In a few days, hopefully, I’m going to get to see the new ‘Independence Day’ movie, a 20-year rework of the original. The trailer promises a good deal, the new assailants are just like the old ones but more numerous, their ships and armaments huger, they are better prepared and infinitely more dangerous this time around.
I rather wondered whether there was a metaphor there somewhere…
In late May, the Arab press published a number of articles marking the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which still looks as if somebody just took a pencil and a map and drew some pretty arbitrary lines on it, segmenting the Ottoman Empire into several territories, thus shaping the map of the Middle East as we know it. A relatively uncomplicated scenario, a bit like uploading a virus into an enemy spaceship. On its centenary, people have been revisiting the agreement and its outcomes. Some writers have focused on the agreement’s adversarial effects, warning that the US and Russia are currently formulating a new, improved Sykes-Picot, perhaps on the back of the rampant anarchy in Syria, which can surely no longer continue to function as a sovereign state for much longer. Perhaps the outcome might be a lot less draconian, subdividing the region’s states into even smaller entities on a sectarian and/or ethnic basis. This will have the effect of further weakening the Arab world and subordinate it to their control, a rather cynical ploy whose deliberateness would somehow have to be concealed. The notion of Obama’s and Putin’s successors, fighting over who gets the pencil, is probably too awful to contemplate. Strangely, articles were published accusing the Arab regimes of co-operating with this plan, consciously or not, while others accused Israel of being up to its neck in the intrigue. On the other hand, if the warmongers are determined enough, a conflict of Biblical proportions could erupt with comparatively little warning, and, as in every other war in history, it will have come about through decades of stupidity, intransigence and wilful blindness to the truth that stares us in the face.
Conversely, other writers have claimed that the disintegration of the Arab world along ethnic and sectarian lines stems not from external plots but from the division and hatred that currently prevail among the Arabs, mostly but not exclusively along Sunni-Shia lines. It. has to be noted, however, that such divisions often stem from one side’s disparagement of the other in light of their Islamic observance, such as Hamas and the PA.
Yet another approach was taken by Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah. He wrote that the Sykes-Picot agreement was actually a “gift from heaven,” but the Arabs failed to take advantage of it. Instead of using it to develop states that benefit their people, they used it as an excuse to oppress them and to justify all their failures. This won’t have gone down very well in diwaniyas up and down the Gulf.
Whichever is even a fragment of the truth, unfolding events will surely reveal. However, I am still looking forward to the film in which the good guys (those without tentacles and exoskeletons) win.