One hundred years after the famous Sykes-Picot Agreement, known as Asia Minor Accord, that created the modern Middle East, the region seems to be heading towards a new remapping, with a difference this time: there is hardly an able body capable of handling the new challenging and competing goals of various groups amid clear failures of modern states system.
Within a short period of six years, the region has tried the dismembering of Sudan in 2011 and is trying to find its way on how to handle the hot issue of the Kurds, where a non-binding referendum is scheduled to take place Sept. 25.
It was because of Sykes-Picot that the Kurds were split between four countries: Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran and continue to be a source of tension in the unstable region since then.
However, because of the failure of the modern states in the region in the nation building and how to deal with minorities, both the Kurds and South Sudanese became a salient example of that failure. It took only three years for South Sudan, the youngest nation on earth to fall into a civil war of its own making, a development that led to regional instability, resulting in untold suffering for millions of civlians, and sending hundreds of thousands refugees into neighbouring countries. And furthermore unleashing security concerns. South Sudan opted for separation through an internationally-backed agreement reached with the mother country, Sudan. Yet separation that was supposed to be a solution to the problems of old Sudan turned into a nightmare and clear inability on how to deal with it from the very regional and international powers that have pushed for that separation.
Ironically enough the example of Sudan is used to dissuade the Kurds not to resort to a unilateral referendum. The western countries led by the United States, who have supported the Kurds over the years, are objecting to the move saying that it is not a priority given other pressing issues in the region such as combating terrorism.
Moreover, the expected move lacks unity even among the Kurds and risks retaliation from neighboring countries, namely Iran and Turkey, who carry a weight that Irbil can’t easily ignore, given the fact that it is a land-locked, an independent-to-be Kurdistan needs regional support.
In a way it seems the insistence of the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barazani, President of the region is based on a combination to grasp the opportunity of creating new facts on ground, the weakness of the central state in Iraq and a way to score domestically in the facing of mounting pressures from opponents. Other political groups led by the main rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan say that the self-determination so far failed to achieve success in terms of providing services and development projects despite oil revenues from 580, 0000 barrels per day. In addition there is the failure even to run the regional parliament for the past two years, which adds to the deficiency of the experience. And if there is failure at that level, they ask, how independence can do better.
Despite what seems like an arbitrary mapping of the region by Sykes-Picot and basically to serve the imperialist purposes of both Britain and France, this time there is hardly a power/s or a regional body capable of handling this situation.
What was supposed to be an Arab regional order that came into being following the end of the Second World War with the aim of preserving the integrity of individual Arab states and promoting joint interests politically and economically, but that order received a deadly blow in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and wiped it from the map. It took an international effort led by the United States to restore the Kuwaiti sovereignty.
At the time inter-Arab relationship and order was moving from weakness to weakness, regional bodies are getting into a crippling stage. A case in a point is that of the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC), which given the socio-economic similarities among its six member states and its economic muscles stands a better chance of becoming a backbone for the said Arab order, but the Saudi-led row with Qatar shows clearly that even the GCC is prone to same divisions and weaknesses that impacted its ability to play a leading role.
In fact what the region is witnessing is a reflection of what is being seen in other parts of the world, where the salient feature is lack and inability of leadership to face up to daunting challenges.
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