The International Business Times is reporting that the Administration is monitoring reports of Russian military operations targeting ISIS in Syria (h/t Raw Story). The Russians have been backing the Assad government because the latter has provided the former with a warm water port on the Mediterranean. In late 2013 and early 2014 reports started to dribble out from Syria that between 1,000 and 2,000 hardened Chechen fighters had joined ISIS. It is these fighters, radicalized in their ongoing dispute with the Russians and their proxy strongman in Chechnya that have always been one of my greatest concerns with ISIS. Not only because of their ability to influence the events in the Levant, but because as Eastern Europeans they can blend in while traveling throughout Europe, as well as the US.* That concern aside their influence was quickly seen within ISIS as they first started issuing threats agains the Hashemite monarch in Jordan and then against Vladimir Putin – their arch enemy and nemesis. According to the IB Times report a group of Chechen fighters, aligned with ISIS, attacked a Russian military base in Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus. Given that Chechen fighters have taken up both sides of the fight in the breakaway eastern provinces of the Ukraine, these reports of Russian actions in Syria bear watching. The Syrian Civil War, the rise of ISIS, and ISIS’s ability to take and hold significant portions of Syria and Iraq are responsible for potentially creating some strange bedfellows. The US, Iran, and Russia are all opposing ISIS in Syria and Iraq while at the same time the US and Russia are in opposition over Ukraine and the US and Iran still, formally have not normalized relations and do not agree on much of anything. While it is hard to find silver linings in civil wars and the suffering that they create, let alone in the rise of ISIS and its horrific and heinous activities, the creation of a common interest, through common enemies, between the US, Russia, and Iran may be one of them. Especially if this common interest can be extended to each state’s clients. Events in Syria should be watched very carefully over the next few days to see what develops.
* My concern over the potential use of the hardened and radicalized Chechen fighters to carry out actions in Europe or the US (or Canada or anywhere else) is not meant to devalue the legitimate grievances that the Chechen people have with both the Russian government and even more specifically with President Putin and his proxy strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. One of the hallmarks of just revolution concepts is that an oppressed people always retains both the right to self defense and to fight to overthrow their oppressors. The Chechens, like everyone else, have the right to determine for themselves how they wish to order their state and society. A right that has largely been denied because of Russian meddling.