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In recent days, the fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) proclaimed there was no longer a Syria or an Iraq. Instead, they said, the territory controlled by the ISIL in those countries was the Islamic State.
What the Sunni guerrilla army's victories aim to do is erase the lines drawn across the Middle East by the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
It was an agreement between British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat George François Picot that drew up the modern Middle East out of the rubble of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were allied with Germany and Austria during World War I, and after those powers lost, the winners, Britain and France, prepared to divide influence and their spoils.
From the former Ottoman lands rose new kingdoms (Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and republics (Syria and Lebanon). It introduced a British mandate over Palestine, which eventually became Israel.
In the last 60 years, that vast territory — from the eastern Mediterranean to Basra on the Persian Gulf, from Mosul in what is now Iraq to the Arabian Peninsula — has hardly known a day of peace.
Did the Middle East already contain multiple sources of conflict, regardless of how it was reshaped by Britain and France?
Or did Sykes and Picot doom the states they created?
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.