Unlike Western medicine, which is quick to treat symptoms with massive drug doses, ancient Eastern healers treat problems by focusing on specific pressure points that they believe impact the entire body. Perhaps, such techniques could be used in global affairs as well.
Often, it seems we are chasing one crisis after another with large-scale and expensive commitments, without a developed strategy. News and immediate crises can be overwhelming indeed, and this is why they should be put into a perspective.
One way to do this is to find the right pressure points and to connect to them. A brief look at the map of the world would show several. Without stealing a page from Dr. George Friedman’s book, “From Estonia to Azerbaijan,” one of such healing pressure point in Eurasia is the hard to spell and pronounce Azerbaijan.
The only nation in the world to border Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is the only predominantly Muslim republic in the European part of the former Soviet Union. It stands smack at the meeting point of former Russian, Ottoman and Iranian empires and is a meeting point of Christian and Muslim worlds, with the Shia – Sunni fault line going right through.
To complete the diversity picture, the nation also boasts its own ancient and indigenous 35,000 member Jewish population. Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Rafi Harpaz has been quoted multiple times as saying that there is no anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan.
For the re-emerging Silk Road, Azerbaijan is the only route between Central and South Asia that avoids Russia and Iran. It is both a source and, potentially, a transit for alternative energy supplies vital for Europe’s supply diversification.
Overwhelmingly Muslim, yet staunchly secular and tolerant, Azerbaijan serves as an example much needed in the world today, not least given Turkey’s slide towards increasingly mixing religion and politics.
Since the ethnic Azeri population of Iran is estimated to be from 25 to 30 million people strong, Azerbaijan is a unique gateway into Iran. Despite that, Azerbaijan is the only predominantly Shia society that is not under Iran’s influence and has strong ties to Israel.
On his visit to Baku in December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the nearly five billion dollar military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan as a positive example of Muslim-Jewish coexistence.
“Israel is the Jewish state, and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority,” Netanyahu said after meeting with Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president. “Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us. The world sees so much intolerance and darkness. This is an example of how the Muslim-Jewish relationship can and should be everywhere.”
Israel also has a strong economic relationship with Azerbaijan, buying more than a quarter of its oil from the country. An agricultural agreement between the two countries was signed during Netanyahu’s recent visit.
“We’re very satisfied with the level of this cooperation,” Aliyev told reporters after his meeting with the premier.
Azerbaijan’s geographic position makes it a key to Georgia’s strategic relevance and Central Asia’s westward connection. Simply put, without Azerbaijan, Georgia becomes a regional impasse, while Central Asian nations get locked out of access to European energy and transport infrastructures. A peaceful resolution of Azerbaijan’s protracted conflict with the Russian regional proxy Armenia would set a precedent for other similar conflicts. They all have the same diagnosis and the same cure.
Azerbaijan is neither the only, nor a unique pressure point in the world. It is a very obvious one, however. Baku has capitalized on its location at the heart of regional and global constellations since its independence with a degree of success. For the US to build on this and to connect to this Eurasian pressure point would make a smart and cost-effective strategy for building diplomatic and political bridges and peace.
Who knows? Maybe even the Chinese, who boast of their use of acupressure for 2,500 years, would be impressed.