Friday, December 07, 2007

The Russian Jihadis

In Chechnya Weekly, Andrei Smirnov asks: Is the Caucasian Emirate Threat a Threat to the Western World? Excerpt:
The rebels in the Caucasus do not hide in woods or in the mountains all the time, rather, they are as other residents in Russia, they watch Russian television and read Russian newspapers. They also watch the TV program of Mikhail Leontyev, the well-known political observer who likes to repeat that the Americans sponsor terrorists in the North Caucasus. In 2003, in Chechnya, while the author of this article was talking to a Chechen field commander from the radical wing of the resistance, he admitted receiving money from international Muslim international foundations. He speculated that some Western countries were also contributing with the aim of causing more trouble for Russia. The Kremlin exploits anti-American propaganda in order to inspire xenophobia among the Russian population, and this situation affects—in turn—the feelings in the North Caucasus. The worse that Russian-American relations become, the greater are the illusions of the militants that the United States is really helping them discreetly, or at least that it might start doing so one day.

The absurdity of the rebels’ declarations lies in the fact that they declare war against the West, and at the same time beg for aid in their anti-Russian struggle. When Dokka Umarov’s video declaration of the establishment of the Caucasian Emirate was posted on the Kavkaz-Center website, the names of the countries he had called “enemies of Allah"—America, England and Israel—had been removed and replaced by the abstract phrase “enemies of Islam.”

Whatever the Caucasian rebels say, it is clear that they do not have much in common with the interests of the international Jihadi movement. For the Taliban and the Sunni militants in Iraq, the main enemy is the United Sates, while for Hamas and Islamic Jihad the main enemy is Israel. For all of them, Russia is not an enemy, while for Islamists in Russia, the main and, in fact, the only enemy is the Russian government. With the establishment of the Caucasian Emirate, one could speak of the appearance of a new phenomenon that could be described as a Russian Jihadi movement. This movement has no smaller plans than the Jihadi movement worldwide, but it nonetheless limits itself to activities inside Russia’s borders and has no ambitions to grow into an international problem.
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