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Map from 2007 Atlantic article predicts the breakup of Iraq


Stashed in: Middle East, Maps!, war, Maps, International Incidents, Most Important Stash Ever

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Iraq is an artificial creation a century ago. 

When we were preparing the map that accompanied the article, we erred on the side of whimsy, and exaggeration. However, in looking it over today, it doesn’t seem entirely fanciful. We predicted the break-up of Sudan into two countries (although we called what is today known as South Sudan “New Sudan”). We created a “Hezbollahstan” in part of Lebanon, and this certainly exists, de facto. North of Hezbollahstan is “The Alawite Republic,” along what is now Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This is a semi-plausible near-term consequence of Syria’s Assad-directed destruction. Syria also loses territory, on our map, to a “Druzistan” that touches the northern border of “Greater Jordan.” Iraq is, of course, divided into three states, and the Kurdish state even takes in parts of Turkish-ruled Kurdish territory. One semi-perspicacious addition to the map—the Bedouin Autonomous Zone—is what could have developed in the Sinai Peninsula before the most recent Egyptian military coup, and the Egyptian military’s re-energized plan to seize Sinai back from jihadist tribesmen.

In the article, I was very critical of the imperial hubris that motivated the Sykes-Picot division of the Middle East by the British and French. But I’ve warmed to the argument that the Sykes-Picot arrangement was, in one sense, inadvertently progressive. The makers of the modern Middle East roped together peoples of different ethnicities and faiths (or streams of the same faith) in what were meant to be modern, multicultural, and multi-confessional states. It is an understatement to say that the Middle East isn’t the sort of place where this kind of experiment has been shown to work. (I’m thinking of you, one-staters, by the way.) I don’t think it is worth American money, or certainly American lives, to keep Iraq a unitary state. It is, of course, important to invest in plans that forestall the creation of permanent jihadist safe havens, and about this the U.S. should be vigilant, more vigilant than it has been. But Westphalian obsessiveness—Iraq must stay together because it must stay together—just doesn’t seem wise.

Dividing the country makes sense but there will be lots of disputes over who gets the oil.

I found this map helpful too:

The Iraq-ISIS Conflict in Maps, Photos and Video - NYTimes.com - PandaWhale

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