With the creation of the WilayatKawkaz, the Governatorate of the North Caucasus, the ISIS puts one foot on Russian soil. Meanwhile it strengthens increasingly proselytism among Russian-speakers. That’s why the US, Europe and Russia need each other to fight the war on terror.
When Omar al-Shishani, the commander of the ISIS in Iraq, known as Omar the Chechen, launched his fatwa against Russia, it looked just like one of the many threats that daily come from the Caucasian tinderbox. “We will bring our war in Russia,” he wrote, putting a bounty of five million dollars on the head of Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarianChechen leader. Since then, although fortunately there have been no terrorist attacks marked ISIS in the area, the participation of Russian fighters in the ranks of the Islamic state grew consistently. Andproselytism in Russian languageis getting more and more organized. In early July, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that according to estimates of the Ministry at least 2,000 Russian citizens are fighting under the black flag. The same Lavrov who had placed a few months ago the ISISon top of the list of threats to Russia, even before NATO.
A whiff of Satan
Omar the Chechen – who actually was born in Georgia close to Chechnya –has been reported dead several times. Lastly, at the very beginning of this month. And no one knows whether he is actually still alive. What everyone knows is that his words are a threat able to survive him.
The interest of the ISIS for the North Caucasus has in fact gone considerably growing in recent months. Russian translations of documents and video propaganda of the Islamic State have long circulated on the web. Butthe leap was taken with the appearance of Furat Media, a brand under which products meant forRussian speaking recipients are uploaded on the web.And the battalion Al-Aqsa, entirely formed by fighters coming from the North Caucasus, is increasingly active on social networks to recruit new fighters.
The Kremlin has not yet responded to the threats of the ISIS. He did, however, Kadyrov only a few days ago. “We hear from ‘Devil State’”, said Kadyrov, playing with Arabic words, “that they have opened some kind of affiliate in the North Caucasus and that their scope is expanding.I want to say that these Satans shouldn’t expect anything, and in the Chechen Republic they won’t have a base, an affiliate, and there won’t even be a whiff of them.”
Putin’ssilence is probably the result of a clear political choice. In fact, if the interest of the ISIS for the Caucasus is in competition with local rebels from the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus – the organization remained linked to Al-Qaeda – it is also true that a wave of anti-Russian terrorism in the area under the influence of the governorate of the North Caucasus could ignite the rest of the region.
Moscow must then act on two fronts. On the internal one it is likely that we will shortly see a new and stronger crackdown on any federal attempt of unrest (only yesterday,six suspected terrorists were killed in an action by the security forces in the Kabardino-Balkaria). On the far more slippery international front, Russia is convenient not to impede the allied action against ISIS, although it cannot openly join the US-led allied to an action that has among its objectives the overthrow of the Assad regime, linked to Moscow. The low profile is therefore the way forward.
For its part, the West must have clear that in the war the Islamic state it cannot act like Russia doesn’t exist.