State Formation in the Middle East: A Conversation with David Patel (S. 5, Ep. 17)

pablo2In this week’s POMEPS conversation, Marc Lynch speaks with David Patel about the borders of the Middle East and the legacy of Sykes–Picot. “When Westerners talk about reimagining the borders of the Middle East, what they’re thinking of is smaller states.” But, says Patel, “we should be careful when we talk about ‘reimagining the borders.'” Patel is a lecturer in the department of politics and senior research fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.

Looking at the rhetoric of Sykes-Picot. “ISIS isn’t a secessionist movement. It’s not trying to break away from Iraq or Syria. ISIS talks about Sykes–Picot and the conspiracy of it.”

“People don’t know what to call ISIS now. Calling it a ‘state,’ even if it dies and becomes a ‘failed state,’ is a political statement. But it’s been there for three years, governing lives… you can travel from one end of the Islamic State to the other with a piece of paper that says, ‘This person is allowed to transport agricultural goods. Those are state-like features, and it’s survived for quite a long time.”

Music for this season’s podcast was created by Feras Arrabi. You can find more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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More from Patel:
Remembering failed states in the Middle East,February 2015
Comparing explanations of the Arab uprisings, November 2014
POMEPS Conversations 6 with David Patel, October 24, 2012