Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Moscow’s Extraction of ISIS Cadres from Syria Suggests Russia May Use Them Elsewhere, Smulyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – For the last several years, Russian security services have driven Islamist radicals and others out of the North Caucasus and other regions of the Russian Federation under paid of jail or death to fight for ISIS in Syria, Israeli expert Avraam Shmulyevich says.

            Now that the last redoubts of the Islamic State in that country have fallen, these same services, exploiting Chechens in Syria, have begun to extract these same people back to Russia, an action that strongly suggests, the president of the Israeli Eastern Partnership Institute says, that Moscow plans to make use of them elsewhere – and may even have them under its control.

            One place where this is especially likely, Shmulyevich continues, is in Crimea where the ISIS cadres may stage terrorist actions that Moscow can the blame on the Crimean Tatars and thus gain understanding if not support for its repressive moves against that minority in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

            Shmulyevich made these and other points in the course of an interview with US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova , although he was careful to say that he did not have definitive proof for these possibilities but that Moscow’s recent actions do not allow much room for any alternative conclusion (ru.krymr.com/a/28858018.html).

            In the past, as in the run-up to the Sochi Olympiad in 2014, the Russian authorities have not even tried to conceal their role in pushing North Caucasians to leave and fight for ISIS, an effort the Russian media have suggested reduces the likelihood of terrorist actions within the borders of the Russian Federation.

            Shmulyevich has investigated the ways in which some Islamists from Russia have gone to Syria in hopes of acquiring military skills that they could employ back at home, but those whom Moscow is now helping to extract are unlikely to take up arms against Moscow. Instead, it is far more likely that they will use their “skills” to promote Moscow’s policies.

            “There are as yet insufficient data on the character of relations between Russia and ISIS,” the Israeli expert says. They might be limited only to a cooperative one based on common goals in particular places or they might be those of “a creature of Moscow,” especially if the Russian government follows Soviet precedents.

            The most likely places such people could be deployed would be in the North Caucasus and in Crimea, locations where Moscow would be delighted to organize violent actions that could be blamed on Muslims of another stripe entirely. The only real limiting factor, Shmulyevich says, is that Putin doesn’t want to allow any terrorist action at all.

            The reason is simple: the Kremlin leader portrays himself as the victor over terrorism in Russia and would not like to see that questioned as the election approaches. But at the same time, Putin’s behavior in the past shows that he is more than prepared to use those he controls to place blame on those who are his targets, be it Chechens in 1999 or Crimean Tatars now.

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