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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mailbag: Russia and 9/11

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day

Dear La Russophobe:

First of all, I really enjoy your blog. I've become very interested in Russia lately, but I don't speak Russian (yet!) so I can only really scratch the surface when it comes to deciphering the place.

But – I was kind of shocked when I read an entry about Russia and its connection to 9/11 that you posted on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Not because I'm some idealistic American patriot offended that you'd blame anyone by the dirty A-rabs for 9/11, but because you're missing the most obvious link: One of Litvinenko's allegations about the FSB was that Ayman al-Zawahiri was an "old agent of the FSB." An old FSB agent corroborated Litvinenko's story, saying that Litivnenko himself was responsible for facilitating al-Zawahiri's entrance into Russia (1). Litvinenko alleged that al-Zawahiri was being trained by the FSB when he was supposedly in their custody as a suspect rather than agent-in-training, only a few months before al-Zawahiri and bin Laden issued the fatwa that declared that it was okay to kill civilians in the name of jihad (2). It was the intellectual precursor to 9/11. Jamestown Scholar Evgenii Novikov points out the obvious holes in the accounts given by both al-Zawahiri and the FSB that despite being in possession of a well-known terrorist leader with phony credentials and encrypted Arabic data on his computer who was caught trying to illegally sneak into Russia, the FSB simply couldn't figure out eh was, and so they had no other choice but to let him go (3). Wright, in his book The Looming Tower, says that al-Zawahiri was likely the author of that fatwa. Bin Laden's favorite biographer, Hamid Mir, even declared once that in meeting bin Laden and al-Zawahiri (which he did more than any other journalist), he believed that al-Zawahiri was in control and "He is the person who can do the things that happened on Sept. 11" (4). Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were the perfect vehicle for Russian proxy terrorism: bin Laden earned his terrorist creds while fighting the Soviet Union and was once backed by the US. Surely the Americans would never dig deeper than simply "the terrorists," because of the Americans' misdeeds are also rather prominent. It also explains al-Zawahiri's low profile, despite all indications pointing to him being the key player in al-Qaeda: bin Laden needed to remain the figurehead, as he had a reputation for being against the Soviet Union. However, al-Zawahiri had no such past. Not to mention that Litvinenko pointed him out as an agent, so he couldn't play too prominent a role lest people start digging into his background.

The motive for the attacks is the motive of all Russian-sponsored terrorism: wars in the Middle East and higher oil and natural gas prices. Russia has been quite openly abetting Iran's nuclear ambitions, not because it honestly thinks that it needs any more protection of its empire, but because a US invasion of Iran would further destabilize the region and drive energy prices up further. Not to mention that terrorism is what brought Putin to power – he was unknown before the Second Chechen War, which you as the Russophobe know was likely provoked by a series of black-flag terrorist operations. Putin was the first leader to call Bush to offer his condolences after September 11th, and the Russians never miss an opportunity to cite common cause with the US – "We're both the victims of terrorism!"

Very truly yours,

Stephen Smith

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