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Is Putin’s Russia threatened by Uzbek Jihadists?



HTS' Red Bandanas elite force

The Syria’s most powerful rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has recently implemented a new strategy to transform itself from global jihadist outlook into a local “moderate national liberation movement”. Its new agenda is entirely dedicated to Syria and the Syrian local Sunni community in particular. Within this new scope of this strategy, HTS began to severely restrict external attacks by Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups fully associated with HTS. Against the background of these changes, Russia recently accused HTS-backed Katibat Tawhid wal-Jihad (KTJ) for conducting a terrorist attack, thus preventing to achieve HTS’s goal.

Pressure on Central Asian migrants amid KTJ’s terror attacks

On October 15, 2020, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) made a statement that it has “…suppressed the activities of the interregional cell of the international terrorist organization Katibat Tawhid wal-Jihad intending to commit subversive and terrorist acts in the Volgograd city.” During the operation, the security forces killed two members of this Uzbek Salafi-Jihadi group. According to the Russian special services, “…the coordination of the terrorist activities of the jihadist cell was carried out from the territory of Syria.” The Russian FSB also distributed photos and videos of firearms, ammunition, chemical components of Improvised Explosive Device, religious literature, as well as a city’s map of planned explosions seized during the particular operation.

FSB further reported that “…other members of the KTJ’s interregional cell were also detained in the cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Maikop and Volgograd”. However, no evidence of the detention of jihadists in other Russian cities and their affiliation with any religious organization was ever provided.

On October 16, KTJ in its Telegram channel responded to FSB’s accusation by highlighting their “…non-involvement in the activities of the Mujahideen cell planning the explosion in Volgograd.”  The Uzbek militant group stated that “…their goal is exclusively to help the people of Syria in the fight against the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad.”  Furthermore, KTJ declared that “…their activities are limited to the territory of Syria, and the conduct of terrorist acts outside of it is not the group’s policy.”  At the end of its statement, the group firmly denied the accusation by the Russian authorities of planning a terrorist attack in Volgograd, calling it an absolute lie. 

Abdul Aziz al-Uzbeki, the leader of Katibat Tawhid wal-Jihad.

The Russian authorities often issue thunderous statements about successful special operations against “international Islamist terrorists”. However, these statements often arouse a certain amount of doubt among religious experts researching the activities of Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups. This mistrustful attitude to the special operations carried out by the FSB security forces is primarily due to the authoritarian nature of the Putin regime, which artificially divides Islam in Russia into what they describe as “traditional Islam” and “radical Islam” over the past 20 years.

According to the tailor-made of Putin’s Russia, ‘traditional Islam’ is assumed as the Muslim Ummah that supports the official policy of the state, that is loyal to Putin’s regime and does not raise any separatist slogans. However, in Russian reality, the concept of ‘radical Islam’ is applied very broadly and vaguely. The authorities usually refer members of the Salafi/Wahhabi jamaats of the North Caucasus, Tablighi Jamaat, Hizbut-Tahrir al-Islami and Nurjular (supporters of the Turkish theologian Said Nursi) and other followers of the Takfiri movements to the category of ‘radical Islam’.

Russian law enforcement agencies believe that mass labor migration from the Central Asian post-Soviet republics contributed to the revival of Hizbut-Tahrir al-Islami’s and Tablighi Jamaat’s activities in Russia. There have been frequent cases of so-called “radical Islamists” who are actually mere migrants from Central Asia. However, the “light hand” of Russia’s law enforcement agencies has unfairly ranked these migrants as “religious extremists”.  Furthermore, there have been cases of Central Asian migrants who have been killed during special operations by the Russian FSB because that same FSB egregiously labelled them as “religious terrorists” without any trial or investigation.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of such cases in Russian practice.

It is imperative to mention that this is not the first time the Russian authorities have accused the Uzbek jihadist group KTJ of organizing terrorist act. On April 3, 2017, the Russian FSB blamed KTJ for the bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 16 people and injured 67 others. According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old Kyrgyz-born ethnic Uzbek man with Russian citizenship, has been identified as the suicide bomber. Investigators concluded that the ideological mastermind and financial organizer of the subway bombing was Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki, the leader of the KTJ group. It’s known that his real name is Sirozhidin Mukhtarov, a faithful follower of al Qaeda who migrated (Hijrat) from southern Kyrgyzstan to Syria to wage jihad against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

As a result, a military court of St. Petersburg found eleven people guilty of organizing a bomb attack. One of the accused individuals was jailed for life while the other ten were given jail terms ranging from 19 to 28 years but all 11 denied the charges and membership in the Uzbek jihadi group KTJ. The detained two Kyrgyz-born brothers, Akram and Abror Azimov claimed they were tortured at a “secret jail” outside Moscow. Both stated that they were subjected to electric shocks, simulated drowning, and beatings at the facility allegedly used by Russia’s powerful FSB. Putin’s Russia arbitrarily deprived the relatives of the accused of Russian citizenship and deported them to Kyrgyzstan. The only woman among the defendants, Shokhista Karimova, declared her innocence, claiming Russia’s FSB had planted a grenade and explosives at her home. Following the trial, human rights groups such as  Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Russian law enforcement authorities often target Central Asian migrants without grounds accusing them of “religious extremism”.

Clearly, the activities of the Central Asian and Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups are “grist to the mill” of the Putin’s authoritarian regime in dividing Islam into ‘traditional’ and ‘radical’. Could HTS’s new restricting external jihad strategy help to reduce the risk of Central Asian migrants in Russia of being accused for supporting jihad?

Will Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s new strategy appeal to Russian interests? 

As is known, KTJ, created in 2013 in Syria, consists of Central Asian militants, mostly Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz from the Ferghana valley. At the beginning of 2015, the KTJ leader Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki and his militants swore allegiance (bayat) to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. After bayat to al Qaeda, KTJ was accused of the Chinese embassy attack in Bishkek in 2016 and the St. Petersburg metro bombing in 2017, although it denied these allegations.

KTJ is also closely affiliated with HTS, Syria’s most potent militant faction, which controls Idlib province and parts of the western Aleppo. After breaking off relations with al Qaeda, HTS pursues a strategy aiming purely at the local-Syrian jihad to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. It avoids global jihad outside the country and demands to follow its plan from Central Asian and Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups. With its new strategy, HTS sent a clear message to the international community to declare its transformation into a “moderate” faction, and even a “national liberation movement”.

To achieve international recognition as an acceptable political actor, HTS has excluded Central Asian al Qaeda supporters and local hardliners from its ranks. The dirty image of KTJ, which was accused of serious terrorist crimes in Eurasia, severely hampered HTS’s international ambitions to recognize it as a national liberation movement rather than as a terrorist organization. Therefore, in April 2019, HTS managed to remove Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki from the group’s leadership and instead elected Abdul Aziz Uzbeki (Khikmatov), a native of the Fergana Valley, as the new leader of KTJ.

However, Abu Saloh defied HTS’ strategy of giving up global jihad ambitions and joined al Qaeda-backed Jabhat Ansar al-Din along with 50 other Uzbek jihadists. HTS regarded such a step as a betrayal and on June 16, 2020, arrested Abu Saloh. As a result, KTJ’s military-technical and financial dependence on HTS has grown even more, and now it is focusing only on local jihad in Syria and as a result of the activities of KTJ strictly correspond to the tactics and strategies of its parent organization of HTS. In response to the accusation of Russia’s FSB on the impending terrorist attack in Volgograd, the Uzbek jihadi group stated that “KTJ activities are limited to the territory of Syria, and its actions do not go beyond the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policy.” Further, KTJ assured via its Telegram channel that it “does not have its cells in Russia and is not involved in organizing terrorist acts abroad.”

In October 2020, HTS sent additional clear messages to the West, announcing through its Sharia Council the disavowal of prominent jihadist ideologue Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, who is a strong supporter of al Qaeda’s global jihad. The West has reacted positively to HTS’s new strategy to exclude hardliners from its ranks and its ability to pressure Central Asian Sunni militant groups to abandon global jihadist ambitions. It is noteworthy that in February 2020 the US Representative for Syria James Jeffrey noted that “the HTS has not – we (US) have not seen them planning or carrying out international terrorism attacks. We’ve seen them focusing on basically maintaining their position in Idlib.”

Despite the efforts of HTS, it seems highly unrealistic to achieve international recognition of its legitimacy as a “national liberation movement”. The primary opponent of lifting international sanctions against HTS is Russia, which supports the Syrian government in a decade-long civil war. HTS, which holds the last major anti-government bastion in the northwestern province of Idlib, has become “a bone in the throat” for the high ambitions of Putin and Bashar al-Assad to regain full control over the entire territory of Syria.

In Russia, both HTS and its subsidiary KTJ are recognized as terrorist organizations. It becomes the peculiar of tradition that the Russian authorities automatically include the Salafi-Wahhabi Jamaats of the North Caucasus and Central Asia in the group of so-called “radical Islam”. Any Central Asian Muslim migrant can be easily accused of being an “Islamist extremist” and simulate the scenario of preparing a terror attack within circumstances of lacking civil control over the activities of the powerful FSB and with the tacit consent of the authorities.

In conclusion, Russian counter-terrorism operations against jihadist groups that challenge Russia’s state security and religious stability is justifiable. However, innocent Central Asian migrants in Russia should not face Russian labelling and be stigmatized as “Islamist radicals” simply because of the crimes of Salafi-Jihadi groups in the far away Middle East.


Hybrid Warfare Against Pakistan: Challenges and Response



The term ‘hybrid warfare’ entered the strategic lexicon in the early 21st century despite having been practiced in various forms for a long time. It is defined as a blend of both kinetic and non-kinetic options to offset conventional power dynamics.  Hybrid warfare includes extensive use of tools like spreading disinformation, propaganda, economic coercion, backing proxy militia and cyber-attacks to achieve strategic objectives. In modern times, owing to the exponentially high cost of men and material used in traditional warfare, not only the great powers but various middle powers engage in hybrid warfare in order to destabilize, demoralize and disintegrate their core adversaries.

The advancement in technology over the 21st century encourages the blending of the different modes of warfare making hybrid warfare a practical option for meeting political objectives. The aspects of ambiguity and deniability that accompany hybrid warfare, make it an attractive option for states to exercise subtle power – they do not have to fear attribution and retribution. Hybrid warfare has become more popular because of the issue pertaining to major wars. The arrival of nuclear weapons in the 20th century even to India and Pakistan, and the different major wars have made conventional warfare much riskier. The consequences of the major wars have led to a transformation in how these wars are viewed. States that want to exert their influence have found other means to do so. There is an on-going debate in the UN about the serious consequences of the internet that can be constituted as acts of war. Its warfare without any direct violence.

Pakistan’s arch enemy, India, has constantly been waging hybrid warfare against Pakistan since partition but it has been recently expedited with increased funding, training of a separatist militia, through economic subversion by politicizing international bodies such as FATF and carrying out diplomatic sabotage in the form of disinformation campaigns disclosure by EU Disinfo Lab. Though the decision was motivated by the political objective of placing Pakistan on the grey list, India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan jeopardizes South Asia’s stability.

India’s main objective when it comes to hybrid warfare against Pakistan is it to keep Pakistan politically and economically unstable. This helps achieve certain other goals like preventing the rise of Pakistan’s power in Kashmir and pressuring Pakistan to settle on India’s terms in issues like Siachen and Sir Creek. India has tried to employ numerous tools to wage this warfare against Pakistan at the different levels.

India is trying to build a narrative, especially among Indian Muslims and Kashmiris that Pakistan is a failed or failing state and the partition of the Indian sub-continent was huge mistake. They are also generating the idea that the Indian Muslims are far superior to the Pakistanis and even the Bangladeshis. The hybrid warfare against Pakistan also has its internal dynamics, as it is very much part and parcel of India’s domestic politics particularly around elections. Even the Hindutva intoxicated BJP came to power by employing this strategy. India has also given rise to the narrative that she always tried to build good relations but the Pakistani military does not let the relations normalize. Also, it is the Pakistan Army, which is not allowing a solution to the Kashmir dispute because when Pakistan and India were engaged in backchannel diplomacy to work out a solution on the basis of President Musharraf’s four-point formula, it was the Pakistan Army which conducted, supported and funded the Mumbai attack of 2008. Thus, the Pakistan Army is portrayed as a major problem when it comes to Pakistan. It is also being projected that Pakistan’s defense expenditure is illogical as it needs to invest more in its development rather than the armed forces to defend itself against India. India is also exploiting the fault lines of Pakistan – Baluchistan and CPEC. Pakistan is also blamed for not allowing regional peace and integration. India links Pakistan to the Taliban at international level. Certainly, India’s main aim is to weaken the social contract of Pakistan by creating restlessness, divisions and instability within the country.

Pakistan needs a well calibrated strategy in how to counter India’s move at every platform. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to understand the nature of hybrid warfare while concentrating on Pakistan’s social and political harmony. More importantly, we need to realize the potential of CPEC. There must be good governance based on deliverance to overcome the vulnerabilities. There is no denying the fact that this is an era of multilateralism, but multilateral approach works well when there are healthy bilateral relations. While it is good to host conferences and seminars, there is a need for more practical action. We live in world were information spreads quickly. Hence, we need a counternarrative to India’s narrative of ‘talks and terrorism cannot go side by side’ but unfortunately Pakistan always acts in an apologetic manner. The media can potentially be the face of any state but in the case of Pakistan, the media does not care and there is no policy-based discussion between the media and the government. Also, Pakistan does not have enough English news channels to portray the positive image of Pakistan. Furthermore, every part of Pakistani society including the media, the civil society and academia should collectively respond to India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan. For all of this to be successful, Pakistan’s immune system must be protected through socio-political harmony and improved governance. Last but not the least, India may not be able to sustain its economic lure for long, therefore, India must stop this hybrid warfare against Pakistan, and resume diplomatic activities for stability and prosperity of the region.

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How Putin’s Russia is Exploiting Jihadists Against pro-Navalny Protesters?



Who is Putin’s terrorist: Navalny or Jihadist?

Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin is considering using old tactics to stem the growing wave of nationwide protests in support of his fiercest critic, popular opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This tactic was developed in the late 90s by the KGB ideologists and successfully applied in order to bring to power Vladimir Putin, who is ruling the country with an iron hand longer than all his Soviet predecessors except Joseph Stalin. The tactical skills of the Putin’s policy architects were aiming to frighten Russian citizens by Islamist terrorism and Chechen separatism and unite patriotic and nationalist forces around a new leader capable of challenging the West.

Thus, when the nationwide protests in support of Navalny from Yakutia to Kaliningrad became the most serious challenge, the Kremlin began to trumpet the threat of Islamist extremists and international terrorists. This time, the Putin regime is intimidating protesters with impending terrorist attacks of Central Asian and Caucasian jihadists and their Syrian parent organization, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

On the eve of the next nationwide protests on February 14, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russia warned of the inadmissibility of calls to participate in an unsanctioned rally. Russian state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS have disseminated information that the most powerful Sunni militant faction of HTS in northern Syria is preparing a series of lone-wolf attacks during the upcoming mass street protests of Navalny’s supporters in various Russian cities. In doing so, however, the pro-Kremlin media cited its undisclosed law enforcement sources and ultimately spread merely conspiracy theories.

According to anonymous sources of Russian security services, HTS-backed Uzbek Jihadi battalion Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad(KTJ), Chechen militant groups Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK) and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA) are planning to carry out explosions and attack protesters. To achieve these purposes, terrorist groups allegedly recruited Russian citizens and Central Asian migrants, who expect their leaders’ commands.

pro-Navalny protesters

The Putin regime faced the most serious challenge when anti-government protests took place across the Russia in support Navalny in recent weeks. As is known, in mid-January, Navalny returned to the country after recovering from a chemical Novichok poisoning that nearly took his life and was immediately detained and later jailed for alleged parole violations. The robust Putin regime first demonstrated its grave alarm when tens of thousands pro-Navalny protesters demanded his resignation in more than 100 cities and towns, chanting Putin as a ‘thief’. Police detained more than 11,000 people at what they say were unsanctioned protests that the Moscow condemned as illegal and dangerous.

Alexei Navalny’s political creativity and tactical skill inspired Russian liberal youth weary with the corruption-plagued political order presided over by Putin. Fierce clashes between protesters and riot police during the mass rallies indicate that a new generation is not afraid of arrests and the repressive state machine. And to stop the pace of marathon confrontation with the opposition, Putin resorted to his long-standing KGB tactics, intimidating society with possible terrorist attacks and explosions by Islamists.

Will Uzbek and Chechen Jihadists hit pro-Navalny Protesters?

But the fact is, it’s not the first time Putin’s Russia has intimidated society with possible terror attacks by Islamist terrorists and Chechen separatists to achieve political goals. During the transition of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin at the end of the second millennium, Kremlin ideologists successfully tested anti-Islamist tactics to overcome the challenges of the political opposition. The ideologists of Putin’s election campaign created his image as a decisive and strong leader, the one who can defeat Islamist terrorism, Chechen separatism and preserve the integrity of Great Russia. His image as the only savior of the Russian Empire was accompanied by radio and television spots and news about the atrocities of Chechen militants and their beheading of Russian soldiers.

Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy theory in Russian political circles that the powerful FSB orchestrated apartment bombings in the Russian cities of Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 to boost Putin’s approval rating aiming to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. As a result of these “terrorist attacks”, 307 people were killed, more than 1,700 people were injured. Russian officials concluded that there was a “Chechen trail” in the bombings, but no proof of their involvement was adduced. Many still doubt the results of the investigation and consider Putin to be the culprit of this tragedy.

That’s when Putin uttered his famous phrase: “We will pursue the [Islamist] terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, we’ll kill them there. If we catch them in the toilet, we’ll exterminate them in the toilet.” Many still believe that the apartment bombings and the FSB’s tactic against Islamist extremists catapulted Putin into the presidency. Putin soon launched a second war in Chechnya and emerged victorious in the intra-Kremlin struggle. His ratings soared. He met with huge approval in a society weary from the economic collapse, corruption and crime of the Yeltsin era.

Usually people prefer to keep quiet about this tragedy. Russian political figures Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and Boris Berezovsky worked to unravel the mystery of apartment bombings. But all of them were brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. Ultimately, the Kremlin’s tactics to combat Islamist terrorists not only helped to rocket Putin to the political Olympus, but also increased Islamophobia, nationalism and chauvinism in Russian society.

Today, even 22 years after Putin came to power, the Kremlin’s ideologists have begun to intimidate Russia’s liberal society with likely Islamist terrorist attacks again as the nationwide protests seriously threaten his regime. This illustrates the regime exhaustion and the lack of confidence in face of the strategic sophistication of Navalny’s team.

So far, neither HTS, nor Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups have officially responded to the FSB on the plotting of terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition rallies. However, in encrypted Telegram chats, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists actively discussed the “leak information”.

Thus, one of the KTJ’s followers on Telegram under the name Al Hijrat said in Uzbek: “Kafir Putin frightens his people with the just sword of Allah.But the people of the blessed land of Sham know that he himself is the main terrorist. Russian infidels and Putin’s Nusayri puppy (Alawites regime of Bashar al-Assad) bomb Greater Idlib to destroy Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. Executioners will have to hold a harsh response before the Almighty for their crimes.”

A pro-Jihadi chat “Inspire” in Telegram wrote in Russian: “the information about the impending attacks by Ajnad al-Kavkaz is fake. The authorities are trying to hold Russia’s awakening people from mass protests against Putin’s criminal group. To intimidate civilians, the Russian siloviki (FSB) can and are ready to commit terrorist acts, blaming HTS for this, which are not interested in what is happening there in Russia. The Putinists have a lot of experience in killing their own citizens and blowing up their houses.” In this message, Chechen militants indirectly protect HTS from accusations by pro-Kremlin media on impending terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition protests. This is no coincidence, since Ajnad al Kavkaz is known for its close ties with HTS.

On Telegram channel, some Russian-speaking jihadists from the post-Soviet space mocked at the ‘leaked information’, some expressed their anger against the “Russian occupants” in Sham, some advised protesters to be vigilant before the FSB provocation. A pro-Jihadi chat Icharkhoin Telegram recommended Muslims of Caucasus be ready for new repressions of Russian infidels and local Murtad (apostate), because after the bombings of houses in Volgodonsk, Putin started the 2-Chechen war and took away the independence of Ichkeria. The Telegram chat “Muhajireen” says that the Kremlin is preparing for a harsh suppression of the mass protests.

It is not the first time the Russian authorities have accused Central Asian and North Caucasian Jihadi networks of organizing terrorist act. On April 3, 2017, the Russian FSB blamed KTJ for the bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 16 people and injured 67 others. On October 15, 2020, the FSB once again accused the Uzbek KTJ militants of preparing subversive and terrorist acts in Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Maikop and Volgograd. In a statement, the intelligence services claimed that during the counter-terrorist operation, they prevented explosions and eliminated two members of KTJ. Then FSB distributed photos and videos of firearms, ammunition, IED’s chemical components, and religious literature seized during the operation.

On October 16, 2020, KTJ in its statement denied the Russian authorities’ accusation in these attacks. The Uzbek militant group stated that “according the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policy, our activities are limited to the territory of Sham, and we do not conduct jihadi acts outside of it.” Further, KTJ assured via its Telegram channel that it “does not have its cells in Russia and is not involved in organizing terrorist acts there.”

Jihadi factor of Russian democracy

The Russian authorities often make thunderous statements about plotting terrorist attacks by “international terrorist groups” and how siloviki (FSB) successfully prevented its. This time, trumpeting about terrorist plots by HTS and its foreign subsidiaries during mass protests in various Russian cities, Moscow hoped to hit two birds with one stone. First, the Kremlin hopes that alarm on terrorist attacks could become a cold shower for Navalny’s supporters, as a result of which the activity of protesters will subside and the scale of the rallies will decrease. Second, by accusing HTS of plotting terrorist attacks, Russia is trying to justify its bloody bombing in northern Syria before the international community.

However, experts on jihadism and political Islam were skeptical about accusations of HTS for plotting terrorist attacks in Russia.HTS, Syria’s most powerful rebel group, is trying to implement a new strategy to transform itself from a global jihadist outlook into a local “moderate national liberation movement”. Today its new agenda is entirely dedicated to Syria and the Syrian local Sunni community. Within this new strategy, HTS severely restricted external attacks by its subsidiaries – Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups –KTJ, AK and JMA. Consequently, HTS, which holds the last major rebel bastion in Idlib province and backs the local Salvation Government, is focused only on the internal Syrian jihad than organizing external terrorist attacks.

HTS emir Abu Mohammed al-Julani is well aware that any terrorist attacks in Russia could place his group among the global terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and al Qaeda, from which he decisively disavowed. HTS pursues a pragmatic approach to the political context, and its external attacks outside of Syria could undermine its fragile legacy, which Julani has achieved with great difficulty.

According to the new strategy, HTS has excluded Central Asian and local hardliners from its ranks. Those jihadists who did not want to submit to its new policy, such as former KTJ emir Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki and HTS Shura Council member Abu Malek al-Talli, were arrested or taken out of the Syrian jihad zone. Given the ability of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to pressure Russian-speaking militant groups to abandon its global jihadist ambitions, it can be concluded that the Russian FSB’s accusation against HTS raises many questions.

In conclusion, the Russian authorities alert about Islamists terrorist attacks during pro-Navalny protests is aimed at an internal audience and pursues exclusively domestic political goals. And these goals are clear as plain as the nose on the face. Using these methods, the Kremlin wants to stop the turbulent development of mass protests and divert the attention of people from the Navalny factor. If they succeed, the authorities will take time out to gather strength for the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2021.But if the wave of protests grows ever stronger and threatens Putin’s regime, then a repetition of the 1999 scenario is quite possible. As then, radical Islamism and terrorism can become a starting point for strengthening authoritarianism in Russia.

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Corona pandemic: Realism limitation in solving 21st century security threats



Today, most serious threats of the 21st century are not ones we can protect ourselves by using armies or advanced weapons. Indeed, the popularity of extreme-right politics, unilateralism based on nationalism and COVID-19 are threatening the world’s post-war security architecture. 

The state-based unilateralism and the trends of national response to the 21st century’s biggest security threat trigger lack of coordination, diplomatic divisions, and incoherent global answer to COVID-19. Hence, as we face the biggest challenge of the contemporary century today, we need to rethink the very nature of our comprehension of national security threats. By doing so, we need a different approach to facing security threats.

With the Corona pandemic as a security threat, one of the foundational international relations theories, the realism, has been revealed to be far limited in terms of its explanatory power than it declares. The argument is that realism has a valid logic and reasons for confidence since answers to the pandemic have confirmed the supremacy of sovereign states, the grounds for the state’s power competition. Nevertheless, the pandemic also presents realism’s weaknesses as a source for successful policy answer to this security challenge. In other words, realism is better at defining risks and threats than suggesting solutions. Put simply, realism’s explanatory power lies in diagnosis rather than treatment or prevention. To make this clear, one insight the theory emphasizes is the representation of states as the fundamental actors in world politics. 

As the coronavirus hit, states shifted quickly to close or tighten international borders, controlled movement within their borders. However, while much independent national action is understandable from a realism’s point of view, it’s insufficient. Unilateralism and state-based measures, such as border controls did not spare states from the pandemic, and unilateral measures risk ending up in national economic and social crisis. 

To fight the Corona pandemic most efficiently, policymakers will have to shift to other theoretical traditions to overcome this security threat. They will depend more and more on greater international openness, trust and cooperation. Hence, while from the realism’s view, unilateral and state-based actions may serve national interest to fight the pandemic “within the national borders”, the pandemic is a global security threat and thus remains unsolved so long as other states and non-state actors have not done the same and states move on unilaterally. 

Solving global crises and security threats such as a pandemic, similar to world economic or other security crises cannot be solved based on the realist considerations of zero-sum competitive logic. Instead, transnational security threats, such as Coronavirus, is unmasking the limitations of individual states actions in the global system. Thus, while realism does an excellent job of “diagnosing the problem”, it does not offer solutions to that problem.   

Considering the necessity of worldwide medical items and actions, coordinated and offered by international organizations and non-state actors, the uncoordinated state-based actions result in an ineffective solution to this security crisis. The perspective this article aims to offer is that given the limitations of realism, we need more faith in international transboundary cooperation based on mutual trust, especially trust vis-a-vis international institutions. However, neither the United Nations nor the World Health Organization (WHO) nor any other non-state actor can overcome the Coronavirus on its own; nor non-state actors such as international institutions are alternatives to national states in international relations. 

Instead, they are an instrument of foreign policy and statecraft and states need to rely on them, incorporating them in finding solutions to global security threats. According to constitutionalists, Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin, “States are indeed self-interested, but cooperation is often in their interest and institutions help to facilitate that cooperation.”

From our partner Tehran Times

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