Irag Syria war : Historical Perspective – UPSC GS1

Does the series of victories of the Islamic State in the Iraq and Syria signal the redrawal of colonial-era boundaries in the Middle East and Third World? Critically examine. (200 Words)
As a result of theSykes-Picot agreement signed between France and Britain during the 1st world war, boundaries in the Middle East including that of present day Syria and Iraq were divided between France and Britain as their spheres of influence. This was a consequence of the fall of the Ottoman Empire during the war.
One of the larger aims of the ISIS is to reverse the impact of the Sykes – picot agreement and create a caliphate unifying areas of both Syria and Iraq. More specifically, this should be seen as an attempt to build a pan-Sunni caliphate rather a pan-Islamic one.
This essentially is therefore a sectarian battle within Islam itself , rather than against the west. This was Al Qaeda‘s agenda. The control of IS over Mosul and Tikrit in Iraq is quite strong and they have begun moving southwards towards Baghdad, which is under the control of Al Maliki ( Shia Majority ).
However the claim that ISIS victory will lead to redrawing of national boundaries does not consider a few objective facts –
  1. The concept of sovereignty and national pride will lead people to fight to protect their borders, even if they were arbitrarily imposed by foreign powers.
  2. There is an underlying sense of mistrust between the states in the region due to various disputes and wars that have taken place between them since the Sykes-Picot agreement.
  3. The elite group in each state is entrenched in the economy and governance of their own state. And redrawing of boundaries makes them vulnerable. Hence, they will resist any such change.
  4. The entire region is strategically very important for the entire world due to its oil resources. Any dramatic change in the status quo of the region will undoubtedly lead to intervention by the large powers.
A complete redrawing of borders is probably not viable, however, there can be a few minor change. An independent state of Kurdistan can be formed, comprising of parts of Iraq and Syria. The Peshmerga (Kurdish rebels) have had successes in combating ISIS, the region under their control has a stable economy and they support the ideals of secularism and women’s rights. Due to all these factors, they could also garner world support for an independent state. Apart from this, there can be minor changes in Iraqi and Syrian borders, but at this point of time, any major changes in borders do not seem likely.

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