Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mind-Blowing Facts from "A Peace to End All Peace" (Part 1 of a series)

As most followers of Middle Eastern politics know, the flags of the Arab world are all very similar.  Most of them feature some combination of black, red, white and green, horizontal stripes, sometimes a star or a crescent, and sometimes a sideways triangle on the left side.
There a few weirdos like Somalia and Qatar, but most of them follow this pattern.

This is because most Arab flags were based on the flag of the Arab revolt during World War I.  These Arab rebels from Mecca helped Britain fight against the Ottoman Empire.  In return, they were (supposed) to get their independence:

The flag of the Arab revolt still flies above the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, where the Arab rebels scored their first major victory:

So where did this flag, and with it, the flags of nearly all the modern Arab states, come from?

According to David Fromkin's book A Peace to End All Peace, it was designed entirely by Sir Mark Sykes. (P. 315).

As in, Sir Mark Sykes of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

If you're a Middle East nerd, your mind is already blown.  If you're not, the Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret agreement between Britain and France to divide the Middle East between themselves after the war.  They did so, and and the Arab revolt against the Ottomans was followed by 30 years of European colonization in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.  And when the Europeans left, the Arabs were left with totally unworkable borders. (See: Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.)

The Sykes-Picot Agreement is reviled throughout the Middle East as the original sin of the Zionist-Western Conspiracy to Screw the Arabs.

And Mark Sykes, the British diplomat who negotiated that agreement, created the Arab flag.


That's as ironic and embarrassing as if the U.S. flag was designed by King George III, or, say, mostly based on the flag of Britain's infamous East India Company.

A Peace to End All Peace is one of the most informative, most entertaining books on the Middle East I've ever read.  More mind-blowing facts will be posted here as they come!

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