The Middle East: Redrawing the Colonial Maps

The borders in the Middle East were determined between 1916 and 1922 in negotiations by the European powers conducted in majestic palaces by officials wearing suits and ties. Now they are being redrawn by force, by wars and by popular uprisings, implementing in various ways the principle of self-definition of nations and tribes.

This restructuring began with America’s invasion of Iraq eight years ago, which crushed the central regime and created de facto ethnic enclaves. It continued with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which led to the establishment of a de facto state controlled by Hamas, and later with the referendum on the partitioning of Sudan at the end of a long and cruel internecine war there. The process has led to the creation of South Sudan. It might very well be followed by the creation of Palestine, Kurdistan, maybe also Cyrenaica in eastern Libya. The Western Sahara may no longer be in Moroccan hands. Southern Yemen may be reconstructed and the Gulf states may separate from the United Arab Emirates.

It is even possible that there will be a split in Saudi Arabia between “the state of the holy sites” in the Hejaz and the petroleum powers in the east, and of Syria into Sunni, Alaouite and Druze states. Yemen was divided in the past and could once again split into north and south.

The partition of Jordan, where the Bedouins and the Palestinians are mingled, may – who knows? – turn out to be unmanageable.

One thing is certain: we will continue to live in interesting times.

Suggested by “Caution: Middle East Under Construction” by Aluf Benn, Ha’Aretz, August 18


3 responses to “The Middle East: Redrawing the Colonial Maps

  1. Horace Krever

    For a clear, well researched, and well-written historical description of the Middle Eastern situation, I enthusiastically recommend David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace; The Fall Of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Modern Middle East, New York, Henry Holt and Company, ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8809-0; ISBN-10: 0-8050-8809-1.

    • Yes, I know that excellent book. It is one of the sources of rhe Ha’Aretz article.

      Thank you.

  2. Michael Gundy

    It is easy to forget how nomadic and pastoral the Middle East was after WW I.