FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 19, 2008
There are two factions of the Chechen Resistance: one of them more or less democratic and the other Islamist. Recently, Chechnya had a constitutional crisis: the Islamists persuaded the then acting President, Dokka Umarov, to announce that the Chechens were joining the global jihad against all the infidels, not only Russia. Umarov also proclaimed himself to be the Amir of the ‘Caucasus Amirate’, of which Chechnya would be only a part.
The last democratically elected Chechen parliament said it did not recognize this decision, which amounted to Umarov’s resignation as the president of the Chechen Republic. So the parliament assumed supreme power and formed the government led by Ahmed Zakayev, who has always been known as the most pro-Western of Chechen politicians. He is one of the veteran leaders of the Chechen Resistance and he is now the Prime Minister in exile of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
Today, Frontpage Interview’s guest is Ahmed Zakayev.
FP: Ahmed Zakayev, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Zakayev: Thank you, always at your service.
FP: Is the Chechen Resistance nationalist or Islamist?
Zakayev: Neither. Even though Chechens are in absolute majority in Chechnya, the proponents of our independence include representatives of various nationalities and religions. The Chechen Resistance unites those who value freedom. For example, in different periods we were joined by Ukrainians and Russians, people from Caucasus and from Arab countries, etc. Our enemies do their best to present our fight as that of Chechens against Russians, or Muslims against Christians, but that is not the case. In Russia, as well as in other countries, we find understanding that Russia’s own way to freedom and democracy goes through the liberation of Chechnya. For rights of individuals are unthinkable in any multinational country where whole nations are denied their rights.
FP: What are the dangers that if Chechnya gains independence that it may become an Islamist beach-head, like the danger that an independent Kosovo poses now?
Zakayev: To begin with, the secession of Kosovo is a significant step towards stability in the Balkans and in Europe as a whole. I am sure that an independent Kosovo is also good for the Serbian people, because it helps them to recover from the dangerous virus of Chauvinism. One has to be insane to believe that Europe should have accepted national discrimination against Kosovo Albanians just because of their religion.
The idea of “˜Islamist beach-head’ certainly needs some clarification. I do not know, for example, what phrases like “˜Christian beach-head’ or “˜Judaic beach-head’ or “˜Buddhist beach-head’ might mean. I guess “˜Islamist beach-head’ is supposed to mean something bad. So I can say that recognition of Chechnya’s independence will have only positive consequences: more or less similar to what I’ve said about Kosovo’s independence.
FP: Well, I guess we would disagree on applying equivalency in terms of danger to an Islamist beach-head to a Christian, Judaic or Buddhist beach-head, but this debate will have to take place in another forum.
Tell us about the recent crisis in Chechnya.
Zakayev: As I have stated on numerous occasions, declaration of the Amirate (or “˜Emarate’, in the written version) by Dokka Umarov was an FSB provocation. To be more precise, the “˜Emarate’ is the critical stage in the development of a long-term provocation, started by the KGB against USSR’s Muslims as early as in 1988.
In that year, the “˜Party of Islamic Revival of USSR’ was founded. Its mission was simple enough: to split every Muslim nation by dividing it into “˜good’ and “˜bad’ Muslims.
In 2000 one of my colleagues and I described the “˜Vahhabism’ (Islamic radicalism) as the Kremlin’s vaccine against the movement for national independence. It is easy enough for the FSB to feed and manipulate that trend. Apart from the secret agents they have infiltrated in Chechnya, they also have “˜their people’ in Arab countries, who offer both money and advice to “˜Islamists’ – without advertising their friendship with Moscow, of course.
For all those years, the main mission of the “˜Islamic’ ideologists was to discredit and disorganise the Chechen Resistance. As for the declaration of the “˜Amirate’, it was an attempt of a formal, legal self-denunciation of Chechnya’s independence, independence established long ago in full accordance with the renewed Soviet legislation and the principles of international law.
To give our Parliament their due, they reacted by taking adequate constitutional measures. As a result, this well-calculated FSB provocation came to nothing but Dokka Umarov’s resignation from his position of Chechen Republic’s acting President.
FP: Tell us a bit more about how the FSB is operating in Arab countries and its people offering both money and advice to Islamists.
Zakayev: The FSB (KGB) is the most experienced terrorist organisation in the world, whose foundations were laid even before the Bolsheviks captured power in Russian Empire in 1917. For over a half of the 20th century, the KGB operated on every continent and effectively terrorised the whole world.
Having one sixth of the world’s dry land under its control, the FSB is in no shortage of resources. However, its most important instrument of influence is the constantly updated “˜Know How’ in every kind of terrorist activity, including kidnappings, explosions, hijacking planes, hostage-taking, use of poisons and nuclear materials for assassinations, etc. The most important “˜Know How’ is the FSB’s ability to form and develop extremist ideologies. Two examples of that are the Al Qaeda and the Wahhabism among Muslim nations in Russia.
Without going into much detail, let me remind your readers that notorious Aiman al Zawahiri spent half a year in Russia in 1997, just before he went to Afghanistan to join Osama bin Laden. That fact was publicly admitted by the FSB Chief Gen. Patrushev, who claimed, however, that the FSB failed to establish al Zawahiri’s identity. In fact, he had been known to the KGB from the old times when Egyptian president Anvar Sadat was assassinated. My late friend Alexander Litvinenko directly named Al Zawahiri as an FSB secret agent. Personally, I have no doubt that Al Zawahiri is the one who really pulls the strings in Al Qaeda.
The seeds of Wahhabism in Russia were sown in 1989, when the Party of Islamic Revival was founded in Astrakhan. Ever since then, the activities of so-called Islamic extremists in Russia and some Muslim post-Soviet republics are guided by the Kremlin’s short-term considerations.
The FSB keeps and guards its loyal agents at the top of its every project, wherever it takes place.
FP: How is the war going these days?
Zakayev: Basically, it is a typical guerrilla war. The invaders often use aircraft and artillery. Our troops are ordered to refrain from large-scale military operations. This is because we are convinced that the time works for us.
FP: Does the government-in-exile control the resistance fighters inside Chechnya?
Zakayev: I would like to stress that it is only a part of the Chechen Government which is really in exile. There are ministers who stay in Chechnya or have returned to Chechnya, and they are responsible for controlling our troops inside the country. First of all, that function is performed by the General Staff Chief of the Armed Forces of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
FP: What do you think of the terrorist methods some Chechens used in the past?
Zakayev: As a Minister of ChRI Government and representative of our elected President Aslan Maskhadov, I always condemned any terrorist attacks, regardless of who organised them or who took responsibility for them. The provocative anti-Chechen nature of those attacks has always been obvious to me.
You know, in the summer of 1998 Russia passed a law on the struggle against terrorism (I do not remember its exact title now). Interestingly, at that time there were negotiations between Russia and Chechnya on various problems of cooperation between the two countries, including cooperation in law enforcement. Undoubtedly, those forces who initiated the new Russian legislation knew for sure there would be terrorist attacks soon.
FP: What do you think about the foreign jihadi groups such as Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah?
Zakayev: Al Qaeda is a global provocation, designed to clash the Islamic world with the Western world, thus weakening the both sides as much as possible. Those who capitalise on that are Russia, China and their allies in the totalitarian camp.
The task of Hamas and Hezbollah is to prevent peace between Palestinians and Israelis. That benefits Russia, Iran, and Arab dictators.
All the three organisations have nothing to do with the interests of the Muslim world. They are obedient puppets in the hands of others.
FP: Expand for us a bit on how Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamist terror groups help Russia, Iran, and Arab dictators.
Zakayev: First of all, they raise tensions in an oil-rich region. The higher the tensions are, the higher the oil prices. Imagine for a moment what would happen to Russia, Iran or Arab countries if they suddenly lost their oil revenues. In a sense, the whole foreign policy of all these countries is targeted at selling oil for the highest possible price.
Secondly, Russia, Iran and a number of Arab countries have authoritarian regimes, whose internal opponents would be very much attracted to Western democracy at the time of stability. Therefore, fighting a war against the Western democracies is vital for those regimes’ survival. Using Al Qaeda, Hamas or Hezbollah, they can fight the West in foreign lands and with foreign hands; so they don’t care about casualties.
Another thing which unites Russia and Iran is their objective interest to prevent stability among the Sunnis. In case of Iran, the reason for that is the hostility along the Shia-Sunni lines. As for Russia, it fears that a stable and united Sunni world would ask it to free the dozens of Sunni nations which are still kept by force under its colonial domination.
FP: What kind of danger would you say Russia poses to the West?
Zakayev: The conflict between Russia and the West is a conflict between authoritarianism and democracy. No peaceful coexistence is possible here. If you do not advance, you retreat. Today, Russia is on the offensive, and has advanced quite far, mostly because of some Western leaders’ short-sightedness. I am confident of the eventual victory for democracy, but to make it happen soon, the West has to start a decisive offensive. Unfortunately, the democratic camp today is less united than the authoritarian one led by Russia, China and Iran.
A delay of the West’s offensive means prolonged sufferings to millions of people, not only in the authoritarian countries, but also far beyond their borders, because the Neo-Bolsheviks have now armed themselves with the “˜international Islamic terrorism’. It is a kind of their big stick with remote control.
FP: How do you see the future independent Chechnya – should it be democratic or not? What should its foreign policy be?
Zakayev: I would say that independent Chechnya shall be a model democratic country. Its foreign policy shall be based on openness and preparedness for mutually beneficial cooperation with everyone.
FP: When and how might Chechnya finally win its independence?
Zakayev: Nobody can name an exact date when Russian invaders shall leave Chechnya. One thing I do not doubt is that every day brings us closer to the moment of liberation.
FP: What policy do you think the U.S. should pursue vis-Ã -vis Putin?
Zakayev: If it was for me to decide, the U.S. would pursue no policy towards Putin or Medvedev personally. That is to say, stop looking into their eyes. Unless Russia becomes democratic, it is going to keep undermining the West, be that under Putin or anyone else. We must remember that Gorbachev embraced openness and democracy not before he was driven into a corner. So, a sure way to make Russia democratic is to make life as hard as possible for its ruling regime.
FP: Ahmed Zakayev, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Zakayev: Thank you for your questions.