Sunday, September 29, 2013

All the States that Fit to Print

It seems like as a Middle East map blog we have to respond to the New York Times' map from this morning. As we have already pointed out, there are several much better alternative maps of the Middle East out there, and if borders are going to be redrawn our vote is obviously for the creation of a New Assyria. Several points:

1. Libya. This at least is kind of reasonable, if only because Libya very nearly was divided like this after World War Two. The French, British and Italians were each going to get a zone of influence, France in the southwest, Italy around Tripoli and Britain in the east by Egypt. Not surprisingly, Russia came out strongly against this division and insisted on a unified Libya, a plan that backfired when the US realized that by also supporting a unified Libya it could get the whole territory as a client state.

2. Syria and Iraq. First, for all the nonsense about "artificial" borders, there is a fairly substantial and entirely natural chunk of desert between Iraq and Syria, which is part of why these two areas have usually been thought of as separate geographic entities. More ironic, though, is the fact that for all the talk of sectarian identities, the recent historic link between these countries was always between the Iraqi Baath Party, whose successors will apparently end up in Sunnistan, and the Syrian Baathists, who will take control of Alawitestan.

3. Saudi Arabia. This is just silly. I guess they wanted to make sure they got to an even fourteen. Why not add in the Non-United Emirates for twenty-one total countries. And if the Palestinians got their independence, then the West Bank and Gaza split into independent states, but the West Bank settlers rejected the deal and declared their independence from Israel then you could have three more.
Anyways, there's been some talk recently that if only the British had listened to Lawrence of Arabia and created an independent Arab Kingdom things would have turned out much better. If nothing else, this map reminds us that Lawrence's protege, Sharif Hussein, lost the territory of Mecca and Medina to the Saudis almost immediately, and his dynasty didn't fair too well in Iraq either.