The Russian Roots of Terrorism
I learned about the passing of former Washington Times columnist John Lofton as I was looking through an old file of clippings and found a Lofton gem entitled, “Where terrorism is rooted,” from the July 5, 1985, issue of the paper. It’s a reminder of Lofton’s important style of writing and the fact that the Islamists we face today learned their style of warfare from the Soviets, who established the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as “the fulcrum of the Soviet Union’s strategic approach” to world revolution, especially control of the Middle East.
At the time, President Reagan was battling the Soviet empire, including its support for international terrorist groups. Lofton reminded his readers of many facts about the Soviet-supported international terrorist networks. These facts are extremely relevant today.
Lofton quoted from Marx and Lenin, establishing the fact that the communists were advocates of terror from the beginning. He cited evidence of Soviet sponsorship and support of terrorist groups and personalities from the PLO, to “Carlos the Jackal,” to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the African National Congress in South Africa.
One looks back on what Lofton wrote about and has to conclude that the modern-day Islamic terrorists we face today grew out of these communist networks that the Soviets sponsored.
Discussing the communist Sandinistas—who have retaken power in Nicaragua—Lofton noted, “The Sandinistas were trained in Cuba and by the PLO. In August 1979, the European representative of the Sandinistas, Jorge Mundi, spoke of these ties, saying: ‘We have long had close relations with the Palestinians. Many of the units belonging to the Sandinista movement were at Palestinian bases in Jordan. In the early 1970s, Nicaraguan and Palestinian blood was spilled together in Amman and in other places during the Black September (a terrorist group) battles … It is natural, therefore, that during our war against Somoza we received Palestinian support for our revolution in various forms.’”
What Lofton was describing was a concrete example of how the communists and the Arabs and Muslims were collaborating in terrorism.
What we have learned since that time is that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat was actually a trained KGB operative. The case of Carlos the Jackal, the KGB-trained Marxist terrorist, is perhaps more significant. He converted to Islam.
In his column, Lofton had faulted President Reagan for not being aggressive enough in fighting the Soviets and their agents. Our problem today is that we have a President who pretends not to recognize the enemy and authorizes a half-hearted effort to stop one particular Islamist group in the Middle East, while failing to support freedom fighters in Ukraine against the main enemy—Russia.
It is not fashionable to accuse the Russians of having any ties to Middle East terrorism today. Indeed, some conservatives seem to think the U.S. and Russia can work together to defeat radical Islam.
The analyst and author Jeff Nyquist asks, “When we learn that a leading commander in ISIL was born in the Soviet Union and trained in Russia, we ought to wonder what is really going on?” Omar al-Shishani, the Russian commander in ISIL (also known as ISIS or the Islamic State), has been reported to be the group’s overall military chief.
We have heard repeatedly about Americans and Europeans fighting for ISIL, but little attention is being devoted to the Russian-speaking foreign fighters that make up the group. Their numbers are estimated at 500 or more. Omar al-Shishani is usually described as a prominent Islamic State fighter who is Chechen. In fact, he was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and was trained there.
Some reports suggest these fighters are opposed to the Russian-backed Assad regime in Syria and Russia itself. But if this is the case, then why is Russia opposed to U.S. bombing of these terrorists? NBC News reports that the Russian foreign minister says airstrikes “should only go forward with Syria’s consent.”
Coming from a country that violated international law when it invaded Ukraine, this attitude makes no rational sense.
In a story headlined, “Russia condemns U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria,” The Washington Post reported this interesting piece of information: “Although the Islamic State has gripped Russian news media, there is far less public pressure to get involved in eradicating the militant movement than in the United States, where videos of militants beheading captives, including two Americans, dealt a shock to the country.”
It is indeed fascinating that ISIL has been targeting Americans and that the state-run Russian media, always anxious to label the freedom fighters in Ukraine as Nazis or fascists, are not rallying the Russian people for action against ISIS. Why? Some experts are speculating that Moscow is seeking a U.S. deal with Syria’s Assad and even the Iranian regime, to work together to defeat this suddenly new menace. That, in turn, could lead to a deal to reward Iran with its own nuclear weapons program, supposedly as a check on Sunni “extremism,” as Obama calls it.
Before we jump to conclusions that Russia is on our side in fighting ISIS, it might be wise to examine the history of international terrorism, its Soviet roots, and Russia’s ties to these networks today. President Obama told “60 Minutes” on Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community had “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.” So what do we know about this mysterious entity called ISIS? Could Russia be playing both sides in this conflict as part of a geopolitical game to safeguard its Iranian client state?
It might be worthwhile to consider that former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, still in the hands of the Kremlin, might have helped thwart efforts by the U.S. intelligence community to learn the truth about ISIL. It would seem to be in Moscow’s interest to hide its hand in this terrorist threat.
The urgency of this matter is impressed upon us by the revelation that the Islamist who beheaded a woman in Moore, Oklahoma had a Facebook photo of Omar al-Shishani.
As we attempt to understand the intelligence failure that Obama himself admits, it would also be wise to go back and examine the writings of conservatives like John Lofton, who were reporting the facts about Soviet terror 30 years ago. Lofton spoke with clarity and passion.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke eloquently on Monday about the “poisonous tree” that has given rise to groups like ISIS and Hamas.
That tree, the evidence shows, has its roots in Moscow. That’s where the PLO—and eventually Hamas—came from. In addition to supporting a Palestinian state that could threaten Israel’s existence, it is the Putin regime in Russia that is the major international sponsor of the Iranian terrorist regime today.
Our media think that because the Soviet Union died and a modern Russia supposedly emerged in its place, these issues are irrelevant. But the head of this new Russia is a former KGB spy who wants to reconstitute the former Soviet Union. He invaded Ukraine. Is it really too much to believe that the Kremlin has had a hand in the rise of ISIS?
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