Inside Out

In EDM, Mairbek Vatchagaev writes that “locating Tamerlan’s ideological trajectory in the North Caucasus may prove to be little more than a distraction.” He points out that, with impaired links to Chechen culture, Tsarnaev appears to have been relatively isolated from the Chechen world, and probably picked up his Islamist views in Boston, from local Salafists. This would account for his hostility to U.S. Middle East policy, and his choice of the U.S., rather than Russia, as the target for a terrorist attack.

The article also draws attention to the fact that it was only some time after the Boston attack that the potential North Caucasus link began to be mentioned, giving the Moscow authorities an opportunity to become involved in the investigation:

In all this tragedy, Moscow seems to consider itself a winner. President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference that Russia had long sought cooperation from the US in the field of international terrorism ( There was more of a reprimand of the US in Putin’s words than an admission of Russia’s own guilt for the attack in Boston. Moscow interprets terrorism in quite broad terms and includes everyone who is dissatisfied with the Russian political system and seeks to secede from Russia.

It has been observed that one point not addressed in the piece – though raised obliquely in one passage – is the question of whether Tsarnaev might have been a Russian agent.

Meanwhile, an RFE/RL report considers the role social media may have played in interactions between Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his Kazakh college friends Dias Kadyrbaev and Azamat Tazhayakov:

The vKontakte post by Kadyrbaev is striking mostly because of its timing. When it was posted there had already been reports of a shoot-out that had left one suspect dead and another on the run, but at the time, most of the world — perhaps including police — would still not have been able to connect a name to the grainy image of suspect no. 2 being shown on television screens. Kadyrbaev though, had allegedly already known for up to nine hours.


Russian cleric demands Palestinian state

Via PressTV:

Russian and world Muslims demand the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, says Chief of the Council of Russian Muftis Sheikh Rawi Ayn al-Din.

The chief of Russia’s highest Islamic institution made the remarks during a Friday prayer sermon in Moscow also attended by Iran’s ambassador to Russia and an accompanying delegation.

British blinkers

Julie Burchill, on the curious but predictable attitude of British media to the flotilla crisis:

Not once did I hear a British interviewer ask any of the so-called secular radicals participating in the flotilla why they are allied with Islamic supremacists who subjugate women, persecute gays, oppress non-Islamic minorities and seek to impose Islam globally.

Shalev: Lebanese ships will be stopped

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev has said in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council that the attempt by flotilla organizers to sail from Lebanon to Gaza could escalate tensions and affect peace and security in the region, the Lebanese portal Naharnet reports. The ambassador also said that Israel would exercise its right under international law to “use all necessary means” to prevent the ships from breaking the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

New IHH flotilla to sail in late July

Via Ynetnews:

The next flotilla is due to sail in the second half of July, IHH said. The group invited the international media to inspect all goods on board before the convoy sails to "demonstrate their commitment to total transparency".

Israel says the IHH has links to Muslim militants, which the group denies.

Gaza links

Some links and headlines from the media and blogosphere:

  • The Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie is still headed for Gaza.
  • Turkish newspapers have reported that three of the four Turkish jihadis killed during the boarding of the Mavi Marmara by IDF troops had declared their readiness to become shaheeds, or martyrs.
  • IDF footage of demonstrators aboard the Mavi Marmara preparing and initiating the armed confrontation.

  • At Standpoint, Joshua Rozenberg has republished an IDF document which gives an assessment of the legality of Israel’s military operations off Gaza this week.
  • US Vice President Joe Biden has said that Israel has the right to stop the ships bound for Gaza.
  • The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report is publishing intelligence digests and articles about the flotilla, which it says is largely composed of organizations tied to the GMB.
  • The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan has said that Israeli troops should not be blamed for the deaths of activists on the Mavi Marmara.

Turkey’s role in the Gaza conflict

Israeli sources say it appears likely that the demonstrators who used knives. clubs and other weapons to attack IDF soldiers aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara are themselves Turkish nationals, and belong to an Islamist group connected with global jihadi networks. In fact, around 400 of the 700 people who sailed in the 6-vessel convoy were Turks. A recent TIP release notes that

The IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi – “humanitarian relief fund”)…has provided financial support to Iran-backed Hamas and has ties to global jihadi networks and the Muslim Brotherhood – a global umbrella Islamic organization of which Hamas is a branch – as well as mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.

In 2006, a study conducted by the Danish Institute for International Studies showed that the IHH was involved in planning an al-Qaeda attack against Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. IHH reportedly acquired forged documents, enlisted operatives and delivered weapons to al-Qaeda in preparation for the attack, which was ultimately foiled.[6]

The Danish study also cites a French intelligence report which stated that in the mid-1990s the IHH sent a number of operatives into war zones in Muslim countries to get combat experience. The report said that IHH transferred money and “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.[7]

Israeli officials have expressed concern that Islamist groups that endanger Israeli national security now have considerable influence within the Free Gaza movement, the group that organized the flotilla. According to the group’s own mission statement, “We agree to adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance in word and deed at all times.”[8]

6] “IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 26, 2010,

[7] “IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 26, 2010,

[8] “Our Mission,” Free Gaza Movement Web site, Jan. 30, 2009,

[9] Wilson, Scott, “Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2010,

The release goes on to stress the links that are believed to exist between the IHH and Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, observing that in recent years the Turkish government has moved away from cooperation with Israel and has adopted a less friendly stance on several issues, including a conciliatory approach to Iran on the question of sanctions and the Iranian nuclear program.

While in themselves the actions and statements of a self-styled humanitarian organization might not be thought to present a significant challenge to the security of other states, including Israel, the IHH group’s connections both with militant Islamists and with the Turkish government party do give considerable cause for concern. In particular, the news that the Turkish Navy is reported to be considering sending a naval escort for the next two boats carrying pro-Palestinian demonstrators presents the possibility that such an action could spark a major conflict between Turkey and Israel. That the Mavi Marmara incident was a deliberate provocation there seems little doubt – hopefully it did not mark the first stage in a planned series of escalations. Western peace activists who have joined the convoys need to be careful that their activities do not end in starting a regional war.

Update (4.25pm): Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutogu has said in Ankara that “it’s time calm replaces anger”.

A hard choice

In Commentary, James Kirchick laments how backing for an authoritarian leader in Russia’s backyard may have cost the U.S. support from a natural ally in the war against terror. Excerpt:

the simple fact is that the war against the Taliban would be made immeasurably more difficult were the Manas air base to close. Insofar as the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan would be a disaster for the people of that country and present a haven for al-Qaeda, ensuring a stable government there is not just an American concern but also a global one. And Bishkek has its own national interests in this realm as well. In the immediate years prior to 9/11, militants from the Islamist Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group sheltered by the Taliban, launched multiple attacks into southern Kyrgyzstan. That doesn’t mean that the domestic problems of Kyrgyzstan are not important. But fixing them (something that is largely the responsibility of the Kyrgyz people themselves and beyond the seemingly awesome powers of the United States) cannot come at the expense of eliminating a vital supply line to Afghanistan.

Hat tip: Kejda Gjermani