A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Jacob Russell
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Working in secret, European diplomats drew up the borders that have defined the Middle East's nations for nearly a century – but now civil war, sectarian bloodshed and leadership failures threaten to rip that map apart.For the Al-Qaeda breakaway group that overran parts of Iraq this week, the border between that country and Syria, where it is also fighting, may as well not even be there.The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, wants to establish a Shariah-ruled ministate bridging both countries, in effect uniting a Sunni heartland across the center of the Mideast.The Islamic State's campaign is helped by Sunni discontent with Assad's Alawite-dominated Syrian government and the Shiite-led government in Iraq, two states whose borders were drawn by Britain and France after World War I.Iraq's Kurds, who run an autonomous region in northern Iraq, seized control of the city of Kirkuk, ostensibly to defend it from the militant group's advance.For example, mainly Sunni Mosul – along with Kurdish areas further north – was thrown together with Baghdad and the overwhelmingly Shiite south to form Iraq.Also, people developed true identities as Jordanians, Iraqis, Lebanese or Syrians – even if at the same time they considered the borders illegitimate colonial creations.Syria dominated it for years, and Hezbollah still bridges both countries, making the border hazy.
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