Mosul, said by some to be modern Iraq's second and by others its third most populous city, was originally awarded to France as part of Syria under the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement. François Georges-Picot, the French delegate at the secret negotiations that divided the Ottoman Empire into British, French and Russian satrapies, laid out France's dubious claim to Mosul and the area around it. Foreign Office notes of secret discussions in London on 23 November 1915, 'Results of second meeting of Committee to discuss Arab question and Syria', report that M. Picot stated his view that 'France would never consent to offer independence to the Arabs' and claimed all of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Mosul, Diyarbekir and Cilicia for France. (After the war, France took Syria and Lebanon. Palestine and Mosul went to Britain. Turkey held Diyarbekir and Cilicia.) An unnamed India Office official said that, until twenty years before, Mosul vilayet had been attached to the districts of Basra and Baghdad, both claimed by Britain. According to the minutes, 'M. Picot replied that it was impossible to consider the situation of twenty years ago as affecting the situation much today; that the French claim to Mosul consisted in the fact that since about twenty years the French had had schools there; that many of the inhabitants spoke French and were imbued with French interests.'
LRB 16 December 2004 | PDF Download