The Next Neighbor: Netanyahu and the PKK
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In relations between countries, we often observe the next neighbor syndrome - or alliance with the next-closest country - an event in which a country forms a strong alliance with another country placed across what is perceived as a common threat. A good such example is the situation between Singapore and Thailand.
Why does a city-state like Singapore spend so much money in defense? Why its emphasis on tactical elite-units and special weapons, both willingly provided by Israel? Who threatens it? Malaysia threw out Singapore from a union that followed British colonial times; considering the reasons for the event – violent conflicts between ethnic groups – it is unlikely Malaysia would even consider accepting Singapore back into such a union. Singapore offers no land gains to the conqueror. Its industry would be destroyed if occupied by Indonesia (the only other neighbor country of Singapore); the place would look like Gaza Strip. The only thing the conqueror may gain is access to the Singapore Port. Statistics of ports activity ranking are tricky and change rapidly; the main point is that this port is one of the largest in the world and a strategic stop between the Pacific and the Indian oceans. That’s a worthy prize for the conqueror, isn’t it? Actually not.
Once in a while, a project to make an inland canal through Thailand connecting the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea is proposed; it would shorten significantly the travel time between the Pacific and Indian oceans. In 1677 the Thai King Narai the Great asked the French engineer de Lamar to plan a canal connecting Songkhla with Marid (now Myanmar); being impractical with the technology of that time the project was dropped. In 1897 Thailand and the British Empire agreed not to build the Kra Isthmus Canal (also known as the Thai Canal), to protect Singapore; in exchange the British provided help in the conflict between the Thai and the French. Singapore exists for as long as Thailand wishes so; the last doesn’t need even to declare a war in order to destroy Singapore. Building the Thai Canal is enough for that; with the help of modern technology this can be done quickly.
Considering this, the city-state emphasis on tactical units looks odd, unless we understand this is part of its police-state system. Walsingham would be proud of them. Gurkha mercenary forces loyal to their salary-payer inflict terror on the population; special units capable of storming buildings from the sea inflict so much fear that nobody would even think of replacing the oppressive regime. These are essential for the police state survival. The only freedom of Singaporean citizens is the freedom to purchase new gadgets. Yet, Malaysia and Indonesia are marketed by the state-controlled media as military threats. So much like Israel! In parallel, in neighbor Thailand, Malaysia is perceived as providing at least moral support to the Muslim secessionists of Southern Thailand. All is ready for a next-neighbor alliance between Singapore and Thailand.
The 1897 agreement between the British and the Thai had become a leverage point in favor of Thailand in its complex relations with Singapore. A century later – in 1997 – the Thai government decided to float the baht, cutting its peg to the USD and caused what is known as the Asian Financial Crisis. One of the results was an ongoing financial help of Singapore to stabilize the Thai baht, in exchange for Thailand forgetting any plans of constructing a canal. A stable balance was created.
A similar situation exists between Mongolia and Laos. Both countries panicked following the Chinese conquest of Tibet. One of the problems of Tibet is that it never had substantial diplomatic relations with any other country, opening thus the gate for the Chinese claim that Tibet was never independent. Fearing a similar fate, Mongolia and Laos – separated by China - created extensive diplomatic relations to avoid the repetition of the Tibetan doom. Vientiane – the Laotian capital – is a small and sleepy town roughly at the geographical center of a landlocked, mountainous, and almost uninhabited country. Given the circumstances, it is odd to find there an extraordinarily large representation of Mongolia when both countries barely have any commerce between them. The next-neighbor syndrome strikes again.
Many such examples can be provided. One of the best ones was the Turkish-Israeli alliance against their common neighbor Syria. In 1938, Hatay became independent from the French mandate of Syria as the Republic of Hatay. Following a referendum in 1939, Hatay decided to join Turkey. This was never recognized by Syria, which continues to show Hatay as part of its territory on maps. Moreover, Syria supports the PKK struggle in eastern Turkey (though not in its territory). By making an alliance with Israel, Turkey opened a second front against Syria, which would become strategically important if the conflict becomes violent. The same is true for the other side. Israel suffers of a major drawback: a single border line with its enemies. In The Cross of Bethlehem I commented about my having been an officer at a vertical bypass division aimed at landing beyond the enemy’s lines. The unit is aimed at opening a second front against Syrian and Egyptian units. The deployment of the unit is complex. A simpler option is getting access to the Syrian backlines through Turkey; this was Israel’s side of its alliance with turkey. The next-neighbor alliance worked pretty well until it ended in 2011. In Shifting Alliances: Turkey vs. Israel I described the shifting situation in detail. Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, as it was pointed out on September 12 by King Abdullah II of Jordan, now Israel’s closest ally in the area.
Faithful to its disastrous policies, Israel is now searching for the next-neighbor to the next-neighbor. It wasn’t hard. It didn’t take long. On September 12, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu condemned the plan proposed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in which Israel should support the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) against Turkey. In such a way, Israel would open a backdoor into Syria, Iraq and Turkey, though one which is much weaker than the alliance with Turkey, since the PKK doesn’t rule a territory and is considered a terror organization by several countries, including the United States. The access of Israel to the area is easy. Many Jews now living in Israel (like in Moshav Yardena-Beit Yosef - one of the settlements hinted at in The Cross of Bethlehem) originated in Kurdistan and know the language and culture of the area. Plenty of highly specialized Mossad agents provided for free.
Turkey’s answer was equally fast. “No one will be able to blackmail us,” the Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu said. Former allies are rapidly turning into bitter rivals. In parallel, Turkey is strengthening its relations with Egypt, in another beautiful example of “the next-neighbor to the next-neighbor” alliance; Turkey just went to the next country after Israel as an alternative alliance.
Things are turning back into normality in the Middle East. Turkey and Egypt are recovering its historical roles in the area. Palestine would soon be independent, while Israel – recently defined as terror inflicting by the UN - is seeking support from organizations defined by some as terrorist organizations. The Wheel of History is turning around and even the almighty Washington’s Jewish Lobby will be unable to stop it. Netanyahu and Obama – holding hands – will soon sail into the sunset.
Leviticus 19:18 thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
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