chapter  15
5 Pages

Syria in the Fertile Crescent

WithMartin Kramer

When the revolution started in Syria in 2011, many people saw it as the obvious continuation of the so-called Arab Spring. When conflict broke out in Syria, analysts initially read it as an extension of the same process. In Syria, political transformation threatened to do precisely that. James Henry Breasted, an American Egyptologist defined the Fertile Crescent as the expanse of territory set between the desert to the south and the mountains to the north—a place constantly under pressure from invaders, precisely because it is sustaining of life. In 1916, the same year that Breasted popularized the phrase Fertile Crescent, Britain and France concluded the Sykes-Picot agreement for the partition of the Ottoman Empire, dividing this zone into states and drawing straight borders through the desert. Syrians were educated to believe that the state of Syria was the nucleus of a greater Syria, and Arab unity. Now it is not Syria's power, but Syria's weakness, that threatens the region.