The Sykes-Picot agreement has been endlessly discussed in the news since ISIS released a video where they referenced the agreement. The boundaries set up by the  agreement, partially revised, were ironed out at the San Remo Conference and ratified by the League of Nations. The agreement is very straightforward. In the midst of World War I, French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British diplomat Sir Mark Sykes, met to discuss what was to be done with the Arab provinces (outside of the Arabian peninsula) of the Ottoman Empire. The notion of self-determination for the various Arab tribes and ethnic and religious minorities and such were not considered because, well, why bother? The French were interested in increasing their influence in what is now Lebanon (already a veritable French enclave with French schools, cafes, and factories), southern Turkey, and Syria. The British, forever wanting to protect their Indian colonies, wanted to secure the oil fields of southern Iraq.

As such, it was agreed (with Russian approval) that the French would have a protectorate over the newly formed countries of Syria and Lebanon and the British were to have control of the newly created countries of Iraq (formerly the Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra), Jordan, and Palestine. Jerusalem was to be administered by an international consortium. Did the British also promise the Jews a homeland? Yes. did the British also promise the Arabs a state? Yes. Did either group get what they wanted? Of course not.

The lines that Sykes and Picot drew up created the two most diverse countries in the Middle East. Syria and Iraq were made up of dozens of minority groups and ethnicities: Druze, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Alawites, Yazidis, and of course the Kurds. The Arabs became aware of the agreement after the Bolsheviks (whose Tsarist predecessors had been a party to the agreement) publicly revealed the contents. Although they were angry that the promises the British had made were in complete contradiction to the agreement (the agreement set up numerous Arab states whose borders were to be decided by the two powers “as they saw fit”), they were in no position to protest. Since its implementation, every country set up by Sykes-Picot has seen several revolutions, upheavals,  and ethnic strife.