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More dangerous than Sykes-Picot

We have been pledging our allegiance to sub-divisions and tribes and this prevents us from reviving any semblance of a pan-Arab entity.

A few days ago, the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement took place. The agreement divided the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the Arab Mashreq and the Fertile Crescent between the two European countries and was among the documents that tore apart the Arab world. On 16 May 1916, a secret meeting took place between the two colonial parties in which a series of agreements forebode decades of doom and greed. We have been among the biggest protestors of the fate that has befallen us.

The first centennial of one of our region's first catastrophes has now come and gone and today, the Arab world is facing a number of difficult circumstances from its eastern point to its western point, and from its north to its south, which are threatening to tear apart its already fragmented body that is suffering from sectarianism and tribal divisions. We have already seen the possibility of this in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and even Morocco, and we hope that God will forbid this from extending to other Arab countries, which are not immune to division because of the poisonous nature of its current atmospheres.

We are testing the limits of the construction of our fake colonial borders, which we Arabs have been representing more than the people who imposed these beliefs on us. Even our leaders and the elite have been doing this. We have been pledging our allegiance to sub-divisions and tribes and this prevents us from reviving any semblance of a pan-Arab entity. Today, you find Arab leaders who have fought endlessly in defence of the "sanctity" of the Arab borders created as a result of colonialism. Whether intentional or not, what we see is respect for the sub-divisions that have been imposed upon us, which leave us both weak and divided, without any real weight or value.

They do not pay attention or perhaps they do not want to pay attention to the Arab state experience. The Sykes-Picot agreement has failed on every social, military, economic and political level. Not a single one of the Arab states is viable as an entity on its own based on its current wealth and demographic potential. Our current state is easily permeated by others and we are rendered vulnerable to other parties. There is no sense of shame among Israel, Russia, the US or Iran. Some parties are even discussing our further fragmentation as if we are not already fragmented, as if we do not exist and as if we do not have any value. We see this as the truth without question in Syrian, in Iraq and Yemen. Just a few days ago, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, reminded us of Sykes-Picot centennial by saying that the agreement has "died and we alone are in charge of our fate".

We Arabs and many of our elites are subject to many other downfalls. Today, we find ourselves willing and able to accept invasion and division within the body of our region. In Iraq and Syria, you hear some of us, people among us, calling for the division of these two countries and the re-drawing of their maps along sectarian lines. You hear of Sunni Arabs not wanting to be in one state with the Shias. You hear of Arabs and Kurds not wanting to live together under one state. You hear in Yemen of people who do not want to unify the north and the south and in Morocco, there are those who are calling for the annexing of the country's Sahara. In Libya, you hear increasing calls for dividing the country along sectarian and tribal lines, while in Sudan and Somalia we have seen the dangers of taking the scalpel of division to the body of the state.

Thus, at a time when the world is looking to form economic and security blocs, we Arabs are looking for more reasons for division and fragmentation. Sykes-Picot is responsible for one aspect of our minds and our logic and this agreement is the reason for some of the current political manifestations. What many must understand is that our discussion of one unified pan-Arab nation is not a figment of imagination or a matter of idealism. It is something that we need to happen so that we do not have generations of Arabs coming after us, discussing after another hundred years, an era of more division and fragmentation. We cannot have future generations talk about how we allowed the outside world to trample over the dignity of our exhausted bodies. This is the difference between true Arab nationalism and the supposed nationalism that others have bestowed upon us, leaving the body of the Arab world frail and incapable of self-defence.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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