(Published by Gerard Group International, Intel Analyses, Friday, August 31, 2007)
Why Russia backs Al-Qaeda
By Konstantin Preobrazhensky
Americans generally believe that Russia is afraid of Islamic terrorism as much as the U.S.A. They are reminded of the war in Chechnya, the hostage crisis at the Beslan School in 2004 and at the Moscow Theater in 2002, and of the apartment house blasts in Moscow in 1999, where over 200 people were killed. It is clear that Russians are also targets of terrorism today.
But in all these events, the participation of the FSB, Federal Security Service, inheritor to the KGB, is also clear. Their involvement in the Moscow blasts has been proven by lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, a former FSB Colonel. For this he was illegally imprisoned, and is now suffering torture and deprivation of medical assistance, from which he is not likely to survive.
A key distinction between Russian and American attitudes towards Islamic terrorism is that while for America terrorism is largely seen as an exterior menace, Russia uses terrorism as an object as a tool of the state for manipulation in and outside the home country. Islamic terrorism is only part of the world of terrorism. Long before Islamic terrorism became a global threat, the KGB had used terrorism to facilitate the victory of world Communism.
This leads to the logical connection between Russian and Islamic terrorism. The late Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in London in November, 2006, told me that his former FSB colleagues had trained famous Al-Qaeda terrorists Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Juma Namangoniy during the 1980s and 1990s. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, one of the world's most wanted terrorists, has been responsible for the murder of U.S. nationals outside the United States. Before his death, Juma Namangoniy (Jumabai Hojiyev), a native of Soviet Uzbekistan, was a right-hand man of Osama bin Laden in charge of the Taliban's northern front in Afghanistan.
In 1996, Alexander Litvinenko was responsible for securing the secrecy of Al-Zawahiri's arrival in Russia, who was trained by FSB instructors in Dagestan, Northern Caucasus, in 1996-1997.
At that time, Litvinenko was the Head of the Subdivision for Internationally Wanted Terrorists of the First Department of the Operative-Inquiry Directorate of the FSB Anti-Terrorist Department. He was ordered to undertake the delicate mission of securing Al-Zawahiri from unintentional disclosure by the Russian police. Though Al-Zawahiri had been brought to Russia by the FSB using a false passport, it was still possible for the police to learn about his arrival and report to Moscow for verification. Such a process could disclose Al-Zawahiri as an FSB collaborator.
In order to prevent this, Litvinenko visited a group of the highly placed police officers to notify them in advance. "If you get information about some suspicious Arabs arriving in the Caucasus, please report it to me before informing your leadership", he told them.
Juma Namangoniy was once a student of the Saboteur Training Center of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in 1989-91. The school was notorious for the international terrorists who matriculated from it. It now belongs to the FSB, and since only KGB staff officers were allowed to study there, Juma Namangoniy's presence clearly suggests that he was much more than a civil collaborator.
Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, Czech Republic, five months before the attack. But Iraqi intelligence was just a client of Russia's intelligence service. It brings a new understanding to the fact that President Putin was the first foreign President to call President Bush on 9/11. One may conjecture that he knew in advance what was to happen.
Muslim Name and Communist Heart
Tartars have always been patriotic to Russia. Their independent kingdom was conquered by Russia in the 16th century, but their gentry were allowed to join the Russian upper class and enjoy all its privileges. Even today, many Russian families of noble origin have Tartar origins. Russia has a half-millennium of experience in turning conquered Muslim nations into obedient citizens by bribing their elite.
There are many Soviet Muslims, therefore, who seem to face no conflict of spirit. One can be a Muslim in name only, whose heart belongs to Communism. There have been a lot of such people among Russian Muslims, especially among the Tartars. The Soviet Union has typically preferred to appoint them as ambassadors to Muslim countries. Their Muslim names give them a pass to the local society, but their Communist hearts order them to serve world Communism and not the world of Islam.
In the Soviet period, the highest leadership of the Muslim republics like Uzbekistan were unofficially allowed to practice Islam under the guise of folk rites, even though their Russian colleagues were severely reprimanded for participating in such Christian "rites" as Christmas or Easter. Unlike today, Soviet cartoonists were able to mock Islam as they mocked all other religions and it didn't bring any special reaction.
Muslims of the Uzbek and other Central Asian republics' elite joined the KGB intelligence in order to spy on fellow Muslim countries. In the KGB, I have met a lot of such quasi-Muslim officers.
Putin continues the traditional Russian policy of giving privileges to the Muslim elite. Today's Russian Minister of Healthcare, Mikhail Zurabov, is a Chechen. His political agenda includes the total destruction of the Russian healthcare system, looking like revenge for the war in Chechnya. Putin shows no concern over that.
Strategically Russia is surrendering to the Muslim world. The Russian population is declining rapidly, being undermined by 70 years of Communist experiment and the cold indifference of post-communist rulers. Annually, Russia is losing 900 thousand people who are being replaced by Muslims from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Islam is now the second-largest religion in Russia, where it may total up to 28 million adherents. Because of this, Russia was able to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2003.
Russia's great qualitative population change represents both a departure from the past and a strengthening link with it. The synergies between the history of Russia's national policies of terrorism and the radical Islamic terrorism that it is spreading around the world are natural partners that may severely impact on America's own future.
Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former Lt. Colonel in the KGB who defected to the United States in 1993, is an intelligence expert and specialist on Japan, about which he has written six books. His newest book Russian-American, A New KGB Asset will be published in late 2007.