On the &ldquoAllied&rdquo side stood the empires of Britain, France, and Russia. The &ldquoCentral&rdquo powers consisted of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

They were from the secular Westernized group, the Young Turks. Financially, the Ottomans were in a serious bind, owing huge debts to the European powers that they were not able to pay. After trying to join the Allied side and being rejected, the Ottomans sided with the Central Powers in October of 1914.

The British immediately began to conceive of plans to dissolve the Ottoman Empire and expand their Middle Eastern empire. They had already had control of Egypt since 1888 and India since 1857. The Ottoman Middle East lay right in the middle of these two important colonies, and the British were determined to exterminate it as part of the world war.

One of the British strategies was to turn the Ottoman Empire&rsquos Arab subjects against the government. They found a ready and willing helper in the Hejaz, the western region of the Arabian Peninsula. Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the Amir (governor) of Makkah entered into an agreement with the British government to revolt against the Ottomans.

His reasons for allying with the foreign British against other Muslims remains uncertain. Possible reasons for his revolt were: disapproval with the Turkish nationalist objectives of the Three Pashas, a personal feud with the Ottoman government, or simply a desire for his own kingdom.

Whatever his reasons were, Sharif Hussein decided to revolt against the Ottoman government in alliance with the British. In return, the British promised to provide money and weapons to the rebels to help them fight the much more organized Ottoman army.

In June of 1916 Sharif Hussein led his group of armed Bedouin warriors from the Hejaz in an armed campaign against the Ottomans. Within a few months, the Arab rebels managed to capture numerous cities in the Hejaz (including Jeddah and Makkah) with help from the British army and navy.

The British provided support in the form of soldiers, weapons, money, advisors (including the &ldquolegendary&rdquo Lawrence of Arabia), and a flag. The British in Egypt drew up a flag for the Arabs to use in battle, which was known as the &ldquoFlag of the Arab Revolt&rdquo. This flag would later become the model for other Arab flags of countries such as Jordan, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Kuwait.

As World War One progressed through 1917 and 1918, the Arab rebels managed to capture some major cities from the Ottomans. As the British advanced into Palestine and Iraq, capturing cities such as Jerusalem and Baghdad, the Arabs aided them by capturing Amman and Aqaba.

It is important to note that the Arab Revolt did not have the backing of a large majority of the Arab population. It was a minority movement of a couple thousand tribesmen led by a few leaders who sought to increase their own powers. The vast majority of the Arab people stayed away from the conflict and did not support the rebels or the Ottoman government. Sharif Hussein&rsquos plan to create his own Arab kingdom was succeeding so far, if it were not for other promises the British would make.

According to what would become known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the British and French agreed to divide up the Arab world between themselves. The British were to take control of what are now Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan. The French were given modern Syria, Lebanon, and southern Turkey.

The status of Palestine was to be determined later, with Zionist ambitions to be taken into account. The zones of control that the British and French were given allowed for some amount of Arab self-rule in some areas, albeit with European control over such Arab kingdoms. In other areas, the British and French were promised total control.

Although it was meant to be a secret agreement for a post-WWI Middle East, the agreement became known publicly in 1917 when the Russian Bolshevik government exposed it. The Sykes-Picot Agreement directly contradicted the promises the British made to Sherif Hussein and caused a considerable amount of tension between the British and Arabs. However, this would not be the last of the conflicting agreements the British would make.

Another group that wanted a say in the political landscape of the Middle East were the Zionists. Zionism is a political movement that calls for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land of Palestine. It began in the 1800s as a movement that sought to find a homeland away from Europe for Jews (most of which lived in Germany, Poland, and Russia).

Eventually the Zionists decided to pressure the British government during WWI into allowing them to settle in Palestine after the war was over. Within the British government, there were many who were sympathetic to this political movement. One of those was Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary for Britain. On November 2nd, 1917, he sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, a leader in the Zionist community. The letter declared the British government&rsquos official support for the Zionist movement&rsquos goals to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.

In 1918 the war ended with the victory of the Allies and the complete destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Although the Ottomans existed in name until 1922 (and the caliphate existed in name until 1924), all the former Ottoman land became under European occupation. The war was over, but the Middle East&rsquos future was still in dispute between three different sides.

Which side won? None fully got what they wanted. In the aftermath of WWI, the League of Nations (a forerunner to the United Nations) was established. One of its jobs was to divide up the conquered Ottoman lands. It drew up &ldquomandates&rdquo for the Arab world. Each mandate was supposed to be ruled by the British or French &ldquountil such time as they are able to stand alone.&rdquo

The League was the one to draw up the borders we see on modern political maps of the Middle East. The borders were drawn without regard for the wishes of the people living there, or along ethnic, geographic, or religious boundaries &ndash they were truly arbitrary. It is important to note that even today, political borders in the Middle East do not indicate different groups of people. The differences between Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. were entirely created by the European colonizers as a method of dividing the Arabs against each other.

Through the mandate system, the British and the French were able to get the control they wanted over the Middle East. For Sharif Hussein, his sons were allowed to rule over these mandates under British &ldquoprotection&rdquo. Prince Faisal was made king of Iraq and Syria and Prince Abdullah was made king of Jordan. In practice, however, the British and French had real authority over these areas.

For the Zionists, they were allowed by the British government to settle in Palestine, although with limitations. The British did not want to anger the Arabs already living in Palestine, so they tried to limit the number of Jews allowed to migrate to Palestine. This angered the Zionists, who looked for illegal ways to immigrate throughout the 1920s-1940s, as well as the Arabs, who saw the immigration as encroachment on land that had been theirs since Salah al-Din liberated it in 1187.

The political mess Britain created in the aftermath of WWI remains till today. The competing agreements and the subsequent countries that were created to disunite Muslims from each other led to political instability throughout the Middle East.

The Ottoman Empire

The Arab Revolt began on 5 June 1916. Forces commanded by Sharif Hussein ibn Ali’s sons, the emirs Ali and Feisal, attacked the Ottoman garrison at Medina in an attempt to seize the holy city and its railway station. After three days the Arabs broke off their attacks, and the commander of the 12,000-strong Ottoman garrison, General Fakhri Pasha, sent Turkish troops out of the city to pursue the retreating rebels.

Meanwhile, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali publicly proclaimed the revolt on 10 June in Mecca. His forces were more successful there, seizing the city and forcing the small Ottoman garrison to seek refuge in the local fortress. Another of Hussein’s sons, Emir Abdullah, surrounded and besieged the town of Ta’if.

At the same time rebel clans allied to Sharif Hussein attacked Jiddah and other ports along the Arabian coast of the Red Sea. Both sides recognised the importance of the Red Sea ports and the British immediately dispatched a naval flotilla – including the seaplane carrier HMS Ben-My-Chree – to support the Arab forces. The ships bombarded Turkish fortifications and aircraft from Ben-My-Chree attacked Turkish troops in the field, disrupting their efforts to defeat the advancing rebels on the landward approaches.

By the end of July the ports of Jiddah, Yanbu and Rabegh were in Arab hands, allowing the British to greatly increase their supply of arms and equipment to the Arab forces in the Hejaz. Control of the ports also allowed the landing of the first units of the Arab Regular Army – Ottoman Army soldiers captured by the British at Gallipoli, in Mesopotamia or the Sinai, who had subsequently volunteered to fight for the Arab nationalist cause. They wore British uniforms with Arab head-dress, and were equipped with modern weapons like heavy machine guns and artillery. An artillery battery and technical specialists from the Egyptian Army provided further support.

The British Army also dispatched their own military mission to liaise between the Arab leadership and the British high command in Egypt. This mission, which from October 1916 included Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence – better known to posterity as Lawrence of Arabia – would increase in size and capability as the war went on. This assistance, especially the artillery, gave the Arab forces the means to finish off the Ottoman garrisons under siege at Mecca and Ta’if.

Sharif Hussein ibn Ali spent the rest of 1916 consolidating his hold on the Hejaz and the coastal ports, building up his army and fending off Turkish counter-attacks. The failure to seize Medina at the start of the revolt proved costly, as the Ottoman Fourth Army sent reinforcements down the entire length of the Hejaz railway to garrison the stations. Ottoman General Fakhri Pasha then sought to recapture the coastal ports, beginning at Yanbu in December. This assault was finally beaten off thanks to the decisive intervention of the Royal Navy flotilla the same thing happened when Fakhri tried to take Rabegh in early January 1917.

An Allied betrayal?

In November 1917 the war in the Middle East was overshadowed by the disclosure of the Sykes-Picot Agreement by the new Russian Bolshevik regime. In this secret 1916 deal, Britain and France had agreed to divide the Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern territories into their own zones of influence after the war. This apparent Allied betrayal caused widespread discontent throughout the ranks of the Arab Revolt. Although the Ottoman government tried to exploit the controversy, Arab leaders gambled that the reality on the ground at the end of the war would trump any paper agreement. For Feisal, Lawrence and the Arab Northern Army, the priority was now to reach Damascus before the British did.

Meanwhile, Emir Feisal, with Lawrence as his adviser, had captured the port of Wejh, 150 km north of Yanbu. From here Feisal’s men spent most of 1917 attacking the Hejaz railway. Small raiding parties blew up sections of track and destroyed bridges, water towers and even some weakly defended railway stations. The British, planning to invade Palestine, were keen for the Arab rebels to keep the 12,000 Ottoman troops in Medina tied down.

The potential of the Arab Revolt was recognised by the new British commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), General Sir Edmund Allenby, especially after Lawrence led a group of Feisal’s men on a daring raid to capture the last remaining Ottoman Red Sea port, Aqaba, in June 1917. Aqaba became the new base for Feisal’s army, renamed the ‘Arab Northern Army’. Attacks on the railway continued, and now extended as far north as southern Jordan Lawrence himself led reconnaissance parties into Syria and made contact with Arab nationalists in Damascus. The spectacular victory of the EEF at the Third Battle of Gaza (Beersheba) in October 1917, and the subsequent British advance into the Jordan Valley, gave renewed impetus to Feisal’s ‘railway war’ further east.

Despite tensions over the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Arab Northern Army continued to attack the Hejaz railway and assist the British where they could. They played a valuable role in Allenby’s final offensive, which culminated in the Battle of Meggido in September 1918, by attacking the key rail junction at Deraa and elsewhere.

In the wake of this victory Allenby’s mounted troops advanced swiftly through Palestine and Jordan, overrunning what is now modern-day Lebanon and entering Syria. To the east the Arab Northern Army drove northwards in an unspoken race for Damascus. They reached the city on 1 October 1918 to find Australian Light Horsemen entering from another side. The debate over who got there first has continued ever since.

A month later the Ottoman Empire agreed to an armistice and the leaders of the Arab Revolt found themselves locked in tense negotiations with their former allies, the British and French, over the future of the region.