So argues Efraim Karsh in his recent book, The Tail Wags the Dog. Against the view of most professional Middle East experts, the current American president, and many others, Karsh contends that forces and rulers indigenous to the region did far more than Western powers to shape its fate. Joshua Muravchik writes in his review:
Karsh challenges the received wisdom that the destinies of the core Middle Eastern polities—Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq—were largely shaped by Britain and France, who divided these spoils seized from Turkey in World War I. The driving force behind this aggrandizement, [according to Karsh], was neither Lloyd George nor Clemenceau but a local adventurer—[Sharif Hussein of Mecca]. . . .
Karsh defends the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, the secret bargain between London and Paris. In Karsh’s assessment, “the depiction of the Sykes-Picot agreement as the epitome of Western perfidy couldn’t be further from the truth.” Far from aiming at the subjugation of the Arabs, this deal “constituted the first-ever great-power recognition of an Arab right to self-determination.”
Rather than the Western Europeans, it was their fellow Muslims, the Ottomans, who were the main colonizers of the Arabs, and what caused the spoliation of the Ottoman empire was not the West’s avarice but its own.