Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chechnya: a base for International Terrorism?

The above article was posted by Paul Goble on 3-31-09 and entitled “Chechnya, Never a Base for International Terrorism in the Past, Could Now Become one, Moscow Expert says”

In my last note, I asked whether Russophilia trumped Islamism. And then I thought that the answer must surely be some place in Paul Goble’s archives. I didn’t have far to look – not that the answer is precisely what I expected, nor does Goble in this article discuss all the Islamic nations on Russia’s borders, but it is a discussion of the nation that has been the biggest Islamic (not Islamist so far) thorn in Russia’s side:

“Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement that Moscow will soon end the counter-terrorist operation in his republic and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s directive to the National Anti-Terrorist Committee to make plans to do so have sparked a new discussion on the nature of the conflict there and whether it is really over.

“One of the most thoughtful of these has been provided by Andrey Soldatov, the editor of the portal, in an article in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal” in which he suggests that to understand “just what in the opinion of the Kremlin and Kadyrov is now ending,” it is useful to recall what Russian forces were dealing at the start ( ). . . Chechnya in 1999 . . . did not become a base for international terrorism.”

“. . . Instead of coming to Chechnya after the fall of Kabul in 1992, as some expected, most of the Arabs who formed the core of Al-Qaeda went to Bosnia.. . . Those who came from abroad . . . came from Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but most of them went not to Chechnya but to Ingushetia or other republics there and “after the start of the war in Iraq, what Arabs there were in Chechnya almost completely left.”

“. . . ‘Chechnya at least from 2006 . . . has not been a zone for the carrying out of terrorist acts, that is, for attacks on the civilian population.” . . . this shift in Chechen tactics to a version of the IRA’s “long war” occurred simultaneously with something else: After 2005, “after the creation of the so-called ‘Caucasus Front of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic-Ichkeria,’ there has not been a separate and distinct Chechen separatist movement.” And that submersion of the Chechen cause under the broader regional Islamist challenge was confirmed by the declaration in October 2007 of the creation of the Caucasus Emirate, an event that was accompanied by terrorist actions in a number of places outside Chechnya but not in that republic itself.”

“. . . According to some North Caucasus militants, ‘the mountainous regions of [Chechnya] have been converted into zones beyond the control of Kadyrov where the militants can live not just in the forests but even in the villages,’ a claim that if true not only means that the conflict is far from over but also lays the ground for a new explosion in the future. . . .”


What I found most interesting was Soldatov’s view that there was no Islamist-type terrorism in Chechnya earlier because Islamist “evangelists” had not come to Chechnya. So instead of terrorism in a form favored by Islamists, targeting civilians, Chechens used the form favored by the IRA, targeting the military.

Also, Soldatov tells us there were no Islamists in Chechnya because they had gone to Iraq to fight with Al Qaeda against the US. Now, we must assume, they have come to Chechnya. They must have since Chechnya is now at risk for becoming a center for “International Terrorism.” Al Qaeda representatives must now be available to go to Chechnya? Why is that? Has Al Qaeda given up on Iraq? Has Al Qaeda conceded that their efforts in Iraq have failed? If so, then certainly they would want to focus their efforts elsewhere. If Iraq is too difficult for them, then perhaps things can be stirred up on Russia’s border. After all, Al Qaeda mythology has it, they defeated the USSR in Afghanistan; so surely they could defeat them again someplace else.

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