Friday, November 09, 2007

The Silence of the Hawks

In Chechnya Weekly, Jamestown's Mairbek Vatchagaev looks at the Caucasus Emirate declaration, and comes up with his own analysis. Excerpt:
There are clear positives and negatives in the current situation. On the positive side, it needs to be remembered that members of the resistance were always of two different minds as to how they saw the future of Chechnya. After Zakaev’s declaration, it will be possible to fully flesh out a separate political wing oriented towards the values found in the 1992 constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The traditions and customs of the Chechen people have made it difficult for those who have opposed reevaluating resistance goals in order to accommodate Middle Eastern allies to find their own voice. This silence has been exploited by those who are oriented towards the Middle East (who themselves used those same traditions that they sought to undermine and condemn). Albeit crudely, Zakaev has managed to do what no one else has dared to do. The fact that Isa Munaev, one of the few leaders still respected and trusted in the broader community, has sided with Zakaev makes the whole situation far easier for the foreign minister (Chechenpress, November 1). Those willing to criticize Akhmed Zakaev are unlikely to criticize Isa Munaev, regardless of Munaev’s views. Zakaev’s statements have also been met with a positive response by some Chechen parliamentarians, as well as mid and high-ranking commanders.

The clearly negative aspect of the situation lies in the continued tarnishing of the resistance movement’s image. The Beslan tragedy was one huge blow, the death of popularly elected President Aslan Maskhadov was another, and now the third one will be this proclamation of an “emirate,” in the wake of which nothing will remain for Chechens to do than simply give up the political struggle, since few of them aimed to build an Islamic state. Even Shamil Basaev noted in one of his final interviews that the point of the struggle was to achieve independence to give the people an opportunity to decide for themselves how they wanted to live (Novaya Gazeta, August 4, 2005).

The silence coming from the camps of Dokka Umarov and Movladi Udugov has grown suspiciously long, making it possible to assume that Umarov will withdraw his sensational declaration. It is still unclear who passed on Umarov’s speech to radio “Svoboda.” On one hand, it could be Zakaev trying to seize the initiative from his opponents. On the other hand, it could be Udugov testing the reaction to such a drastic change in strategy. One thing is for sure, the coming weeks will be crucial for clearing up this question and showing just what the resistance will be like in the near future.
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