You may have noticed references such as these to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 in the Australian media:
"The rapid advance of the hardline Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham into Iraq's Sunni heartland has sparked a cottage industry of commentary on the plan devised by British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart, Francois Georges-Picot, that laid the basis for the map of the modern Middle East and led to the formation of Syria and Iraq." (Middle East map being redrawn before our very eyes, William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 19/4/14)
" [Iraq's] borders were constructed by Britain and France in 1920 in a reworking of their so-called Picot-Sykes agreement to divvy up control of the Middle East after the defeat of the Sunni-run Ottoman Empire. Borders were drawn north to south to create Iraq, in direct contradiction to the ancestry, language and faith divisions that run largely east to west across what is now Syria and Iraq. ISIL has boasted of destroying what it calls 'the Sykes-Picot conspiracy'." (Editorial: Unity government the only hope for Iraq, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/6/14)
I was intending to highlight this ms media habit of invoking Sykes-Picot, while (studiously?) omitting all reference whatever to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when I found myself beaten to the post (in both senses) by Philip Weiss of the Mondoweiss site. So rather than reinvent the wheel, here's his commentary - Reporters talk about Sykes-Picot of 1916 (and ignore the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (29/6/14):
"With the blurring of the border between Syria and Iraq by the Sunni militant group ISIS, American journalists have been talking a lot about the Sykes-Picot treaty, the secret agreement during World War I between the French and the British to carve up the Middle East when the Ottoman Empire ended. These journalists all describe Sykes-Picot as an instance of imperial arrogance: European powers dabbling in Middle East geography and ignoring traditional ethnic and religious lines. Fair enough. But if they're going to bring up Sykes-Picot as a sign of how wrong the West is about religion in the Middle East, why don't they bring up that other secret agreement of World War I, just a year later: the Balfour Declaration, when the British promised Lord Rothschild... that the Jews could have a 'national home' in Palestine? The Balfour Declaration was published in November 1917, but was arrived at after months and years of Zionist lobbying. And it also carved up the Middle East in ways that haunt us to this day. Here is some of the Sykes-Picot chatter...
[He cites several examples.]
"I'm as confused by these questions as any other American: I see a drawn-out and violent process in which dictatorships give way to democracies in the Middle East; I see a broad, conservative constituency in Egypt that prefers dictatorship to extremism and fears Egypt turning into Syria. But I also see our role in fueling religious extremism. Imperial Britain came up with the Balfour Declaration in utter defiance of local political and religious sentiment in 1917, and the creation of a Jewish state in 1948 engendered religious conflict in the region. When you travel around Palestine and its neighbors there is a lot of rage toward the Jewish state/US client, and not a lot of talk of a 'caliphate.' The State Department warned back in 1948 that recognizing a Jewish state would lead to endless unrest in the region; the reporters should be addressing that factor."
You can just imagine a Phillip Adams, or a Geraldine Doogue, or a James Carleton (to cite the ABC equivalent of those cited by Weiss), asking some interlocutor or other who's just invoked Sykes-Picot:
Isn't what you say about Sykes-Picot as a source of sectarian divisions in today's Middle East somewhat overstated? Wouldn't a better example of colonial mischief-making be the Balfour Declaration? After all, it introduced into the area the mother-of-all sectarian states, the Jewish state of Israel, which went on in 1948 to purge Palestine, by fire and sword, of as many non-Jews, Christians and Muslims, as it possibly could at the time.