Moscow metro bombings: Russia should reinvent how it handles terrorism
The recent Moscow metro bombings have deep historic and religious roots. Russia should reevaluate counterinsurgency policies, root out corruption, and counter the growth of radical Islam.
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“Jihad” in the North Caucasus is one of the favorite causes for zakat (alms) in mosques from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Dearborn, Mich. Islamist leader Doku Umarov has managed to reactivate the violent Riad us-Salihin (Garden of the Pious), of which the Black Widows are in a suicide vanguard. Mr. Umarov has threatened not only to create a North Caucasus emirate, but also to detach large swaths of southern Russia, from Astrakhan to Rostov.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Bombings in Russia
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To date, Mr. Putin’s reaction to terror attacks has missed the mark. After the 2004 slaughter in a Beslan school, he tightened Federation-wide government controls, canceled the election of regional governors, and effectively emasculated the Russian Duma. Yet, the game of Moscow-controlled musical chairs in the North Caucasus leadership positions has not produced the desired calm. Police and security services in the region remain as notoriously corrupt and inefficient as those in Moscow.
Russia’s foreign-policy responses to terror in the North Caucuses have failed as well. The Kremlin maintains contacts with Hamas and Hezbollah and, until now, has resisted meaningful sanctions against the biggest state sponsor of terrorism – Iran.
The North Caucasus, meanwhile, is looking more and more as if it’s part of the Greater Middle East. It suffers from the same high unemployment as well as rising religious extremism. It joins Afghanistan, Gaza, Northwest Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen as a political space that produces violence, terrorism, and warlordism.
Innocent Muscovites are paying the price for their government’s misdirected antiterrorism policies. A better approach would entail educating and supporting mullahs who promote enlightened Islam, disrupting connections between North Caucasus and Persian Gulf extremists, and promoting educational and employment opportunities for the droves of the North Caucasus youth. Russian law enforcement and the military should stop treating swarthy people from the Caucasus with violence and racist epithets, while police at roadblocks should stop bilking people for bribes. The Kremlin should wake up soon, otherwise the North Caucasus curse may put Russia on the verge of a civil war.
Ariel Cohen is a senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Policy at The Heritage Foundation.