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Against this background, the post-colonial origins of a state do not in any way nullify its ability to function once the metropole has been driven out.

The second analytical outcome of the Sykes–Picot narrative is, if anything, even more damaging.

In negating the validity, legitimacy and influence of Middle Eastern states, it seeks an alternative organising dynamic or principle, primarily the religious identity of the populations that reside in these states.

By identifying faith as the key factor in the Middle East, an unchanging ‘essence’ that traces back centuries, proponents of the Sykes–Picot narrative are guilty of ‘primordialisation’.

The use of the Sykes–Picot narrative may lend commentators a veneer of historical learning, but it also encourages them to see the current crisis in a specific and inaccurate way.

Instead of blaming the exogenous creation of the state and the dominance of pre-state religious identities, such prescriptions should focus on the ways in which Iraq has been weakened since the regime change of 2003, and on methods for reforming the Iraqi state that could sustain the country in the future.

have to be consigned to the Diplomatic lumber-room.’ The post-war settlements that created the majority of states in the Middle East had little connection with the Sykes–Picot agreement.

Instead, they were hammered out at a series of multilateral peace conferences and meetings produced by a region and an international order that had been transformed by the war.

As outlined in the book that Jumblatt gave to Nasrallah, Sykes and Georges-Picot did indeed reach a secret agreement that would allow the French and the British to divide the Middle East into separate areas of influence in the aftermath of the war.

This was at the high point of Anglo-French imperial ambition, and of their optimism about how the conflict would end.

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