09.07.2015 Author: Henry Kamens

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Extends Someone Else’s Empire to the Caucasus

3423488565Just as I was finishing an article about the unusual number of Chechens and Georgians in Ukraine came the news that a new front is about to open in the presumed war of attrition with the Russian Federation. The Islamic State, ISIL, claims that it is intending to incorporate an area either side of the border of Southern Russia as a “province” of its Emirate. It has claimed that the existing Islamic militants there, who are again mostly ethnic Chechens, have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader.

At first glance this would seem to be another bunch of ideologically similar irregulars throwing in their lot with the group most likely to help them achieve their goals, as they often do. However, it would be naïve to think that any loyalty, ideological or otherwise, is involved in this move. The goals that are being pursued are those of the US, not any Islamic “Jihad”, a term which only Westerners interpret as “Holy War”, because it suits their purposes to make everyone terrified of it.

As has often been reported, the Chechens in both Ukraine and the new “province” of ISIL got there as a result of a cozy plot between American intelligence and the previous Georgian government. Many of those in Ukraine cut their teeth in that other US-backed terrorist intervention, Syria, and operatives still move freely between the two countries, on fake Georgian and Saudi passports.

The pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is nothing more than an application for further US and Saudi funding, the best income the vast majority of these terrorists have ever had. Not even Saudi Arabia, let alone the US, shares the ideology of ISIL and both countries represent the external and intra-confessional enemies ISIL claims to be fighting against. But they have consistently backed this murderous force to achieve goals of their own they do not dare express publicly themselves. Those goals are wide-ranging, but have nothing to do with the Islam ISIL claims to be fighting for.

False force and false target

The establishment of an ISIL province on either side of its southern border is an obvious threat to Russia. It is also however a threat to the rest of Europe, which the US still insists it is on friendly terms with.

We have seen how protests against the Ukrainian government were presented in the West as protests against not signing an Association Agreement with the EU, even though the non-violent Ukrainian protestors on the ground insisted they were no such thing. The subsequent removal of President Yanukovych might therefore be seen as the EU getting its own back. That is, until you see what else is happening in the region, and why.

We have just seen Victoria Nuland, the US State Department “enforcer” famous for saying “Fuck the EU”, trying to hijack what appear to be spontaneous protests in Armenia in the same way she did in Ukraine. That trick hasn’t worked so far, because Armenians already have a permanent grievance with the rest of the world, more so than with any Armenian government which could exist. But the seed has been planted for local groups to link a local Armenian issue to a broader cause, joining new-found “brethren” elsewhere when another local dispute can be presented as sufficiently similar.

This is the same tactic the US has used with the Islamic militants. It has inserted its own groups, funded and armed by the US, to take over various pre-existing groups who have different agendas. One of ISIL’s competitors is the Caucasus Emirate, an umbrella group of smaller organisations in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia who have a slightly different ideological viewpoint to ISIL. The establishment of the new ISIL province in Caucasus Emirate territory is an attempt to sideline this group, which wants break away from Russia on its terms, and thereby forcibly unite Islamic militancy on US terms, to fulfil US ambitions.

The EU has won nothing in Ukraine, as Poroshenko’s chocolate soldiers have nothing to offer it. They are too busy fighting the war to have any resources left over, and their territory can hardly be used for transport of goods or energy under present circumstances. The US has gained a new forward operating base however. It has openly inserted wanted criminals from Georgia who turned the country into the regional hub of CIA dirty tricks and is establishing new military bases, to fill the gaps in a crescent of such bases whose weapons are all pointed at Russia.

If any of the various US projects, in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine or the Caucasus, do not work they can simply focus on another. The EU’s structure is such that it cannot cope with more than one conflict at a time, as various EU bodies and national governments all have to agree what is necessary within the same short timeframe, and it never happens. The establishment of the new ISIL province makes the EU redundant, and therefore vulnerable, not a condition you want an ally to be in. It will do what Victoria Nuland said she wanted to do to the EU, paper alliance or not.

The hub from the hub

But how can this dual threat to Russia and the EU be actualised? Nothing can happen without transport and logistics. That is why the US spent so much on ‘train and equip programs’ in Georgia when Saakashvili was in power, the blatant falsehood of which was cruelly exposed by Georgia’s dismal performance in the 2008 war.

So it would make sense to use the same Georgian connections to transport people and arms from flashpoint to flashpoint as required. There have been many reported cases of young Georgian men, who often didn’t even have passports, disappearing and then ending up in Syria or Iraq fighting for ISIL. When their parents ask the Georgian police to investigate, they get answers until they ask how their children got across borders without passports. That is “classified information”, apparently.

What is it the Georgian authorities won’t say? It is that they won’t, or can’t, stop the activities of the man co-ordinating this far-reaching programme – a Georgian citizen and longstanding US terror contractor, Megis Kardava.

Kardava held a senior post in the previous Georgian government and is still a high-ranking member of the previous ruling party. When you are also a notorious crime boss it is not difficult to achieve these things. He still controls West Georgia through his criminal networks, and it is these that are transporting people and goods. We know this because the Turkish authorities themselves have let slip that all these people are being transported through Turkey, in other words crossing from West Georgia, not from another place or in another direction.

We do not know as much about Kardava as other United National Party Members, UNM criminals because people are more afraid of him than the others. But we do know that Nana Tetradze, the wife of murdered Colonel Sergo Tetradze, claims that his spouse was tortured in the notorious Gldani prison in Tbilisi by Kardava when he was head of the military police. Kardava has been sentenced to nine years in prison in absentia for a fraction of his crimes; this one included, but somehow has mysteriously evaded capture so far.

According to Georgian media and intelligence sources Kardava is currently living in Turkey, and is visited once a month by a priest from Tsalenjikha, a town in West Georgia, who provides him with money and the latest operational information. He may be hoping for an appointment in Ukraine, as so many of his friends have also been given when they have Interpol warrants hanging over them. What is known is that he currently has connections to another US scheme – a USAID “hard-nut-to-crack” agricultural project used as a cover and to siphon funds to terrorists, like many schemes which did the same in Georgia when the UNM was in power.

Wanted criminals do not have such connections unless the US is protecting them, for a purpose of its own. Kardava’s criminal expertise, which should see him put in jail for years to come, is what is keeping him out of jail. His network is too powerful to break, and he is too useful for the US to let anyone attempt it. Just like the ISIL terror network, in fact. As they have both historically been armed and trained by the US to fulfil US purposes, and now appear to be being directed from the same centre, this resemblance should not be surprising.

So we have a situation in which criminal elements are being used by the US to supply terrorists whose stated aim is to overthrow governments and establish new ones the populations of those areas would never accept, regardless of their faith. The Russian government cannot be the only target of such operations, despite its proximity to the area. Russia is too big to defeat in this way, but the same cannot be said of the fractious and overextended EU.

Turkey has never been allowed to join the EU because its Islam is considered incompatible with “European values”. It has responded by still claiming it wants EU membership but going in a different direction in practice. Turkey is now becoming increasingly important as a regional power in its own right, an alternative focus to the EU. It also has historic claims to large chunks of Eastern Europe. So what better place is there to conduct a campaign against both Russia and the EU from?

Straw men and forked tongues

The oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will doubtless be given much media coverage and provide the intended subterfuge. We will be told that this is further confirmation that the whole civilized world is about to be swept away by these barbarians who have come out of nowhere, guided by a hateful ideology all the more threatening because it is allegedly that of millions of other Moslem. Moslems themselves complain loud and long about this perversion of their faith, but all this does is maintain focus on it. This suits the sponsors of ISIL, as if people start to think their actions are not about Islam they might begin working out what they are really about.

Islam is the preferred explanation for the sudden rise of ISIL and similar groups, and ISIL’s success the preferred explanation for why other groups are now joining it and why Western Moslems are amongst those now swelling its ranks. So are we supposed to believe that ISIL has achieved far more than other irregular fighting forces, many of whom have far greater experience, simply because it is Islamic? That argument just doesn’t wash, and the US knows it, but it will spin it out to obscure the issue for as long as it can.

Round up the usual suspects

The new ISIL province in the Caucasus is a front, part of a broader US process that all the usual suspects are connected to in some way. The ISIL operatives were all trained by the US or trained and led by others who were, many of whom are Chechens and other “freedom fighters” who were imported to Georgia by the US to receive this training. They are being supplied by one of the most notorious of the Georgians the US worked with, who is being protected in Turkey, the only geographically feasible place from which he can conduct such activities on such a scale now Georgia is closed to him.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi doubtless sees himself as an all-powerful warlord. He will soon discover that he is as much a sitting duck as the Georgians now on the run from Interpol. The Chechen fighters in the Caucasus have actually taken an oath to Megis Kardava, whoever he may be working for at any given time. That’s how they get what they want, regardless of the consequences.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.