ISIS takes its fight to Russia’s backyard

ISIS spreads primarily through the Internet, using it as a sophisticated instrument of propaganda, recruiting and expanding

Maria Dubovikova
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More and more terrorist groups swear allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the international attempts to bring down ISIS seem in vain.

The strongest extremist organization gains the terrain, both on the ground of Syria and Iraq and in the minds of people far from the Syrian and Iraqi borders. ISIS challenges the Security Services all over the world, as the way it spreads is extremely difficult to be cut and controlled.


ISIS spreads primarily through the Internet, using it as a sophisticated instrument of propaganda, recruiting and expanding, along with personal contacts of its recruiters. Spreading over the net, they create cells as metastases, far from the Syrian and Iraqi borders – in Nigeria, in Libya, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in Algeria, in Tunisia and others. The list is already long and is becoming longer.

ISIS is not al Qaeda. Its force and unity does not depend on authority and cult of one leader

The alarming message has come from a Russian senior security official after a session of the SCO’s regional anti-terror body, saying that some warlords of the prohibited Emirate of Caucasus have pledged their allegiance to ISIS. This trend challenges not only Russia, over 1700 citizens of which have joined ISIS, and who fight in Syria and Iraq (this figure is an estimate, the real numbers could be higher still), but for the whole Caucasus region and the neighboring countries.

Non-proclaimed war

Georgia is already fighting, or about to fight, a non-proclaimed war against ISIS. The Pankiski Gorge, the valley region of Georgia, birders with Russia’s Chechnya and is populated mostly by the Chechens.

The Gorge, feebly controlled by the Georgian authorities and security services due to its specificity and complexity of geographical location, poses a great security problem for the countries in the region, it being practically a free portal for local young radicals and militants of to go to the ISIS stronghold and return.

Now the Gorge is infiltrated by ISIS “so called” emissaries who brainwash the youngsters, recruit them and send to Iraq and Syria, using this well prepared and organized route functioning in an ideal way, used by the extremists willing to join ISIS worldwide.

The Gorge is a matter of great concern for Russia too. The Russian Caucasus Republics seem relatively stable, however there are regular anti-terror operations there. The stability is kept by the enormous efforts of the security forces and strongmen of the region.

“Liberate” the Caucasus

But who knows how long they will be able to keep the current relevant stability, as long as ISIS is getting stronger. The consequences of the destabilization in the region would be extremely dramatic. ISIS and its Chechen squadrons have already declared the war to Russia and promised to “liberate” the Caucasus.

ISIS has recently menaced the U.S., promising to “burn America” also, putting the two best rivals on the same side of a chessboard.

The scale of the ISIS menace to Asia is also dramatically rising. Many citizens of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have joined ISIS. According to data provided by the General Sergey Smirnov, deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, over 4 000 people from the post-Soviet Central Asian republics fight for ISIS.

ISIS infiltrates the already existing terrorist groups so uniting them into one powerful and strong force. It’s quite obvious that ISIS will target - and targets already - all Muslim communities all over the world.

Assaulting stability

The tactical measures taken on the local level are shortsighted and inefficient in terms of the already global ISIS influence. The attempts of countries to take measures on the local levels and even in cooperation with their neighbors are also inefficient as they are about to elaborate the system of measures to counter the threat posed by ISIS.

Meanwhile ISIS has already created a complete system of assaulting the stability on the inside of countries in all levels and dimensions. They are one step forward already, that make the attempts to counter their threat much harder and less efficient. ISIS appeared to be much more ready for the use of the modern technologies in pursuing their goals, than the countries that have created these technologies.

The West’s focus on the illusory Russian threat that is more a matter of dreams than reality, wastes resources and forces on the countering of Russian propaganda. And it misses the time to counter a true and very concrete global theat.

The international community should realize the need of complex measures uniting all countries of the world to counter the ISIS threat. All sides should be united not under the aegis of a country, but of the U.N., for a stronger legitimacy and efficiency, as it prevents from turning the common affair into a business of a single country or a group of countries to serve their proper interests.

The ISIS cancer

ISIS is not al Qaeda. Its force and unity does not depend on authority and cult of one leader, but on the idea, lying in the core of this far-reaching project. It exists not only on the ground that can be bombed, but in virtual space, that needs much more sophisticated approaches.

Furthermore there is no way to stop the recruiters through dotty measures and to track down all of them. ISIS gets weapons and money, they trade in oil. To stop ISIS there is a need of a detailed investigation of the chains of its financial flows to cut them once and for all.

But it would be a tough challenge, as there are many of those who are eager to make a fortune on this devilish business. But if not to work on it now, the ISIS cancer will enter its final stage, where all the measures will be definitely vain and there won’t be nothing left but to watch the civilizations dying in the hellish barbarism.

Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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