Sunday February 28, 2016

Redrawing the map of the Middle East

Sykes-Picot Map, 1916

Sykes-Picot Map, 1916

Listen 34:15

One hundred years ago, in May 1916, an English diplomat named Robert Sykes and a French counterpart, Fran├žois Georges-Picot, carved up the Middle East into spheres of influence for their countries in the event that the British and French and their allies defeated the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the First World War. 

It became known as a Sykes-Picot Agreement, although it was supposed to remain secret, and it laid the groundwork for the borders that would later define Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the kingdoms of the Arabian peninsula.

The future of those borders, porous as they are, is a little doubtful now. Some say that's when the trauma really began. Michael's guest is Tarek Osman, host of the BBC Radio 4 series The Making of the Modern Arab World