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War & Peace Part I: Armenia & Israel

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The world hovers on the edge of war, not only in Israel-Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, but in Eurasia's gr


Little Armenia snatched its tribal enclave from Azerbaijan
(Image by lahistoriaconmapa)
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ound zero, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are always on the cusp of a new outbreak of their unresolvable conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in the centre of the post-Soviet 'republic' of Azerbaijan.

Oil-rich Azerbaijan is lavishing its petro-dollars on beefing up its armed forces, assisted by--guess who?--Russia and Israel. It seems only a matter of time till a full scale explosion happens. It almost did in April, 2016, when Armenian forces in Karabakh shelled civilian settlements and attacked Azerbaijani forces in retaliation for an Azerbaijani helicopter firing on Armenian military positions. 18 Armenian and 12 Azerbaijani troops were killed. Given Azerbaijan's growing military teeth, it is unlikely the Armenians started this.

This is yet another intractable dilemma resulting from the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. Soviet borders were not carved out in the 1920s with western-style sovereignty in mind, and now many make no sense at all within the western legal framework.

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To compound its loss of Karabakh (visualize the western corridor through East Germany to West Berlin), Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (the size of Delaware) is orphaned on the other side of Armenia. Like both Armenia and Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan is totally landlocked, and has no link with its motherland for two decades. What is the secret that keeps it going? For that matter, what keeps pesky Armenia, flouting international law, wedged between hostile Turkey, tiny Georgia and Iran, going?

The parallels between Armenia and Israel, Armenians and Jews, are remarkable, and provide answers. They span geopolitics, religion, tribalism, economics, culture and a history of tragic dimensions. They account for both ethnicities' triumphs in the face of determined enmity, but also their failure to find peace among nations.

Illegal occupation

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The most stark parallel is the seizure of neighbouring territories with no intention of returning them, and (almost) universal condemnation. The 1988 war resulted in 40,000 deaths, 230,000 Armenians and a million Azeris displaced, and the 1994 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by fruitless peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts, stubbornly insisting Karabakh is Armenian land.

Sound familiar? Though Israel's actions are far worse, having occupied all its neighbour's territories, and spent decades adding settlers from Russia and the US, who have no historic bond to the territories and no intention of giving up their free accommodations.

Geopolitics

Both countries achieved 'independence' only in the 20th century, despite their ancient and larger-than-life histories. The reason being their key locations on the map -- both at crossroads which have seen invasions and occupations over the millennia which at various times have tried to stamp these stubborn tribes out or at least make them integrate.

The 19th--20th century version -- for the Armenians, the Ottoman Turks and the Russian communists -- for the Jews in Europe, the Nazis, in Palestine, the British. Both tribes survived their occupiers and overlords, and have maintained their fierce pride and independence.

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Armenia claims to be the oldest Christian state (301 AD), and, of course, Judaism claims to be the cradle of all monotheisms. The strong fusion of religion and ethnicity has kept these small tribes united in the face of annihilation.

Being at a crossroads means constant cultural stimulation and the need to keep one step ahead of one's nemeses. Armenia's location is of less strategic importance today than Israel's, and Armenians are not key world players economically, so they don't capture headlines in the West, but their current position is just as perilous as that of Israel.

Russian Communism

Armenia's natural affinity is with fellow Orthodox Christian Russia, which threatened Ottoman hegemony in the region and then Turkish independence in 1920. This is what prompted the expulsion and mass killing of up to a million Armenians and destruction of their millennial architectural treasures by the Turks starting in 1915. A similar mass pogrom of Jews in Europe took place starting a few years later, also prompted by WWI, Jews being seen as a threat to German culture.

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Eric writes for Al-Ahram Weekly and PressTV. He specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs. His "Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games" and "From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization" are available at (more...)
 

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