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International terrorism in Russia; more Chechen export than Arab import

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I am more of the opinion that what passes for 'international terrorism" in Russia and the CIS is highly capable Chechen forces at work there and moving freely to and from other terrorist hotspots in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Given the fluidity of the al Qaeda franchise and the rise of the entrepreneur terrorist, I do not doubt that so called 'Arab' personnel can come in and out on Chechen smuggling routes and that those entities may bring needed items, but I feel that they are as likely to be the junior, at best peer, member when compared to the skills of the Chechens and that Arab forces are useful but not necessary for the Chechens to carry out their actions against CIS assets. See Continued Chechen prowess in the face of superior Russian numbers, 26 June 2004.

Some needed history: There is a very strong Chechen diasporia that has a very strong Turkish-Chechen axis. The Ottoman Empire had long provided a military and religious canopy to Caucasian tribes in their resistance against the Russian Slavs. Russia wrought its revenge following the Russo-Persian wars of 1804-13 and 1826-28 and the Anglo-Persian war of 1856-57 when it forcibly cleared the region, relocating thousands of Chechens and Circassians elsewhere in the czarist empire, a process that Stalin would later repeat under fear of the Chechens offering aid to Germany. Many Caucasus peoples fled to Turkey, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Jordan and the Black Sea littoral:

Turkey is the principal ally of the Chechen independence fighters. Since the days of the Ottoman Empire, almost all the peoples of the Caucasus region -- including Chechens -- have had close ties with Turkey, which though secular is still part of the Islamic world… Each week Turkish Muslim groups and the Gray Wolves organize demonstrations against the Russian government... The Gray Wolves run the mosques and commercial activities in some parts of Istanbul. It is in these mosques, in the suburbs of the city, that offerings are collected after daily prayers for the Chechen refugees. It is money that probably also goes to soldiers on the front lines.

As the conflict in Chechnya has intensified and played out its more dramatic moments, such efforts have multiplied. According to some estimates, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 foreign Mujahedeen in Turkey on their way to fight in Chechnya. Their movements across Turkey certainly could not take place without at least the tacit consent of the Turkish government. Indeed, it is no longer a secret that the main training camp for the Chechen fighters is at Duzce, a town between Istanbul and the Turkish capital of Ankara.

The Chechens have been operating an extensive 'farm team' well beyond the boundaries of Chechnya. The late Fred Cuny wrote:

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, the Chechens reacted swiftly. The Chechens, under their newly elected president, Dzhorkar Dudayev, declared their unilateral independence and proceeded to set up a separate state. As the Chechens say, the business of Chechnya was business--in all its forms. Dudayev allowed the local Chechen economy to deteriorate and unemployment to rise: but he and his associates grabbed some planes from Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, and began trading with the newly independent, former Soviet states to his south and east. He also established links to Iran and Turkey and soon a variety of goods were entering Chechnya marked for destinations further north in Russia. Opium, heroin, and hashish were among the more profitable commodities sent northward. Dudayev and his colleagues were also able to engage in the profitable business of exporting arms. As the Russian army pulled back from the Caucasus and Central Asia, large amounts of its equipment were sold illegally to the Chechens, who then offered them to anyone with cash. Apparently, Muslim nations supporting Bosnia were among their better clients.

I should add that there is a school of thought that radical Islam began to take hold only after the 1994 Russian invasion, that "Chechnya’s ever-closer embrace with radical Islam was by no means inevitable [at the time]," and that it was a later internal rebellion that raised the stature of the Islamists.

However, I again vote with Cuny:

For three years the Russian government ignored Chechnya's declaration of independence and its other embarrassing activities; Russia had other problems. But by mid-1994, Dudayev had gone too far. He was courting Muslim radicals in Iran and the Middle East, toying with declaring an Islamic state and imposing Shariah law, and continuing to send millions of dollars worth of untaxed goods into Russian's markets.

[Yeltsin] believed that the Russian people, who generally have deep contempt for the Chechens as the perceived kingpins of Moscow underworld, would support a quick military intervention to bring them to heel. They also believed that the Chechens would flee in the face of Russian army.

Major miscalculation that. The Chechens are quite able to fend for themselves, buttressed by their criminal activities, a point ignored by Chechen apologists. They have developed exceptional skills above and beyond those talents that are now for sale.

Chechen Rebels Mainly Driven by Nationalism
By C. J. CHIVERS and STEVEN LEE MYERS
New York Times
September 12, 2004

Analysis: Is Al-Qaeda Operating Inside Russia?
By Roman Kupchinsky
RFE/RL Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
September 3, 2004

Istanbul: Gateway to a holy war
By Ali Isingor
Special to CNNItalia
2000

Gordon Housworth



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