Tuesday, September 3, 2013

THE UNDOING OF SYKES-PICOT? By Ghassan Kadi June 2013

By Ghassan Kadi
June 2013

With attention focused and somehow almost entirely fixated on the war in Syria and
the advances that the Syrian army is making, it is easy to turn a blind eye to the
parallelism across the Euphrates and the Tigris.

The battle of Qusayr and the impending battle of Aleppo are not any less vehement
and violent than the Iraqi army crackdown on Al-Qaeda in the Anbar region, albeit
that the latter is carried out on a smaller scale. But considering that the Iraqi
offensives is comprised of a reported number of 40,000 Iraqi troops, it clearly
speaks loud, and signifies that it is not exactly a patrol serving an arrest warrant

The most pertinent issue here perhaps is that both armies, the Syrian and the Iraqi,
are fighting the same enemy; Islamic fundamentalists. This scenario clearly presents
an extension of the war against Islamists to cover the two biggest states in the
Levant, and the Fertile Crescent to be specific.

The Iraqi army is making gains that are not any less prominent than its Syrian
counterpart. It even seems that Washington is finding it uneasy, to put it mildly,
to be praising the Iraqi army achievements in this particular occasion and timing. Had it not been for the war in Syria, to say that the American administration would now be on a propaganda rampage giving itself the credit for enabling the Iraqi army to stand alone and fight Al-Qaeda would not be an unrealistic assumption to make.

But here's the question that the US administration may have to respond to soon. With
Iraq still largely under American influence and direction, what will be America's
position should the Syrian and Iraqi armies need to join forces and/or at least
exchange intelligence that they may find essential in order to be able to crackdown
on Islamists operating in the Syrian/ Iraqi 700 km long borders?

It is already becoming increasingly embarrassing for the United States to be seen
supporting Islamists in Syria as the veil of the so-called Syrian freedom fighters
is wearing thin. So how will America be able to deal with a scenario, that is not
far-fetched, in which Islamist fighters end up sandwiched between Syrian and the
American trained and equipped Iraqi troops?

In such an event, which indeed is highly likely to eventuate one way or the other,
America will either have to support the Iraqis (as it claims to do against the
Islamists), or sit back and watch. Either option would be very difficult for America
to justify. If it supports the Iraqi army stand at least politically, it would
inadvertently supporting the push from the west by the Syrian army. If it sits back
and watches, it would be openly and overtly abandoning its stand against fighting
all Al-Qaeda type organisations in Iraq.

But this is not all, America's worst nightmare would be when the Iraqis come to the
conclusion that their natural allies have Syria and a stable and secular Syria on
the top of the allies list.

As a matter of fact, it is possible, and arguably probable that the timing of the
Iraqi offensive has already been done after negotiations and coordinations with

It seems that whatever America does, or worse even, what does not do in relation to Iraq's war on Islamists, Iraq is highly likely going to move closer towards bolstering its
relationship with Syria.

In the end, to see an Iranian/Iraqi/Syrian alliance is not a figment of anyone's
imagination, and with Hezbollah moving from strength to strength, this new expanded
alliance will include the prowess of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This leaves Jordan, and what happens in Jordan will highly depend on what the
Islamists will do if they lose their grounds in both Iraq and Syria. If they migrate
to Jordan, king Abdallah will have to decide to choose to join the new alliance or
count on his American and Israeli friends to save his throne. If the Islamists flee
the region, Jordan will on one hand find itself in a fortunate situation, but on the
other hand it will be left isolated from its rising Arab neighbours and cousins.
Either way, Jordan's choices will be limited and crucial. King Abdallah knows that
he is living on borrowed time and that his peace with Israel has to either be
matched with peace between Israel and all Arab countries, or that it will one day
outlive its expiry date.

Unless the Israeli/ Western alliance in the Levant undertakes a military gamble that
wins, it will be the biggest loser. Ever since the creation of the state of Israel
in 1948 and the discovery of huge supply of oil in the region, the Israel/Western
alliance had been busy underpinning Israel's security and controlling the oil.
Invading Iraq and the current attempt to destabilise Syria have thus far been the
last two chapters in this saga, but it seems that the plot is now caving in and hole
that had been dug is about to swallow those who have dug it.

Are we seeing the undoing of Sykes-Picot Agreement? Time will tell.

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