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After its defeat in World War I, European powers partitioned the Ottoman Empire, annexing some of its territories, and setting up other territories as their "zones of influence". What do the zones of influence mean? Why would they be interested in having zones of influence in the Anatolian lands?

See the following map from Wikipedia illustrating this. It seems that more than half of modern Turkey was intended as "zones of influence" before the Treaty of Lausanne. Image from Wikipedia

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"Zones of influence" were primarily a means of dividing land between two or more colonising nations. This enabled these nations to avoid armed conflict while acquiring more colonies. China and Afghanistan are other examples of lands divided into zones of influence.

Carving a place "Zones of influence" doesn't seem to be that different from colonisation, and probably carried the same benefits that makes colonisation desirable - Access to cheap raw material, market for produced goods, population for military enlisting etc.

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What would characterize "zones of influence" is that, legally, the territories dividied would not be ruled by the colonizing power. They would leave a nominally independent local power, but that power would be subordinated completely to the local representative (embassador, etc.) of the foreign power.

It was a form of "soft" colonization, which would ensure the colonizing power that natural resources and trade of the region would be in the hands of its companies and individuals, while not meddling with the internal politics (unless the local administration wanted to assert its independence, or was in danger of being topped by an hostile -to the foreign power- faction).

The recognition in a treaty of the zones of influence was meant to be a way to prevent the powers signing the treaty from trying to extend their own zones of influence at the expense of zones recognized to other power.

For example, with the treaty of Sevres, SW Turkey would have been legally a part of Turkey, but mining operations, critical infrastructures (like ports) and trade would have been controlled by the Italian government (which would have handed them to Italian corporations), and France could not make any intervention in that zone. That ruled out the possibility of the Turkish government playing them one against the other.

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Looking at the map by the OP and the Wikipedia articles on the Treaty of Sevres, Iraq was totally ceded to the UK, not merely "zones of influence". An example of a zone of influence would be the parts of Eastern Anatolia which became a French zone of influence (whatever that means, as opposed to Syria which was totally ceded to France). – user69715 Nov 6 '15 at 17:15
@user69715 I stand corrected, the original idea was making Iraq a Society of Nations Class A Mandate under British (legal) control, but in my mind was the the <a href="en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Iraqi_Treaty">Anglo-Iraqi Treaty</a> who gave (a little) more autonomy to local population (after they rebelled against the Mandate proposal). After the treaty, Irak was legally independent but controlled by the UK. – SJuan76 Nov 6 '15 at 17:48

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