Mark Collins – Thank Goodness the State Dept. Still Has a Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Though it oddly, and a-historically, includes Iran and the Maghreb:

Date: 09/10/2012 Description: NEA countries clickable map. - State Dept Image

And now for the rest of the story (Churchill at it again):

How the Middle East was invented

Much has been made of how European imperial powers reshaped the Middle East after World War I, a transformation often said to have begun 100 years ago this week when France and Britain signed the Sykes-Picot agreement [see also the end of this post]. But fewer people realize that, in addition to creating the map of the modern Middle East, postwar European imperialists actually created the concept. The region we recognize as the Middle East today, a roughly defined but distinct swath of territory stretching from Turkey to Egypt to Iran, only came into being with the end of the Ottoman Empire and the disappearance of the older, now antiquated-sounding “Near East.”

The British used to think of the region that roughly corresponds to today’s Middle East as two entities: the Near East (the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean [the latter roughly the Levant–more here]) and the Middle East (the region around Iran and the Persian Gulf [including Iraq]). By Nick Danforth, based on A. Keith Johnston’s 1852 “Chart of the World Showing the Forms and Directions of the Ocean Currents.”

During the 19th century, the British mentally divided what most of the world now considers the Middle East into the Near East (the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean) and the Middle East (the region around Iran and the Persian Gulf). There was a certain geographic and strategic logic to this division. The Near East was, well, nearer than the Middle East, and the Middle East was in the middle of the Near and Far Easts. For British colonial administrators, the Middle East was the region that was crucial to the defense of India, while the Near East was largely under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

This all changed after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse a century ago. The Balkans and then modern Turkey began to seem more Western, while other parts of the Near East came under British control and fell victim to that empire’s bureaucratic reorganization. Winston Churchill, as secretary of state for the colonies, created a “Middle Eastern Department” covering the newly acquired territories of Palestine, Jordan and Iraq. Now this region, too, became part of Britain’s plans for defending its colonial holdings everywhere east of the Suez Canal. In the dramatic words of the historian Roderic Davison, “In this fashion the Middle East burst onto the Mediterranean Coast .”..

[Well worth the read: “A PEACE TO END ALL PEACE Creating the Modern Middle East 1914-1922. By David Fromkin”.]

And keep this in mind:

The Bullshistory of “Sykes-Picot”

Adam Garfinkle
History lesson: Sykes-Picot did not—repeat, did not—establish the borders of the modern Middle [Near?] East.


Fun with maps. And history.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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