Journal of Social and Political


ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)

ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)

Published: 23 February 2021

The New Sykes-Picot: Imperial Geographies, Economic Violence and the Occupation of Northern and Eastern Syria

Charles A. Sills

American University of Beirut, Lebanon

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Pages: 125-136

Keywords: Syria, Occupation, Imperialism, Orientalism, Liberal-Interventionism


This article quantifies the socio-economic impact of Syria’s territorial fragmentation, framing western efforts to partition Syria against the backdrop of a broader campaign designed to achieve regime change using economic violence. While some have attempted to quantify the impact of sanctions and trade restrictions on Syrian civilians, much of the extant literature fails to address the illegal occupation of Syrian territory north and east of the Euphrates River. Critically, the direct seizure of geographic space through the occupation of Syrian territory facilitates economic violence far more effectively than sanctions alone. In western capitals, the tacit embrace of such methods indicates a re-discovery of old-line traditional territorial imperialism and the rhetorical devices needed to promote it: advocating the illegal seizure of Syrian territory demands a reinvigorated orientalist public discourse designed to promote western saviorism and the moral necessity of western interventionism. Using a hybridized research methodology incorporating qualitative and quantitative analysis, this study appraises the tangible consequences of Syria’s territorial fragmentation as experienced by Syrians while simultaneously appraising the role of orientalist, liberal-interventionist discourse in the promotion of empire.


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