ntroduction Most Western politicians have supported anti-Qaddafi rebels and wish the end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. Paradoxically enough, at least at first glance, the same desire is shared by North Caucasian jihadists, and this is the reason they provide neutral or even positive images of NATO policy in Libya. At lease this was the case at the beginning of the war. These neutral/positive images of NATO actions against Qaddafi go along with condemnation of NATO actions in Afghanistan, and an overall negative view of the West in general, the USA in particular. Recently Kavkaz Center, the major internet vehicle of North Caucasian jihadists, eulogized Osama Bin Laden as a victim of President Barak Obama, who they claimed was a member of a Satanic cult.
27th Oct 2011
Kavkaz Center and Civil War in Libya
Dr Dmitri Shlapentokh / South Bend, Indiana
Most Western politicians have supported anti-Qaddafi rebels and wish the end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. Paradoxically enough, at least at first glance, the same desire is shared by North Caucasian jihadists, and this is the reason they provide neutral or even positive images of NATO policy in Libya. At lease this was the case at the beginning of the war. These neutral/positive images of NATO actions against Qaddafi go along with condemnation of NATO actions in Afghanistan, and an overall negative view of the West in general, the USA in particular. Recently Kavkaz Center, the major internet vehicle of North Caucasian jihadists, eulogized Osama Bin Laden as a victim of President Barak Obama, who they claimed was a member of a Satanic cult.
What is the reason for this contradiction? The point is that while regarding Western actions in general as evil, jihadists assumed they could benefit from Western actions in certain circumstances - NATO involvement in Libya, for example. They believed that NATO/America’s actions could lead to results quite opposite to those planned.
Western pressure/actions are designed to marginalize geopolitical rivals (Russia) or install pro-Western government (as in Libya). But NATO/American actions could instead create a political vacuum, and as a result jihadists could come to power. Even when they change their views of Qaddafi and anti-Qaddafi rebels they assume that Western involvement will destabilize the Middle East and promote global jihad. And from this perspective, North Caucasian jihadists have followed, of course without acknowledging it, Lenin’s policy, which supported the German defeat of autocratic Russia in WWI. Lenin believed—correctly as history would show—that Russia’s defeat and war in general would lead not to the victory of Germany or any power and its domination over Europe, but to general chaos from which he and similar individuals would benefit.
Doku Umarov, leader of the “Caucasian emirate,” responded to the beginning of the uprising against Qaddafi almost immediately. In a lengthy interview placed on the internet, Umarov said Islam does not have a notion of “revolution,” but that he would use it to make his message clearer for the viewers. What can be seen in the Middle East in general, and Libya in particular, is revolution. The reason is clear enough: current rulers—even those who pretend to be Muslim—have nothing to do with Islam. These pseudo-Muslims - Qaddafi among them are – are considered by many to be even more disgusting than open infidels. The rise against them is justifiable and actually a duty for good Muslims. This does not mean that outcome of the revolt will necessarily be positive, in Umarov’s view, and could lead to two opposite results. The revolt could just replace one pseudo-Muslim with another other pseudo-Muslim; in this case, Muslims should not be much concerned with results. On the other hand, it could lead to the emergence of a truly Islamic regime that would facilitate global jihad. The very possibility of such an option is the reason North Caucasian jihadists support these revolts.
As the conflict raged and NATO became involved, Kavkaz Center continued to send a positive image of anti-Qaddifi rebels. They emerged as either jihadists or at least sympathizers to jihad. In most cases, the editors of Kavkaz Center sent their information indirectly by presenting Russian translations or synopses of the foreign sources.
According to one Kavkaz Center contributor, those who fight Qaddafi receive financial help from pirates and Al-Qaida, and are themselves jihadists. American officials understand that, and this is the reason why they decide not to supply them with weapons. The very fact that anti-Qaddafi represent jihadists is clear not just for Americans but also for Libyan clerics and this explains why some of the religious leaders in Libya proclaimed jihad on Qaddifi.
The readers of Kavkaz Center, most likely jihadists or their sympathizers, are also quite optimistic in regard of the outcome of the conflict in Libya. A certain “Mister Gold” stated that Qaddafi looks to him like a madman with nothing to do with Islam. He implied that this tyrant would be overthrown in near future. “Sura,” another reader, noted that he hoped the regime is in its agony. Still, one must acknowledge that Qaddifi's fight is courageous.
The outcome of the conflict in Libya looks promising, but Islamic jihadists should not be passive observers but if they are sincere should join the struggle on the side of the rebels. The reasons for the importance of true Muslims’ involvement are manifold and cannot be reduced to the simple explanation that increasing numbers of true Muslims in the fight would speed the end of the regime. One possibility is that Westerners could well invade Libya. In such a case, this would steal the victory and install a new pseudo-Muslim regime that would make it possible for West to access Libyan oil openly. Regarding the desire to control Libyan oil as the major motivation for the West to engage in Libyan affairs, a contributor to Kavkaz Center gave a type of twisted praise for Donald Trump, billionaire and earlier contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump claimed, the contributor noted, that the USA should not be ashamed of being interested in Middle East oil, but proclaim openly that it is only oil &gas that interests the USA. According to this view, Trump’s announcement reveals the West’s real intentions and shows the possible dangers of replacing Qaddifi with Western puppets. In the view of jihadists, true Muslims should be aware of Western plans and act accordingly. Kavkaz Center quoted Zawahiri—the late Osama bin Laden’s right hand—who called Arab countries to get rid of Qaddifi; otherwise, Libya would be occupied by Western countries and Al Qaida.
The future of other regions of Middle East looks much more promising. The contributor to Kavkaz Center implied here that NATO involvement played at least an indirect role in spreading the flame of global jihadist revolution. Later contributors came to the conclusion that a rebel victory would most likely lead to a pro-Western regime and their enthusiasm for Qaddafi decline. But they continued to be quite optimistic in regard to the other countries of the Middle East overwhelmed by upheavals. The contributors to Kavkaz Center assumed that they surely would promote global jihad. According to these contributors, the situation looks quite promising in Yemen. Al-Qaida detachments operate in many regions of the country and in some cases have promulgated an Islamic state. Commentators/readers praise this as great news.
Yemen is not the only place where the uprising in Libya is leading to the revolt of true Muslims against Western puppets and pseudo-Muslims. Algeria could be another example. According to Kavkaz Center, the “puppet regime” in Algeria was afraid that fighters from Al-Qaida were infiltrating the country, so thousands of police were sent to support Qaddafi. The contributors to Kavkaz Center are convinced that plans by Algerian and other governments will fail and Al-Qaida could well take big territories in Northern Africa. In the contributors' views jihadists will most likely be victorious in the current revolution.
Yet even if in the case of their temporal defeat, their sacrifice would be not in vain, for future revolt would be much easier for jihadists. To prove the point, the publishers of Kavkaz Center appeal to Al-Qaida publications such as the journal Inspire, translated in Russia. The journal “calls Libyan rebels not to retreat and to engage in fighting.” The “ruler tyrants” are the major obstacles preventing the liberation of Jerusalem. The heroic struggle of true Muslims led to the collapse of some regimes of these tyrannical, actually non-Muslim rulers. “Al-Qaida looked quite optimistically at the present course of the events” regardless of the results, for those rulers who succeed the present regime, even if they are still non-Muslim, will not be so oppressive. Even if Qaddafi and similar regimes survived they would pressed to accommodate jihadists or be more easely replaced by true Muslim leaders in the future. In any case they would not be able to control Islamists as efficiently as was the case with previous tyrants.
North Caucasian jihadists are pleased with the prospect of the victory of their ideological brothers regardless of the implications of Middle East jihadists for their fight with Moscow. Still for some of them, a Middle East jihadist victory would have direct implications for their own struggle. Here, they also instinctively follow Lenin’s way of thinking. Pre-revolutionary Lenin assumed that the Russian proletariat—still a small island in a sea of peasants/petty bourgeois—would not be able to hold power. Salvation could come only from outside, from the West with its numerous and classic conscience proletariats. The job of Russian proletariats was to start the global confrontation, to be a spark. North Caucasian jihadists also follow this line of thought in the sense that they believed that victorious jihadists from Middle East and elsewhere would make their victory possible. According to contributors to Kavkaz Center, the jihadization of the Middle East would lead to victory for the Taliban. This would help spread jihad in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Russia proper, and this would help North Caucasian jihadists accomplish their goal.
Russia is afraid that a withdrawal of American troops will lead the Taliban further into Central Asia. On rare occasions, the contributors to Kavkaz Center fully agreed with a Russian commentator that this clash would destabilize the entire situation in Eurasia. And this could well lead to indeed global jihadist revolution. Elaborating on this point, a contributor appealed to the views of Russian experts, quoting with approval Aleksandr Khramchikhin, the Deputy Director of the Russian Institute of Political and Military Analysis. According to Khramchikin, the West in general, and the USA in particular, understand that it could not conquer the Islamic world and change it according the Western model. The Libyan war could be a watershed in the history of Western and US imperial ambitions. According to Khramchikin and the contributor to Kavkaz Center, the USA is in the process of ending its involvement in the Middle Eastern war and departing from Afghanistan. At that point, jihadists would not have America as their major target, so the conquest of Russia would emerge as their major goal. The readers of the article responded to the news in two ways. Some proclaimed that jihadists in Afghanistan would be victorious and help their brothers in Russia. Another had a different vision of the future, that jihadists in Russia would be successful. And then they would reach out to their brothers in Afghanistan.
It is not just North Caucasian jihadists who believed the collapse of Qaddafi and similar rulers could promote the spread of jihadism; albeit their belief in the jihadist nature of the Libyan opposition started to decline later. This view is widespread among both Russian Muslims loyal to Moscow and Russian observers.
Islam Ru—the Moscow loyal mouthpiece of the part of Russian Islamic community—quoted Al Jazeera, which stated that the Israeli Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, and Foreign Minister had met to consider the case of the collapse of Qaddafi regime; the author of the article implied that they regarded NATO support of the rebels as ill judgment on the part of Western leaders. Consequently, they conclued that Israel should support Qaddafi and form a detachment of African mercenaries to send to Libya. Israelis had apparently already helped Qaddafi recruit and transport African mercenaries, and it is these troops who made it possible for the regime to survive for so long. According to this source150,000 African mercenaries are on the side of Qaddafi.
Semi-official Russian Islamic intellectuals have the same view. Islam Shamil Sultanov, a well-known Russian Islamic intellectual, noted that Libya could develop into a new Afghanistan. He implied that not a stable pro-Western government but chaos is in store for Libya if the regime is not toppled by NATO and rebels in the near future. Russian observers follow the same line of thought, that Western involvement could lead to chaos and global jihadization. According to RBC.ru, Al-Qaida could infiltrate Libyan rebels. According to well known Regnum, quite a few of those who fight Qaddafi are actually Islamists. And respectable Kommersant quoted Libyan officials that the end of Qaddafi could lead to anarchy. Logically, according to semi-official/official Interfax, Western politics in Libya is not well thought out. Instead of focusing attention on the rising wave of Islamism—the enemy of both Russia and the West—Washington continues to be hostile to Russia and build an anti-missile shield in Europe to neutralize Russian nuclear capabilities. Nothing good would emerge from these designs which would just help Islamists spread globally.
The uprisings in the Middle East, particularly in Libya, and Western engagement in the Libyan Civil War led to support for the rebels and implicitly for Western actions by North Caucasian jihadists. They believe that the collapse of Qaddafi or military engagement of the West would not lead to the installation of a pro-Western government, but spread jihadists globally. Their views were supported by observers in Russia, and these indications about the possible scenario of Middle East conflicts should not be dismissed.