Sir Mark Sykes, François Georges-Picot, Sykes-Picot Agreement Map
Sir Mark Sykes (top), François Georges-Picot, Sykes Picot Agreement Map  Photo credit:  Unknown / Wikimedia, Unknown / Wikimedia and Royal Geographical Society / Wikimedia

100 years ago, a French and a British diplomat changed the fate of the Middle East — and the world — when they struck a secret agreement on how to split up the region.

A century ago this week, a British and a French diplomat — Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot — negotiated a secret deal to split up the Middle East into zones of influence. In doing so, Great Britain also reneged on a promise it had made to the Arabs to give them their own homeland.

The arbitrary lines in the sand that Sykes and Picot drew would influence the course of history and ultimately contribute to wars, internal conflict, the rise of terrorism and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Not surprisingly, oil interests played a major role.

This video describes how the agreement was struck, and how it still affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people to this day.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Portrait of Sir Mark Sykes (Leopold Pilichowski / Wikimedia) and Sykes Picot Agreement Map (Royal Geographical Society / Wikimedia)

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