To understand the ongoing crises in the Middle East, one needs to understand a little history of European domination of the Middle East particularly after the abundance of fossil fuels were discovered there. An key part of this history that is often referred to in current essays is the nefarious Sykes-Picot Agreement that was secretly decided in May 1916 by British and French agents who wanted to break up the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration followed a year later, and US interference in the region soon followed. This article tells the early story of the actions by European capitalists and their governments to control this valuable region.
These events are not just of historical interest, but show how the imperialist powers have never been trustworthy partners in the struggle for national independence. They also illustrate how aspiring rulers in the Arab world have long been prepared to compromise with imperial powers to the detriment of the mass of the population. The parcelling out of the Middle East in the Sykes-Picot agreement was a reflection of much deeper processes at work in the world economy a century ago.