VIENNA — One hundred years ago on Monday, Britain and France signed a secret agreement carving out “spheres of influence” that ultimately created the modern Middle East.
Yet no one was celebrating the anniversary as Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts from Europe, the Arab states and Iran began gathering in Vienna for the latest international effort to end the civil war in Syria.
The effort is also supposed to usher in what is delicately called a “political transition” that would ease out President Bashar al-Assad. At least that is the goal of the Western allies and the Arab states; the Iranians and Russians seem to have a different view.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, named for its British and French authors and the map it produced, is now widely considered a low point in colonial efforts to manipulate the region to fit the interests of outsiders.
And yet the remnants of the agreement, which came to light after documents proving its existence emerged during the Russian Revolution in 1917, loom over everything Mr. Kerry and his fellow foreign ministers are doing here.