The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has turned its attention from Syria to Iraq and recently occupied Mosul. On its march toward Baghdad, the group has violently slaughtered 1,700 Iraqi soldiers. This is a very new and very serious phenomenon.
Let us go back in time and refresh our memories.
The Sykes–Picot Agreement played a huge role in creating today's tumultuous Middle Eastern regimes. This secret deal, which was assented by Russia, was inked between the U.K. and France on May 16, 1916 in order to dominate over the whole territory of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.
Well, how did the world become aware of this accord? After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks pulled away from the agreement and revealed its whole content to the world.
Consequently, amendments were made on the original map that showed the initial version of the agreement. Firstly, Mosul was under the control of France; however France gave it away to the U.K. with the San Remo Conference in April 1920, as the U.K. supported France's interests in the Middle East. In line with Article 7 of the Armistice of Mudros, the U.K. requested that Mosul put forward security concerns in the region. Ali İhsan, commander for the Sixth Army of the Ottoman Empire, overruled this claim and he was replaced by the officer Halit Akmansü. Akmansü followed the orders issued by the interim administration in Istanbul and quit Mosul, which was later invaded by the U.K. army on Nov. 15, 1918.
Then, some wanted to establish a Kurdish kingdom in the region; however, the U.K. prevented this by conducting air bombardment upon the city of Sulaymaniyah and Turkey's attempts yielded no return either. Mosul was conclusively annexed to the Mandatory Iraq on July 24, 1924.
The Sykes–Picot Agreement is of historical importance as it laid the path open for the present situation of the Middle East. The U.K. Colonel Mark Sykes and his French counterpart François Georges-Picot came to the table in Cairo and apportioned the Middle East between the two countries. According to this deal, new artificial states were established. These new lines called Sykes-Picot borders were drawn in line with the interests alone, by overlapping the ethnic and religious structure of the region. The ethnic and sectarian societies living in the region were divided and made enemies against one another. From King Faisal to the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has continuously been in the dumps. This geography, which has the third largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world, was occupied by the U.S. on the pretext of the 9/11 attacks. While the U.S. was withdrawing from Iraq, management was handed over to Nouri al-Maliki. As a Shia leader, he inflicted the same atrocity on the Sunnis as Saddam Hussein carried out against the Shias and the Kurds. Following the U.S. invasion, the Iraqi Kurds formed the most stable region of the country.
First and foremost, ISIS is an outcome of colonial intervention and secondly of the violence and improvidence of the U.S. and dictators like Hussein and Maliki. The reason why this organization has achieved dominance so easily in the region is because the Sunni locals and tribes are already sick and tired of Maliki's discrimination policy.
The rich oil and natural gas sources are, of course, part and parcel of this game. However, this does not mean overlooking the central issue. First of all, ISIS shows how destructive the Western mentality on the East has been since Sykes–Picot.
While the U.S. was pulling away from Iraq, it did not leave a model behind; that is why its allies, particularly Turkey, have felt isolated. We do not yet know whether the U.S. did this due to a lack of policy or because it thought the present challenges in the region would create further problems. As a natural consequence, pushing the country into a sectarian clash will prevent the oil and natural gas from reaching to the world markets. Neither the Shia nor the Sunnis will exercise sovereignty in the region in this sectarian tension. As a result of this, the U.S. might make a splendid return to reorganize the region.
This is a dangerous game. The U.S. that prioritizes Israel's security in the region may lose control at any moment. Moreover, this may be a bad version of Sykes–Picot. Now the world needs realpolitik that is based upon people and peace. The cheap returns, which the West derives from the marginalization of Islam, may pave the way for uncontrollable situations at any time.
Under these circumstances, Turkey is like a miraculous ally for the West. As long as Turkey and Erdoğan is appreciated, a new status quo, in which all parties will win and the Middle East will find peace, may be created. At this point, as Turkey is a country that has the consciousness of going hand in hand with both the Muslim and Western communities on an egalitarian basis, but rejects the idea of the Greater Middle East (BOP) and moderate Islam, it is the key factor to unravel this chaos.
Even though this is a serious crisis, it has the potential to close the colonial era and may make the West establish sounder relations with the East and Islam. I think Obama casts a role for the U.S. as the architect of peace, instead of a leadership based upon regional clashes, arms and contentious oil revenues.
It seems that the struggle will not be between countries, but mentalities.