It has become increasingly commonplace to present borders, particularly in the Middle East, as an ugly embodiment of the way colonialism, nationalism and the modern state disrupted preexisting networks of social relationships. By extension, these borders have, for many, become symbols of the ideological blindness of the officials who initially drew them, their supposed indifference to an earlier "'circulation mode' of affiliation" that was "[c]haracterized by fluidity and mobility."
Which is to say that by and large it was not the creation of borders themselves that proved disruptive but instead political tensions between the governments on both sides them. Consistently across the region, political and military disputes gave borders that were initially intended to be quite permeable the fortified disruptive character we associate with them today.
The Iraq-Syrian border, for example, which ISIS famously presented as a symbol of the region’s “Sykes-Picot division,” was only delimited by a League of Nations commission in 1932, and it remained open for nomads to cross relatively freely until Syrian-Iraqi political tensions led to its closure in the 1980s. The fortified border which ISIS saw as a product of a century-old political order, in other words, was only about three decades old.
In this regard the Iraqi-Syrian border is hardly unique. A quick tour of some documents and scholarship related to the history of borders in the Middle East reveals that many evolved in the same way. Across the region, similar measures were initially taken to limit the disruption new borders would cause, and in many cases these measures broke down for the same reasons.