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WASHINGTON – Russian Chechens who are radical Sunni Salafists have joined with the Syrian opposition to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fueling Moscow’s concerns over al-Assad’s downfall and a rupture in the alliance his country has with Shi’ite Iran, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
It’s because Russia looks to Iran as a hedge against the spread of Salafism in Russia’s own North Caucasus region.
The Chechens are from that region. And even though Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov denied that Chechens are fighting in Syria, the son of the late Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelayev, who fought in two post-Soviet wars against Russian forces, was killed while fighting on the side of the Syrian rebels.
Rustam Gelayev apparently was killed between Aug. 11 and Aug. 13 and was buried on Aug. 17 back in the Russian Chechen republic. The younger Gelayev reportedly had received further training in an undisclosed Middle East country and was in Syria along with an undisclosed number of Chechen volunteer fighters.
Their presence underscores the sectarian differences between the Sunnis and Shi’ites in what has turned into a civil war in Syria. It also reflects the growing influx of radical Sunni elements in that effort.
Such outside Salafist forces are being encouraged by Saudi Arabia, which is the bastion of Wahhabists and Salafists, both of which are allied with al-Qaida.
Similarly, Qatar not only is directing Sunni volunteers to Syria but is helping to bankroll their effort to unseat the Shi’ite Alawite al-Assad regime to reinstall a Sunni government after 40 years of the al-Assad family ruling Syria.
Saudi Arabia in particular is increasingly concerned with al-Assad’s alliance with Shi’ite Iran, which officials fear is spreading its influence throughout the Middle East.
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