Southern Sudan has come up with a new national anthem and a new flag. It designed a new currency several years ago, but debates are still raging over what the new country should be called. There are various options being mooted, including the Nile Republic, Equatoria, Juwama, New Sudan and South Sudan. However, those details are the least of the new nations worries. The Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir under pressure from the US has stated that he will respect the results of the souths referendum even though he will lose a third of his country and potentially 80 per cent of its oil. There is a suggestion that Washington has offered him a deal in exchange for a clean divorce with Juba that may include US sanctions being lifted against Khartoum, Sudans removal from its list of terrorist states and debt relief. Its also possible that the International Criminal Court in The Hague might be persuaded not to pursue its arrest warrant for Al Bashir for war crimes in Darfur. But hours before the vote, the Sudanese leader warned that he would not accept oil-rich Abyei being subsumed into any new state. If any party should take any independent action on Abyei that would be the beginning of a conflict President Al Bashir told Al Jazeera. That is why we say that the status quo in Abyei remains unchanged with the same administration and components until we reach a solution, he said. Moreover, its been reported that in the run-up to the referendum there were clashes between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement and militias supporting Khartoum as well as tribal violence against the police around Abyei resulting in 19 deaths. Certainly, the Hollywood actor George Clooney who says he feels like a skunk in the room as he warns of a potential new civil war between north and south isnt celebrating yet. As a founder member of a human rights project called Not on our Watch, Clooney has funded the Satellite Sentinel Project that cooperates with Google, the UN and various anti-genocide organisations to use real-time satellite imagery for the purpose of monitoring troop relocations and mass population movements. While the mood in the West is overwhelmingly congratulatory, as long as oil is the elephant in the room I see the split as manufacturing a tinderbox that could erupt into a full-scale conflagration. As far as Im concerned, the breakaway of the south as a mainly Christian entity is undesirable in that it sets a precedent that could affect other parts of Africa and the Middle East. The referendum in Sudan could have a domino effect, said the President of the Civil Rights Congress in Nigeria Shehu Sani. It is likely to be an infection to other parts of Africa in the sense that most countries, particularly in the west, are divided along the lines of Christians and Muslims. The balkanisation of large countries has always been in the Wests interest and still is. Its part of the old British 'divide and rule strategy that the former president of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah warned about in his book Neo Colonialism - The last stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah maintained that from the Wests viewpoint, the most effective way of controlling natural resources was balkanisation. With oil approaching $100 a barrel when the US and Europe are struggling not to fall back into recession, they would benefit from a newly independent oil-rich south Sudan keen to leap into their sphere of influence. Some analysts believe that the invasion of Iraq was a neo-conservative attempt to balkanise Iraq, which could still happen if that country descends into sectarian violence when the Americans pull out. Its worth mentioning that in 2006, then Secretary-of-State Condoleezza Rice talked about a new Middle East when Lt-Col Ralph Peters prepared a map that was published in the Armed Forces Journal and has been used by Nato in a training programme for senior officers. That map shows Saudi Arabia split into an Islamic Sacred State and Saudi Homelands Independent Territories, Iraq split into three and the West Bank as part of Greater Jordan. As long ago as 1982 an Israeli journalist Oded Yinon, who was attached to Israels Ministry of Information, published a paper titled A strategy for Israel in the nineteen-eighties. In this, he states: Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel...If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localised the key to a historical development... Yinon refers to Sudan as the most torn apart state in the Arab Muslim world built upon four groups hostile to each other and the Arab World as a temporary house of cards put together by foreigners [Britain and France) without the wishes and desires of the inhabitants having been taken into account. To avoid his words turning into a prophecy, Arabs need to see the big picture and ask whether the division of Sudan could be an omen for the future before the ghosts of Sykes and Picot who redrew the Middle East in 1916 haunt this volatile region once again. Linda S Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. Gulf News