War on the Rocks - July 1, 2014
Istanbul, Turkey – Nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire has been on the rise as of late. The Ottoman Sultan’s seal can be found on T-shirts, advertisements, and jewelry everywhere in its old imperial capital of Istanbul. More alarmingly, the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are now proclaiming a new Islamic caliphate in former Ottoman provinces. The shadows of history over the Middle East bring back images of 1916, when the current lines of the Middle East were drawn by the British and French empires in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement. Four years later, the Treaty of Sevres was intended as the fait accompli, dismantling as it did what remained of the Ottoman Empire. The effects of these nearly hundred-year old events are being felt and bitterly remembered in Turkey today. Yet it’s not just the ancient past, but more recent history that should trouble Ankara. With the fall of Mosul and the kidnapping of the Turkish Consul General and over 80 Turkish citizens, the painful shadows of Al-Qaeda’s attacks in Istanbul a decade ago hover over Ankara once again. In the 1920s, Mosul was claimed by the new Turkish Republic and was the subject of one of the League of Nation’s first major arbitrations, thereby assuring itself a special significance in Turkish historical memory.