Sunday, July 12, 2015


Ghassan Kadi
12 July 2015

A hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was on its last leg and its vast territory was bound to be subdivided by its conquerors and in between them. Much has been said and written about this era, about the Sykes-Picot accord that split up the Levant and paved the way for the creation of Israel. In this very short narrative, the focus will be on the people and governments of the newly-created states.

Starting with Lebanon, the Lebanese Christians were given a special attention by the West long before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The autonomous state of “Petit Liban” (Small Lebanon) was established in 1861 under a Western push, especially by France, in order to provide Lebanese Christians with security. When nearly sixty years later French General Gouraud announced the creation of “Grand Liban” (Grand Lebanon) which included areas and big cities of Muslim population, the Christians felt let down and refused to regard their Muslim counterpart as Lebanese, and reciprocally, the Lebanese Muslims did not want to be detached from mother Syria and be included in a predominantly Christian state that was bound to be a Western vassal.

How much things change if we fast-forward and look at the Hariri camp today and see how staunch they are in their affiliation to Lebanese nationhood and identity. It is rather incredible how quickly people forget or opt to forget.

Somehow magically, in the eyes of many, the line that General Gouraud decided to draw as a border line between the new state of Lebanon and Syria came to life, became real, and a dividing line between two nations of distinct history and interests. Even Lebanon’s last President Michel Souleiman kept reiterating that the war in Syria is a Syrian issue, should stay in Syria and that Lebanon should not be engaged.

Gouraud’s lie became a reality, and as it got fed, it grew and grew.

But the lie of Lebanon was not the only one. After the British treachery to the Hashimites of Mecca and the takeover of Arabia by Al-Saud, the Hashimites became virtual exiles and Britain had to save face by providing them with a consolation prize. The Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan was created; a state that has no history what-so-ever from within the borders given to it by the British. A Hashimite Kindgom was also set up in Iraq and the borders of Iraq were drawn in such a way to deliberately create a potential failed state. At that point in time, all of the known oil deposits of Mesopotamia were in the southern coastal region. That coastal rich region was partitioned away, given its own sovereignty and called Kuwait. Iraq was left with a tiny access to water via Shat Al-Arab, but luckily for Iraq, huge oil deposits were discovered in it later on.

Palestine, the Syrian region, which also never before existed as an independent state with the British-mandate-given borders was a pretext for setting up the borders for the would-be-Israel. But just like the Lebanese have forgotten their history, so did the Palestinians and this is why they can never win the historic argument against that of Zionism, and they will never win it until they take on board the proper historical model and proclaim that Palestine, with all of its constituencies of Muslims, Christians and Jews are part and parcel of historic greater Syria.

Political Syria therefore shrank and shrank and the state that was left with the name had to see huge portions snatched from it. One of the most painful grabs was the French donation of Cilicia and Iskenderun regions to Turkey, and the last straw was the creation of Israel.

One would assume that immediately after gaining independence, the new states would get together and undo what the colonials have done, but they did not.

All in all, the Lebanese had to fight over their identity for decades, and they still do. The pro-Western camp has expanded from an exclusive sectarian Christian Maronite club to include exclusive sectarian Sunni Muslim club. They are opposed by the fierce Lebanese Resistance who is adamant to resolve this matter once and for all. We must not give all credit to Hezbollah here, because Hezbollah is supported by a huge hoard of pro-resistance parties including some primarily Christian.

Some Palestinians also opted to forget their history, and one of the major points of conflict between Yasser Arafat and Hafez Assad was that the former pushed for the supremacy of the “Palestinian Decision”, and to no avail did Assad manage to convince him that the Palestinian cause was not just a cause of the people who live in Palestine, but for the whole greater nation. As Palestinians become more and more isolationist in their approach, the more their cause is getting diluted and the recent events of having the Palestinian cause being hijacked by Islamists of different persuasions and tactics is the living proof.

As for Jordan, the royal Family wants to protect its throne, and right now the king is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, he helped ISIS by allowing the Saudis and American to set up training camps on Jordanian soil, he allowed those fighters to infiltrate into Syria, but on the other hand, he fears that they may turn around and bite him.

As for Iraq and the Kurds, the problem is far too complex and the Kurds cannot be blamed if they feel alienated. After all, they are surrounded by peoples of different persuasions, all the way from those trying to establish an Islamic State to remnants of those who want to fight the advance the Islamic State by slogans that have Arab identity and loyalty. They cannot see how they can fit into either camp. Once again, it is only from within an all-inclusive vision of Syria’s identity that Kurds can feel secure.

It is only in the state that kept the name Syria that the true history is known and taught in schools. Whilst an ignorant Lebanese snubs his nose at Syria and genuinely believes he is superior, in Syria every school kid knows that Syria and Lebanon are one.

When Saddam tried to correct the British injustice and moved his troops into Kuwait, we all know what followed. And when Hafez Assad found an internationally-sanctioned acceptance for sending troops into Lebanon in 1976, we also know how this eventually angered all opponents of any Syrian-Lebanese coming-together of any kind and we know how it ended; at least thus far.

The West, via its United Nations has taken all measures to make sure that the Sykes Picot borders were only allowed to be challenged and violated by Israel. The land owners themselves were not allowed to make any changes, under the pain of a NATO invasion.

Sooner or later, Syria will need to deal with its war internally and Turkey’s arm will be twisted and forced to prevent further influx of terrorists and their supplies into Syria, and Turkey will have to return to a neutral position, albeit not as neutral as the pre-Erdogan era.

But which border perspective is the one that will decide the internal nature of the war for Syria? After all, the off-limits status quo of the Sykes-Picot borders is now under a huge challenge by none other than the least likely savior and unifier; ISIS. The Syrian-Iraqi border line is now virtually non-existent. Furthermore, because of the battles in Qalamoun, for both of the ISIS and Hezbollah fighters, the Lebanese-Syrian borders do not exist either.

When this whole “War On Syria” is over and Syria rises victorious, such win cannot be achieved, established and protected if there is a continued presence of ISIS threat in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. ISIS has created an anti-Sykes-Picot tsunami and Syria’s win will automatically have to mean the decimation of the Sykes-Picot agreement, and whilst Lebanon continues to be without a president for over a year and without any hope in sight for electing a new president, Michel Suleiman may indeed end up to be Lebanon’s last president.

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