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10 August 2015


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Old Gun Pilot

Seamus Padraig
See also: " A Man Called Intrepid" Lyons Press 1976


FB Ali, you are a wonderful geopolitical storyteller! Entertaining and informative.

Looking forward to the next update on the exploits of Prince Mohammed ;)

Since the political games in the ME are so complex and entangled, I often find old maps very helpful. Today I came across an interesting article on the 1920 Treaty Of Sèvres whose 95th anniversary was on 8/10. Though I originally read it at Foreign Policy, that triggered me to read it at author Nick Danforth's own blog, which focuses on Ottoman/Turkish/Middle Eastern/Balkan cartography .

The Sevres Anniversary http://www.midafternoonmap.com/2015/08/the-sevres-anniversary.html
Ninety-five years ago today, European diplomats gathered at a porcelain factory in the Paris suburb of Sèvres and signed a treaty to remake the Middle East from the ashes of the Ottoman empire. The plan collapsed so quickly we barely remember it anymore, but the short-lived Treaty of Sèvres, no less than the endlessly discussed Sykes-Picot agreement, had consequences that can still be seen today. We might do well to consider a few of them as the anniversary of this forgotten treaty quietly passes by. ...

There’s no doubt that Europeans were happy to create borders that conformed to their own interests whenever they could get away with it. But the failure of Sèvres proves that that sometimes they couldn’t. When European statesmen tried to redraw the map of Anatolia, their efforts were forcefully defeated. In the Middle East, by contrast, Europeans succeeded in imposing borders because they had the military power to prevail over the people resisting them. Had the Syrian nationalist Yusuf al-‘Azma, another mustachioed Ottoman army officer, replicated Ataturk’s military success and defeated the French at the Battle of Maysalun, European plans for the Levant would have gone the way of Sèvres.

Would different borders have made the Middle East more stable, or perhaps less prone to sectarian violence? Not necessarily. But looking at history through the lens of the Sèvres treaty suggests a deeper point about the cause-and-effect relationship between European-drawn borders and Middle Eastern instability: the regions that ended up with borders imposed by Europe tended to be those already too weak or disorganized to successfully resist colonial occupation. Turkey didn’t become wealthier and more democratic than Syria or Iraq because it had the good fortune to get the right borders. Rather, the factors that enabled Turkey to defy European plans and draw its own borders — including an army and economic infrastructure inherited from the Ottoman empire — were some of the same ones that enabled Turkey to build a strong, centralized, European-style nation-state.


More educational historical maps here...

Treaty of Sèvres https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_S%C3%A8vres

Babak Makkinejad

The Young Turks ethnically cleansed Anatolia of the Christians; first the Armenians and then Pontic Greeks. In this they followed the splendid example of European states; ein volk, ein reich etc.

Ottomans had the virtue of being cosmopolitans; per the elements of the Seljuk Synthesis.

Syria and Iraq were weak since both bestrode the Seljuk fault lines; analogous to the way Czechoslovakia bestrode the old Diocletian Line - in spite of the commonality of language (but not culture).

I think a more natural division is what we are seeing with the emergence of ISIS and the coming together of the rump Syria and Lebanon.

But the creators of Syria and Iraq did not have the benefit of having me around to advise them on the subtleties of the application of the Makkinejad Thesis to the creation of new states.

FB Ali

Glad you enjoyed it, Valissa.

Sevres and Sykes-Picot were attempts by the European powers, still in imperial mode, to divide up the Ottoman empire that they had just defeated in WW1. They were able to get away with it as far as the Arab lands were concerned, but Turkey proper was another matter.

The Arabs were a tribal society, accustomed to owing allegiance to their chiefs, who left them largely alone to pursue their simple lives. The chiefs, in turn, were used to being ruled by a stronger power. The Turks, on the other hand, were a proud and homogenous people who had never been ruled by outsiders, and weren't going to let it happen now.

These personal and societal traits are still manifesting themselves in current developments.


Agree with your comment, but I guess you meant Yugoslavia, not Czechoslovakia


From first hand info, all along during the sanctions period, Chinese developers, businessmen and in engineers were having a free hand in establishing cooperation with local partners.

different clue

Several years ago I noted that for me trying to predict price movements of oil was like trying to play checkers when the squares are moving around as well as the checkers. I still find it that way. Yet I try to think about it. I try to think . . . something.

I believed the "exterminate unconventional oil production" theory of Saudi downpricing till I read an article which offered a simpler yet deeper theory. The article theorised ( and claimed to base this on some of Saudi oil minister al Naimi's own statements of desire and intent) that the KSA-gov is afraid that the industrialized world is slowly taking itself off the oil standard, and will leave Saudi Arabia with bunches of oil and no one to sell it to. Therefor, al Naimi has decided that KSA must downprice oil deep enough and long enough to disincentivise efforts to use oil more efficiently and displace oil wherever feasible, in order to keep selling large amounts of oil to an inefficient world. Here is the link.

If this is al Naimi's plan, one wonders if a screaming budget deficit will abort the plan.

About Ambassador Freeman's description and prediction of China's plans . . . it sounds like China seeks to organize and lead a Great Eurasia Co-Prosperity Sphere. People predicting the failure of China's plans may well be trying to comfort and reassure themselves out of Fear of a Chinese Planet. If the ChinaGov can weather and suppress or solve certain problems long enough to set Plan China into irreversible motion, they could achieve everything that Ambassador Freeman predicts.
But that will create problems which the Freeman Analysis does not discuss. It will involve the Eurasia-wide rollout of the natural resource sack-and-pillage currently under way against Tibet. I recently skimmed a book about that called Meltdown In Tibet. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-meltdown-in-tibet-on-chinas-eco-destruction-by-michael-buckley/2015/01/02/0a240d02-690a-11e4-b053-65cea7903f2e_story.html I myself envision a Chinese plan to shut down and relocate as much European industry as possible and relocate it to thousands of maquiladoras all along the New Silk Road back to China. I don't see the Chinese reef-expanding in the China Seas as a frivolous non-concern. I see it as bespeaking the same kind of nasty aquisitiveness for resources against all the China Sea nations as is displayed by Israel's West Bank and Golan Heights settlements for resource aquisitiveness against West Bank Palestine and Syria.

Many of our foreign friends have lately come to see America as a bad hegemon. Perhaps they think China may be a better hegemon. They may be correct. The experiment will be run. We will all get to find out. As bad as our blundering approach to China ( and things in general) has been so far, I can think of an even bigger blunder which will be suggested in due course. And that would be to permit the building of an undersea road and railroad from Siberia to Alaska under the Bering Strait. I hope it never happens.


Simply put yes. But as is the case with the US dollar other nations can fix their exchange rates so low that they have a more or less permanent trade surplus with the USA. That could happen to China.

On a small scale a reserve currency status is not necessarily a bad thing for the USA but as America's share of the global economy becomes smaller the negative side effects of been a reserve currency starts to be seen. Part of the reason for the flat real income of most US households is the wage pressures from abroad. Made possible by currency pegging. Another part is that Americans have not shared the profits of increased global trade more equally with the lion's share going to the riches top 10% households.


So if they are without PLA and CCP parents you know that they are spies? PLA/CCP membership is to high to be useful.


Did the US run a trade deficit in the 40's & 50's when the dollar became THE reserve currency. I seriously doubt it but am to lazy to look it up.

Babak Makkinejad

I have tried to be honest with myself and others in regards to Diocletian Line as well as the Makkinejad Theses.

I took the Diocletian Line to be at 10 degrees of longitude; in which case most of Slovakia lies to its East.

If I set it at 19 degrees of longitude, then still more than half of Slovakia would be to its East.

Yes, I agree, Yugoslavia is another case.

It is more complicated there because in Bosnia-Hercegovina the Diocletian Line is bisected by the Muslim Civilization boundary.

Babak Makkinejad

Correction :

"I took the Diocletian Line to be at 18 degrees of longitude; in which case most of Slovakia lies to its East."



Bretton Woods was tied into gold and the US dollar as the key currencies. But the US balance of payment deficits also cause the system to end.

Charles I

Who do the Chinese borrow from?

Charles I

Columbia is not quite dead yet

Charles I

Reserve currencies not backed by gold require vast amounts of credit beneath them. Who do the Chinese borrow from nowadays?

Charles I

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us FB.

Chinese are in for the long haul. We built global supply chains TO them; why be surprised if they now build them FROM China to everywhere? Presumably they need to get all the food they are buying up everywhere home as well.



As an added bonus when their people get really hungry they can traverse all those roads to new and more fertile lands. Who, after all, is going to stop them?


Charles: They mostly borrow and speculate from their own savings.

different clue


That is why we must block every attempt to get such a road built under the Bering Straits from Siberia to Alaska.

Babak Makkinejad

different clue:

The first post that I made on this forum more than a decade ago was a statement to the effect that Iran was not an enemy of the United Sates but she opposed US strategies.

And a decade ago, a colleague was bitterly complaining to me: "Why are not we treating those who want to work with us better? Why are we not concentrating on giving them things that they want which we can?"

Many countries in the world want to work with the United States but many also seem to have come to the conclusion that US is unable, unwilling, or incapable of positively engaging with them.

That a communist dictatorship has become more attractive than the United State in many ways is not the fault of the foreigners; in my opinion.


I would find that to be a very longitudinal answer as it never been Orthodox Christian or even ruled by them (excluding the USSR) and being Orthodox or Catholic/Protestant is what i understand to be the reason for the Diocletian line

Babak Makkinejad

I do not know why & how, I only state it as an empirical observation.


Professor Pettis have another post about the Chinese currency adjustment and possible policy goals involved.


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