"“Sykes-Picot is dead,” Walid Jumblatt roared at me last night – and he may well be right. The Lebanese Druze leader – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West." The Independent
The media accepts the simplistc idea that ISIS, an AQ affiliate, is the sole actor in this campaign on the anti-Shia side. In fact, this is a coalition largely balanced between ISIS, former Iraq Army fighters and officers (that is why they have moved as though Guderian or Rommel was in charge and can fly helicopters) as well as Sunni bedouin tribesmen under their own sheikhs.
The Rebel Army's advance to the south has followed the classic pattern of modern maneuver warfare in "hauling ass, bypassing the non-essential, and letting the following infantry mop up." Thus the advance to and seizure of Mosul was immediately followed by a quick advance to Tikrit and then to further south. IMO ISIS is not capable of organizing this kind of operation. They are more suited to head chopping and beard measuring in occupied towns.
Among the things being missed and misunderstood in the US media is the presence of Rebel Army forces in strength in Anbar Province. The Rebel army occupied Falluja and Ramadi months ago and the Iraqi government failed in its attempts to dislodge them. There is a Line of Supply that runs from Anbar up the Euphrates Valley to Syria and the ISIS dominated area there. From this flanking position in Anbar the rebel Army is placed to intervene on the flank of a government counter-offensive to the north or to participate in a concentric attack on the capital.
Today we have news from CNN's Nick Robertson in Erbil in Kurdistan (a good place to be just now) and from Arwa Damon at the same place. These are two fine ME oriented reporters. They, Ben Weideman and the war junkie Richard Engel, are the best. Robertson reports that government forces have withdrawn from Sammara because a Rebel Army flanking column has ocuupied Baquba to their rear. One must ask if the spirits of "Cump" Sherman and Stonewall are guiding this campaign.
The present Iraqi government will have one opportunity for a counteroffensive to the north. If that fails then we will see the de facto partition of the country in a way that largely cancels long-established Western imposed structure in the region.
Present events in Iraq and Syria bring to mind all the "experts" in government and academia who over the decades insisted to me that sectarianism was only a surface screen that hid the economic realities beneath. Their brains had been rotted by IR/PS in universities and they were incapable of seeing the truth of continuing and vital community identities. They still are incapable of understanding that simple reality. For them everything is a struggle for economic assets in a western system of "rationalism." The idea that Maliki would try to destroy the Sunni Arabs in Iraq from sheer malevolent ancestral hatred was beyond their comprehension.
"Sykes-Picot is Dead."
Yup. That's true. The eighty year old deal between the French and British over dividing up the spoils of war in the former dominions of the Turkish sultan is finished. At Versailles the "Allies" (Churchill, Gertrude Bell, TE Lawrence et al) decided that these dominions would be cut up along lines that ran north-south with greater Syria (to include what is now Lebanon) going to the French, what is now Iraq going to the British and an enclave made out of Ottoman lands south of Syria going to Britain "in trust" for a Jewish homeland that had been promised by Britain in the Balfour Declaration in 1916 as they sought Jewish support during WWI. The "minor issue" of the rights of the previous inhabitants of the Holy Land was simply ignored.
We should remember that "Syria," "the Lebanon," "Palestine," and "Iraq," had not been names that denoted political entities. These were geographical expressions that transcended politics. These lands had previously been organized along different lines in the administrative structure of the Ottoman empire. In that oecumenical empire the various peoples had only recently been "infected" with the Western notion of ethno-linguistic nationhood. Before that, people thought of themselves as; Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Jews, different kinds of Christians, etc. In those locally characteristic categories people lived in their "millets" in relative order under the yoke of the Ottoman state. Saddam continued that tradition.
Now, the ancient system of loyalties is re-asserting itself. Like calls to like. The Iraqi Sunnis have begun to align themselves together in a way not seen since WWI. In the "American War" in Iraq, US Army SF and the marines succeeded in separating traditional Sunni Arab tribal groups from AQ and friends. We threw that advantage away by accepting the exclusivist sectarian policies of Malii's government.
Now, "the chickens has come home to roost." Perhaps the Ottoman Empire was not such a bad thing. pl