Although Russia claims to be fighting Islamic State alongside the U.S. and its allies, David Satter argues that nothing could be farther from the truth. Moscow’s brutal bombings of civilians and support for Iran and Syria run contrary to American interests, and Russian intelligence may even be abetting terrorists when it finds them useful. (Free registration required.)
Ayman al-Zawahiri, [now] the head of al-Qaeda, was arrested in Dagestan in 1996 while en route to Chechnya to survey the possibility that it could be used as a safe haven for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organization that he [then] headed which became famous for its role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. At the time of his arrest, Zawahiri was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. . . . He arrived in Russia on a phony passport and claimed to be working for an Azeri trading company. . . . Zawahiri ended up spending six months in jail, . . . spent another ten days meeting with Islamists in Dagestan, and then left Russia for Afghanistan, where he joined Osama bin Laden and began to plan the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Something similar happened with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston-marathon bomber. Then there are Russia’s ties to IS:
With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, there is evidence that Russia is facilitating the transfer of dangerous radicals from the North Caucasus to the war zone, where they fight for IS. . . . Among those showing up in IS-controlled territory are radical preachers from Dagestan, [who have become the organization’s main recruiters in Iraq]. . . . In the meantime, the number of casualties in armed clashes between insurgent forces and security forces in the North Caucasus has declined by about 50 percent since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a sign that many members of the Islamist underground in the North Caucasus are now fighting in the Middle East.
[But beyond such malign activities], the most important reason why Russia cannot be a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism is that its geopolitical goals are fundamentally different from, and often opposed to, those of the United States.