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State Department to leave Chechen rebel group off terror list

The State Department’s update of its annual list of official terrorist groups is imminent, but the group that just attacked Moscow won’t be on the list. The Caucasus Emirate, which has been waging a jihad against the Russian government, is led by Doku Umarov, who calls himself the "emir of the North Caucasus." He was ...

The State Department’s update of its annual list of official terrorist groups is imminent, but the group that just attacked Moscow won’t be on the list.

The Caucasus Emirate, which has been waging a jihad against the Russian government, is led by Doku Umarov, who calls himself the "emir of the North Caucasus." He was previously President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, but dissolved that Republic and established the Emirate in its place in 2007 in order to impose sharia law in his territory.

Umarov declared all the way back in 2007 that his group was expanding its struggle to wage war against the United States, Great Britain, and Israel. Last month, he released a video claiming credit for the suicide attacks in Moscow in March that resulted in the deaths of 39 people.

But apparently, the State Department chose not to include Caucasus Emirate in the newest update to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, according to Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-FL, who is calling on the State Department to add the group for the sake of national security and U.S. -Russia relations.

"This is a low profile organization that has continued to carry out high profile acts of terrorism, including the twin bombings in Moscow recently," Hastings told The Cable in an exclusive interview, "They’ve got a jihad against Russia and the United States. If that ain’t a terrorist organization, I don’t know what is."

Hastings is introducing a new Congressional resolution Thursday detailing the crimes committed by Caucasus Emirate and urging the State Department to add them to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Hastings, who is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), got involved in the issue after hearing about the group from scores of Russian lawmakers. He said listing the group would be an easy win for U.S.-Russian relations.

"President Obama has pressed the reset button, but too often we find ourselves not trying to do things with the Russians," said Hastings, "The State Department has the opportunity to amend the report to include this organization."

Some experts note that there is internal debate within the Chechen rebel community about whether the group’s declarations of jihad against the West is really such a good idea.

 "It seems that the Caucasian rebels themselves are frightened by their own ‘war declaration’ against the West," Andrei Smirnov wrote in an article for the Jamestown Foundation, "The absurdity of the rebels’ declarations lies in the fact that they declare war against the West, and at the same time beg for aid in their anti-Russian struggle."

"Whatever the Caucasian rebels say, it is clear that they do not have much in common with the interests of the international Jihadi movement," Smirnov went on, "This movement has no smaller plans than the Jihadi movement worldwide, but it nonetheless limits itself to activities inside Russia’s borders and has no ambitions to grow into an international problem."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin