Posts Tagged ‘Chechnia’

Russia as the jihadists’ “far enemy”

January 5, 2017


When Al Qaeda jihadist terrorists attacked the U.S. World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, it was part Osama bin Laden regarded the USA as the “far enemy” who propped up all the “near enemies” in the Arab world.

But for many of the jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, the “far enemy” is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not the USA.   A large number are Chechens, a Muslim nationality living mostly within the Russian Federalion, or Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs or others living under regimes in Central Asia that are propped up by Russia.

One of Putin’s first actions when he came to power was to ruthlessly crush the independence movement in Chechnia.   The justification was a series of terrorist attacks that were very likely a false flag attack by the Russian FSB.

Since then many Chechen fighters have been driven out of Russia, and are now fighting the Russian-backed Assad government of Syria, along with Uzbeks and other nationalities from the former Soviet republics.

Some analysts think that the export of jihadists is a conscious Russian strategy.  The best outcome, from the Russian point of view, is that they die fighting in Syria.   But even if they survive, they have made themselves known to Russian intelligence services.

Saudi Arabia does the same thing with its jihadist rebels—suppresses them at home and encourages them to go wage war in other countries.


Vladimir Putin’s 9/11

September 26, 2016

In September, 1999, Russia was wracked by a series of explosions that President Vladimir Putin blamed on Chechen terrorists.

It solidified Putin’s power and popularity, and enable him to launch his own “war on terror” against the breakaway province of Chechnya.

But unlike with the 9/11 attacks on the United States two years later, there is strong circumstantial evidence that the explosions were a false flag carried out by Russian intelligence services.

russiancaucasus6c12bc2184e7943ba065218a5bfb947bDavid Satter, a former foreign correspondent in Moscow, summed up the evidence in a recent article in National Review.

The Chechens are a fierce Muslim warrior people whose homeland is in the Caucasus.   They were conquered by the Russian Empire in 1859 and declared independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up.  The Russian Federation tried and failed to reconquer them in 1994-1996.

At the time of the explosions, Vladimir Putin, formerly head of the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), had just become prime minister of Russia.   He used the explosions as a justification for starting a new war, in which Chechnya was defeated and reincorporated into Russia.

There were four apartment bombings in all, in which a total of 300 people were killed.   One was in an apartment building in Buinaksk in Dagestan in the Caucasus, two  in apartment buildings in Moscow (9/9 and 9/13) and one in Volgodonsk in Rostov province to the south (9/16).   All the explosions involved hundreds of pounds of an explosive called RDX.

Suspicious characters with traces of RDX on their persons were arrested in an apartment building in the southern Russian city of Ryazan.   They turned out to be FSB agents.    The FSB said they were conducting a training exercise.


Three questions about self-determination

March 9, 2014
A woman lights a candle in Kiev in memory of protesters who died

A woman lights a candle in Kiev in memory of protesters killed in February

I think it is good for us Americans to hear points of view we don’t hear from the so-called mainstream press and broadcasters.  Here is Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens, on the right of self-determination, as applied to Ukraine.

Let us accept (as I do) the principle that national minorities have the right to self-determination within lopsided multi-ethnic states; e.g. Croats and Kosovars seceding from Yugoslavia, Scots from the UK, Georgians from the Soviet Union etc.

Awkward question no. 1: On what principle can we deny, once Croatia, Kosovo, Scotland and Georgia have come into being, the right of Krajina Serbs, of Mitrovica Serbs, of Shetland Islanders and of Abkhazians to carve out, if they so wish, their own nation-states within the newly independent nation-states in the areas where they constitute a clear majority?

Awkward question no. 2: On what principle does a western liberal deny the right of Chechens to independence from Russia, but is prepared to defend to the hilt the Georgians’ or the Ukrainians’ right to self-determination?

Awkward question no. 3: On what principle is it justifiable that the West acquiesced to the razing to the ground of Grozny (Chechnya’s capital), not to mention the tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but responded fiercely, threatened with global sanctions, and raised the specter of a major Cold War-like confrontation over the (so far) bloodless deployment of undercover Russian troops in Crimea?

Varoufakis stipulated that Vladimir Putin is a dangerous despot, and that the (relatively) democratic values embodied in the European Union are preferable to the authoritarian values of the Putin-sponsored economic bloc, the Eurasian Union (consisting so far of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan).

Unfortunately, he said, Western leaders don’t necessarily have Ukraine’s interests at heart.

The Ukraine is, and was always going to be, the battleground between Russia’s industrial neo-feudalism, the U.S. State Department’s ambitions, and Germany’s neo-Lebensraum policies.

Various [U.S.] ‘Eurasianists’ see the crisis in Kiev as a great opportunity to promote a program of full confrontation with Russia, one that is reminiscent of Z. Brzezinski’s 1970s anti-Soviet strategy.  Importantly, they also see the Ukraine as an excellent excuse to torpedo America’s role in normalizing relations with Iran and minimizing the human cost in Syria.

At the same time, the IMF cannot wait to enter Russia’s underbelly with a view to imposing another ‘stabilization-and-structural-adjustment program’ that will bring that whole part of the former Soviet Union under its purview.

As for Germany, it has its own agenda which pulls it in two different directions at once: securing as much of the former Soviet Union as part of its neo-Lebensraum strategy of expanding its market/industrial space eastwards; while, at the same time, preserving its privileged access to gas supplies from [Russia’s] Gazprom.

He believes that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry understand the limits of American power and the danger of an overly hawkish response to events in Ukraine.   I hope he’s right, but I’m not so sure.

Click on Yanis Varoufakis: Ukraine – Three Awkward Questions for Western Liberals and a Comment on the EU’s Role | naked capitalism to read his whole article.

[Update 3/10/14.  I edited this post lightly for clarity.]

The best article I’ve read on the Syrian crisis

September 17, 2013


If you’re at all interested in the Syrian situation, you should read the article Syria: What Now? by William R. Polk, which is reproduced on James Fallows‘ web log in The Atlantic.

Here are the highlights of what I got out of the article.

  • Sarin has been only a minor factor in Syria’s civil war, accounting for 1 percent or less of casualties.  The reason Syria is stockpiling poison gas is to deter attack from other nations, especially Israel.  The government of Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is believed to have a “robust” program of chemical and biological warfare manufacturing and training.
  • President Assad would never agree to dismantling of poison gas weapons without a Russian guarantee of protection against attack.  Any dismantling would have be under the supervision of Russian experts.  This would benefit the Syrian government because it would be a deterrent to attack by the United States.
  • Overthrow of the Assad government would lead to the balkanization of Syria into its various ethnic and religious groups and likely result in massacres of Syrian Christians and Alawite Muslims.  Such conflicts could spread to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
  • The stability of Syria is a vital national interest to Russia, and not just for reasons of prestige.  One in six citizens of the Russian Federation is Muslim, and the Russian government has been fighting for years against rebels in the majority-Muslim province of Chechnya.  Overthrow of Assad could create a base for supplying the Chechen fighters.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

A Saudi prince’s secret ‘peace’ offer to Russia

August 27, 2013

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, went to Russia last month to negotiate a Mideast peace settlement with President Vladimir Putin.  He reportedly offered big purchases of Russian military equipment and cooperation on oil policy in return for Russia agreeing to regime change in Syria and sanctions against Iran.

Prince Bandar

Prince Bandar

Prince Bandar reportedly told Putin that the United States would stand by anything that the two of them agreed to.  Putin replied that Russia will not abandon its Syrian and Iranian allies.  Bandar warned of an escalation of conflict in the Middle East.

This is all from an English translation of an article in As-Safir, an Arabic language newspaper in Lebanon, based on information leaked to Russian newspapers.  I know about it from reading Pepe Escobar’s most recent column in Asia Times.

According to As-Safir, Prince Bandar said:

  • The Saudi Arabian government is in control of insurgent forces in Chechnia, and is in a position to guarantee there will be no Chechen terrorist attacks on next year’s Winter Olympic games in Russia.  
  • Saudi Arabia is committed to supporting the military government in Egypt, and regards the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to the stability of the Middle East.
  • If there is regime change in Syria, he will guarantee that Syria will be ruled by a moderate and democratic government that will be directly sponsored by the Saudis and which will not threaten Russia interests.
  • Russia has a common interest with the Gulf Arab countries in preventing Iran from developing nuclear capabilities.
President Putin

President Putin

Putin reportedly replied that Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of Chechen terrorists is inconsistent with the purported desire for peace.  He said he is open to cooperation on oil policy, but that the Assad regime is best for Syria and Iran has a right to develop peaceful nuclear power.  He said he wants good relations with the current Egyptian government, but worries about Egypt sliding into civil war.

What this article describes is a conflict has nothing to do with any war on terror.  Rather it is a conflict between rival imperialists who manipulate jihadist terrorists for their own purposes.  It is little bit like the Cold War between the USA and the old Soviet Union and a lot like the Great Game between the rival British and Russian empires.

Click on Russian President, Saudi Spy Chief Discussed Syria, Egypt for the complete As-Safir article as translated by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news service.

Click on Obama set for holy Tomahawk war for Pepe Escobar’s column. (more…)

Chechens and the Boston killings: some links

April 25, 2013

I don’t know what to make of the Boston Marathon bombing and killings.  Here are some links that provide food for thought.

Prof. Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history, speculated that the accused killers, Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnayev, were acting out some sort of rebellion against their father, who was connected to the Russian security services.  I put a link to his post in my Interesting Reading menu, then took it down when Cole backtracked on some of his factual assertions.  Click on Fathers and Sons and Chechnya for his post.  The comment thread is as interesting as the post itself.

The two brothers are Chechens, a fierce Muslim warrior people who have been fighting for independence from Russia for about 200 years.   Tsar Nicholas II fought the Chechens and so did Vladimir Putin.  Leo Tolstoy’s first novel, The Cossacks, was based on his military service against the Chechens.  But a spokesman for the Chechen rebels says they have no connection with the Tsarnayev brothers.  Click on Chechen Jihadis Reject Tsarnayevs to read the statement.

Click on Russian politics: Chechnya and the bombs in Boston for background from The Economist.

A native of Ukraine, another part of the former Soviet Union, was arrested with bombs a week prior to the Boston massacre.  Click on Mykyta Panasenko Arrested at New Jersey Train Station With 2 Bombs, 8 Days Before Boston Bombings for a report from Huffington Post.

[4/22/13] Click on  Tamerlan Tsarnev in Dagestan: the Unanswered Questions for a report from The Guardian.  The writer wonders why the Russian government warned the FBI against Tamerlan Tsarnev, then let him travel in a hot spot of the Chechen rebellion.

[Added 4/30/13]  Click on Meet the Chechens for Dimitri Orlov’s view of the Chechen culture.

[Added 5/3/13]

[Added 5/3/13]  Click on FBI Spiked Chechen Jihadi Investigation for reporting by Greg Palast.  He said the FBI failed to keep track of the Tsarnayev brothers because investigation might reveal embarrassing facts about CIA and other U.S. involvement with Muslim jihadists.  It is well-known that the Carter and Reagan administrations supported Muslim jihadists in their fight against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan.  The Clinton administration channeled aid to Bosnian Muslims through Saudi-backed jihadist groups.  The Obama administration, while fighting jihadists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, supported equivalent groups fighting Qaddafi in Libya and Asad in Syria.  None of this, as Palast points out, is evidence of a U.S. connection with the Tsarnayev brothers.  But it shows that U.S. security may be compromised by fear of bringing sensitive information to light.

[5/4/13]  A friend of mine, who was born in Central Asia, educated in Russia and now is an American citizen, speculates that the Tsarnayev brothers may have been manipulated by Russian intelligence operatives.  Their purpose would be to stir up American hatred of Muslims and especially the Muslim rebels in Chechnia, and to keep the United States bogged down in military intervention in the Islamic world.  She said she knew of Imams who were actually KGB agents, and speculated the Tsarnayev brothers may have been under the influence of a supposed religious leader who was an agent of the Russian government.  All this is pure guesswork.

I am very interested to hear what Tamerlan Dzokhar Tsarnayev has to say.   It is hard for me to come to any conclusion without hearing his account of what he did and why.

[5/7/13].  Click on The Bombers’ World for an article about the Tsarayev family and the Chechen community in Boston that is scheduled to appear in the June 6 issue of the New York Review of Books. The writer, Christian Caryl, said the extreme form of Islam embraced by Tamerlan Tsarnayev is at odds with traditional Chechen culture and with the values of his parents. Here’s an excerpt from the article

Tamerlan seems to have gone through a phase in which he adopted the ways of the Salafis, ultraconservative Muslims who want to strip Islam of all of its “modern” accretions and return to the purity of the Prophet Muhammad’s original community of believers.  (The Arabic word salaf means “predecessors.”) 

For a while Tamerlan grew his beard long and wore the simple gown-like garments characteristic of observant Salafis, but he seems to have given this up after a few months; no one knows precisely why. (Did he decide that he needed to look less conspicuous?)

It is worth noting, perhaps, that such practices have little to do with the traditional religious culture in Chechnya itself.  A source close to the family tells me that Anzor, the father, even denounced his son’s behavior—especially his decision to marry an American woman rather than a Chechen—as a rejection of their Chechen roots.

At the Cambridge mosque where Tamerlan sometimes worshiped, he attracted attention on at least two occasions during prayer services by speaking out against moderate imams who were preaching the virtues of tolerance.

“When he first started getting serious about religion, I asked his mother whether he was studying with an imam in the local mosque,” the family friend told me. “She said no, he’s learning by himself on the Internet.”

We now have, perhaps, some idea of what he must have been looking at.  The YouTube page registered under Tamerlan’s name has links to rousing sermons by imams (in English) and an instructional video explaining the proper way to perform Muslim rituals (in Russian).  But there’s also a clip entitled “The Emergence of Prophesy: Black Flags from Khorasan,” a rousing jihadi anthem favored by al-Qaeda.  Another features a ballad that extols the exploits of the Chechen jihadis in their war against the Russians.

For a young Muslim firebrand with roots in the North Caucasus, this must have made for a heady mix of adventure, violence, and seductive (though horribly misguided) idealism—a stark contrast with the grubby reality in which Tamerlan was an unemployed stay-at-home father of a small girl, a man with no visible prospects, dependent on a wife who was working long hours as a home caregiver.  This was hardly the grandiose life that his worshipful parents had foreseen for him.

[5/8/13]  The Boston Globe reported that Bullet that nearly killed MBTA police officer in Watertown gunfight came from friendly fire.