16 MAY 16 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement. This treaty between Britain, France, and Tsarist Russia provided for the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire’s Middle Eastern territories and associated resources in the event of an Allied victory in World War I. The Allies achieved that victory and as result the provisions of the Sykes-Picot Treaty were implemented, thus shaping the Middle East into the political configurations that would remain substantially unchanged for nearly a century.
These configurations began to change in 2014 with the rise of ISIS. The conquest by ISIS forces of large areas of the Middle East is redrawing the map of that region with much violence and bloodshed. Currently, and in anticipation of the eventual defeat of ISIS, the United States, Russia, the nations of Europe, and various regional players and groups are jockeying for positions of influence in the new high-stakes game of geopolitical restructuring that the present conflict has set in motion. These efforts call to mind the machinations and intrigues that gave birth to the Sykes-Picot Agreement and are likely to prove equally disastrous to the region’s minorities … unless those minorities, working with the understanding that the Western powers will not save them, somehow find the means to defend themselves and create their own maps of the Middle East.
Turkey’s defeat in World War I was compounded by the implementation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which ended its domination of the Middle East. If Turkey wants to regain its influence and resources in the Middle East and restore itself as a regional power, it must reach out to its previous subjects including, especially the region’s minorities. In doing so Turkey will demonstrate that it will not allow those groups to once again be subjected to the mistreatment and persecutions they experienced as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.