Russia to quadruple troops stationed in the North Caucasus

Just six months ago, the Kremlin declared "mission accomplished" in settling the restive, largely-Muslim region of Chechnya, and pledged to withdraw at least half its troops stationed there. Russian soldiers have allegedly resorted to brutal tactics in the decade-long effort to subdue the region, including the systematic beating and raping of Chechen civilians, widespread detention and torture, and the murder of human rights and opposition activists.

But the Kremlin has claimed victory in the regional struggle time and time again, and the most recent claims of success seem as wrong as ever; yesterday the Georgian Daily reported that "Moscow is planning to increase the number of units in the North Caucasus military district by a factor of four, according to officers there..." The plans come amidst an escalating Islamic insurgency in Ingushetia, the region bordering Chechnya to the west.  

There's no doubt that the Kremlin is facing a protracted struggle. Doku Umarov, one of the most prominent members of the insurgency (who has been reported dead on a number of occasions) released a lengthy statement in 2007 on the Al-Qaeda affiliated website Kavkaz Center, in which he declared Muslim rule:

 I reject all laws and systems established by infidels in the land of Caucasus.

I reject and declare outlawed all names used by infidels to divide Muslims.

I declare outlawed ethnic, territorial and colonial zones carrying names of "North-Caucasian republics", "Trans-Caucasian republics" and such like.

I am officially declaring of creation of the Caucasus Emirate...

We will relentlessly wage war on everyone who will oppose the establishment of the Sharia, Inshaallah. And those who openly violate that which was established by Allah and scorn the Islamic religion should not think that we will leave it unpunished. That is a serious delusion."

Photo:  KAZBEK BASAYEV/AFP/Getty Images


Everyone's mighty confident about this Honduras deal

U.S. policymakers are celebrating this this morning's breakthrough in Tegucigalpa. Speaking in Islamabad, Hillary Clinton said:

I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue. 

In a press release, Sen. John Kerry also praised the agreement:


“I welcome the agreement ending the crisis in Honduras. The restoration of democracy is an historic accomplishment for the Honduran people. The accord provides a roadmap for elections on November 29, but success will depend on rigorous international monitoring of the accord’s implementation.

I would say that success depends more on both sides sticking to the agreement. Before he can return for to serve out his last month as president, Zelaya still has to win a vote in a Congress controlled by his opponents. Then there's an imminent election. It would be hard for any country to shift seamlessly from military standoff to democratic election mode in time to hold an a credible election in less than a month.

Yes, Zelaya is constitutionally barred from running but the inevitable chaos of the next few weeks could give him the opportunity to delay the vote or justify his own candidacy as a bid to restore national unity. Zelaya's desire to run again was, after all, what set this crisis in motion. 

In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for shenanigans on both sides in the coming weeks. Last night's agreement is certainly welcome progress, but I think international observers should probably take a little more time to observe the situation and make sure it's not still Groundhog Day.