The cartographiles at ComingAnarchy have drawn my attention to a very interesting article by Ralph Peters (I understand this is a theme he returns to in his newest book). In the article Peters attempts to re-draw the map of the Middle East along what he feels are more just and, presumably, more stable lines. Here’s the Middle East as it is now:
And here’s the map as Peters would have it:
Click on either map for an enlarged version.
I won’t attempt a detailed analysis of Peters’s vision of a future Middle East. There are winners and losers. The biggest losers are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Turkey. Iraq, divided into the Ottoman provinces united following World War I to make up the country, essentially ceases to exist. The biggest winners are the Kurds and Baluchis and the Shi’a Arabs of Iraq, Iran, and the KSA. The Kurds receive the country they were promised by the Treaty of Sevres. And as I read the map the Shi’a Arabs are left with much of the oil and control of the Gulf. I suspect that the Jordanians, nominal winners, would just as soon have walked.
There’s certainly an enormous amount of hubris in such an exercise. I wish that Peters had paid a little more attention to the issues of resources particularly those of oil, water, and transportation. Unless I’m mistaken the new Saudi and Sunni Arab Anwar state are largely without resources.
I think there’s not a chance that such a division would be stable for much the same reasons as there’s an insurgency in Iraq: the losers have little more to lose by resisting.
Many of the questions these maps raise were brought up in the original CA post and the ensuing comments. Are ethnic or sectarian states really more peaceful? Does this map assume an unchecked hand on the part of the United States? Can you actually draw such neat, ethnically and sectarianly divided lines? Or would there be an enormous amount of upheaval?
I have questions of my own.
First, this map does little to balance the power of Iran, the regional superpower in the Gulf and would provide the Iranians with grievances. The former, IMO, was the great failing of the map drawn nearly 100 years ago. How is this map an improvement?
Second, why didn’t the empires of the early 20th century (who largely drew the Before map) draw it this way? When I raised this in the CA comments it was dismissed with a remark to the effect that the British would have done but they didn’t have a free hand.
I don’t believe that for a second. The borders of Pakistan were drawn with the specific intent of aggregating different ethnic groups together.
I think that the British, in particular, drew the map as they did assuming that they’d always be in the picture. It’s the absence of the power of empire, Ottoman and British, that’s allowed the unrest in the area to fester.
Finally, how would the people who live in the region re-draw the map? I think we’ve had some broad hints of that over the last 40 years or so and I don’t think that map would look a great deal like the one that Peters has drawn.