by Gordon M. Hahn
Salahuddin al-Shishani – the Caucasus Emirate’s envoy to the mujahedin in Syria, amir of the Caucasus Emirate in Sham (Levant-Syria), and former amir of the Jeish al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA or Army of the Emigres and Helpers) – has given the ‘bayat‘ or Islamic loyalty oath the new amir of the Caucasus Emirate (CE) mujahedin, Abu Urman al-Gimravii (Gimiriskii), born Magomed Suleiman(ov). Surrounded by some 50 mujahedin Caucasus Emirate in Sham (CES) mujahedin, Salahuddin also called on all of the mujahedin of Russia’s North Caucasus (and presumably elsewhere in Russia) to follow his example and refers to himself as “the representative of the Caucasus Emirate in Sham” (the Levant) (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2015/07/09/109598/sham–mudzhakhidy-imarata-kavkaz-v-shame-dali-bajat-amiru-ik-abu-usmanu-gimrinskomu-video.shtml).
As I have detailed, the CE increasingly became divided over the struggle for leadership of the global jihadi revolutionary movement between Al Qa`ida (AQ) and the Islamic State (IS) (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/25/the-caucasus-emirate-in-the-levant-and-the-is-aq-fitna-complete-parts-1-and-2/, https://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/10/the-islamic-state-al-qaida-tussle-over-the-caucasus-emirate-continues/, and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/28/leading-global-jihadi-authority-maqdisi-issues-fatwa-to-shore-up-struggling-caucasus-emirate/).
This divide culminated in the recent defection of most CE amirs and mujahedin to IS and the formation of the Caucasus Governate (Vilaiyat Kavkaz) of the Islamic State (CGIS or VKIG) (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/06/19/the-caucasus-emirate-of-the-islamic-state-the-ces-full-integration-into-is-is-almost-complete/ and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/03/the-caucasus-vilaiyat-of-the-islamic-state/).
Thus, Shishani also referred to the ‘fitna’ or dissension within the global jihadi revolutionary movement. (www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2015/07/09/109598/sham–mudzhakhidy-imarata-kavkaz-v-shame-dali-bajat-amiru-ik-abu-usmanu-gimrinskomu-video.shtml).
The CES bayat is a small boon to the disintegrating CE and helps maintain the jihadi group in the face of the IS/CGIS challenge, despite the fact that the CES mujahedin appear to have no intention of returning home. On the other hand, the Salahuddin and the CES had been loyal to the CE earlier, so this is merely the preservation of the CE’s position in Syria. However, that position is weaker now in the wake of Salahuddin’s ejection from the JMA last month. In that position Salahuddin – and through him the CE as well – was in a stronger position by virtue of the JMA’s thousand or more fighters and their international makeup, hailing from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tatarstan, Crimea, Syria, Europe and elsewhere. This assisted the CE’s networking within the larger global jihadi revolutionary movement, especially the AQ-led alliance within it and with prominent groups in Syria such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the newly formed Jeish Shariah. On the other hand, the CE and AQ dodged a bullet in that Salahuddin and the Caucasus mujahedin who left the JMA with him did not join the IS.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation. He is also Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View, a Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, and an Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics. Dr. Hahn has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (2011-2013), the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. (1995 and 2005), and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, and St. Petersburg State (Russia) Universities.