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French Writer Compares Sykes-Picot Lead-Up to Arab Uprisings

Tuesday
May 10, 2016
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French writer, journalist and director of Orient XXl Online journal Alain Gresh compared in a lecture held on May 8, 2016 the Arab uprisings and the conditions that created the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.

Gresh, speaking at the invitation of the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies, examined scholars’ claims that the Middle East is witnessing a new Sykes-Picot that will divide the region, comparing the conditions that created the terms of the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 with the tensions seen now in the Middle East.  

Gresh examined how shifts in geopolitical power and influence blunted the reach of hegemons in a complicated and fragmented order in the Middle East, both in 1916 and now.

“Global powers’ interests have always been diffused and distributed among a wider variety of state actors,” he said, “which has contributed to a profound disjuncture between the Arab uprisings. Their knock-on effects across the region represent a significant break with a past largely dictated by outside forces, foreign policy considerations, and proxy contests between rival regional and global forces.”

Gresh reviewed the United States’ changing role in the Middle East, especially under the Obama administration which realized that using hard power is not the most strategic scenario in maintaining its interests in the Middle East. “Indirect interventions from the U.S. continue to take into account domestic political players across the Arab world in order to protect and advance its geopolitical and economic interests, indirectly.”

“The European Union’s role in the Middle East, especially that of Britain and France, has deteriorated in the last 10 years compared to their role in dividing the region back in 1916,” he added. “Power and influence are increasingly diffuse, and distributed among a wider variety of state actors in the EU, which has internal disputes on the best way to deal with the Middle East, which are accompanied by an increasing role for Russia in Syria and a change in the balance of power.”

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