Yossef Bodansky: Some Call It Peace
1. After the Experiment
In the Summer of 1996, the Clinton Administration was actively preparing for the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, then anticipated to take place in September. US politicians consider these elections to be the crowning achievement of the Dayton-Paris Accords. A closer examination of the situation in the former Yugoslavia, not just Bosnia-Herzegovina, demonstrates, however, that the situation is exactly the opposite. In the Summer of 1996, the entire former Yugoslavia was transforming into a "pressure cooker": a process of building inner pressure that might expedite violent eruption.
The common denominator to all the regional crisis points -- their role as potential catalysts and sparks for the resumption of fighting -- was Sarajevo's conviction that only a maximalist solution would deliver salvation for the Bosnian Muslims.
Sarajevo has been intensifying preparations for resumption of hostilities since early April 1996. Izetbegovic and his coterie believe that widespread fighting is inevitable if both Croats and Serbs are determined to prevent them from establishing a Muslim state in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sarajevo's fear was aggravated by the realization that the foreign patrons may not provide the protection and military support which had been anticipated.
The turning point can be traced to late March 1996, with the emergence of a series of reports about the viability of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the "federation" context in the aftermath of the Dayton-Paris Accords. Significantly, these reports were prepared for the German Government: Croatia's closest ally and the greatest political influence on Zagreb elite. Sarajevo could thus surmise that the acceptance of these reports, and particularly their recommendations, by Bonn, most likely means that Zagreb would also work to implement these recommendations. All the reports offered very grim assessments about the viability of the Dayton-Paris Accords and the political posture they claimed to have created in the Balkans.
One report warned Bonn, and the West as a whole, that "the objective of the present Muslim leaders in Sarajevo is not a multi-ethnic but rather an Islamic Bosnia". In order to ensure its ability to enforce such an "Islamic Bosnia" on a majority of Christians, Sarajevo is increasingly relying on "the penetration of Islamic fundamentalism" in order to shape society. The report singled out the Bosnian Croats, because they are part of the "federation", as the most threatened population segment in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This realization of Sarajevo's real objectives, the report stressed, should serve as the cornerstone of the Western policy in the former Yugoslavia.
Another report stated that the best outcome the West could hope for is for Bosnia-Herzegovina to become "another Cyprus": that is an irreversibly divided country patrolled by international forces but with no violence and fighting. This study concentrated on prospects for the implementation of the civilian reconstruction in the framework of Dayton-Paris. The study identified the mere existence of the "federation" as the main obstacle for long-term stability in the Balkans. Imposed by the US and creating internal pressures by its mere existence, the "federation" has no legitimacy, merit or future. Until its inevitable demise, the "federation" will continue creating inner tensions which are bound to erupt in violence as Croats seek to break away but have no stomach to confront Washington The study recommended that the German Government stay away from the "federation" in order not be associated with the outcome of the eruption.
If Sarajevo hoped that US belief in, and commitment to, the "federation" and Sarajevo's supremacy in Bosnia-Herzegovina would prevail over the growing European scepticism and hostility, then by May it was not so sure even about that. Sarajevo's dread of a conspiracy against a Muslim Bosnia was heightened in mid-May 1996 following the publication of an US draft of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Bosnia-Herzegovina. US intelligence experts also realized that the Muslim-Croat "federation" was the greatest impediment to reaching stability. Even US experts now concluded that the "federation" "remains largely a figment of the American imagination." For Izetbegovic and the Sarajevo elite, the shocking aspect of this revelation was not its statement of the obvious, but what they considered to be a confirmation that even the Clinton Administration, which had invented and imposed the "federation", was now joining the anti-Islamic conspiracy.
Little wonder that in late May, Western diplomats in Sarajevo were noticing that growing segments of the ruling SDA were convinced that only an Islamic Bosnia, where only Muslims could be full citizens, would provide them protection and salvation, as well as ensure that they remained in power. "The [SDA] hard-liners are trying to create an ethnically pure state," a Sarajevo-based European diplomat explained. "They are short-sighted, and in the end their bigotry will create new conflict, but after this terrible war they feel the only way Muslims can be safe is if they have complete control of Bosnia."
2. Preparing for the Fight
The Sarajevo elite has already concluded that there is no substitute for, and no escape from, fighting for their Islamic X. Bosnia. There remained the questions of what kind of fighting would be necessary and who would be the participants. In the Summer of 1996, three critical points of contention emerged as the focal points of a future eruption. The sparks and catalysts for the resumption of major fighting throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina and the entire Balkans are:
- The Islamicization of the former Serb suburbs of Sarajevo;
- Mostar as the catalyst for a new Muslim-Croat war; and
- The Brcko Corridor as a spark for resuming the war against the Serbs and getting I-FOR directly involved in the fighting.
The transformation of Sarajevo points to the evolution of crises ahead. The Bosnian Muslim government has embarked on a persistent policy of reclaiming abandoned Bosnian Serb property and the resettlement of Muslims there. Recently, this policy has evolved into the eviction by "popular" coercion of the "moderate" Bosnian Serbs who had believed in the assurances of the government and the US/I-FOR, and did not take part in the exodus. This process has already irreversibly transformed the demography of Sarajevo, establishing an overwhelming Muslim majority and effectively preventing the return of the Bosnian Serbs even in the context of a future agreement.
Significantly, the US is silent about these developments, and the Western European criticism is mute. Sarajevo thus demonstrates both disdain to international community, as well as its staunch commitment to the irreversibility of the separation as far as the Muslim held territory is concerned. The long-term significance of the Islamicization of Sarajevo lies in the fact that at the very same time the US is leading the international community in applying overwhelming pressure on the Bosnian Serb authorities to permit the return of Bosnian Muslim "refugees" to strategic areas such as Doboj and Brcko. The US even threatens the use of I-FOR to enforce the required "freedom of movement". This enduring double standard reassures Sarajevo that it can get away with its plans for provocations. At the same time, the Bosnian Serb position continues to harden, and the hostility and confrontationalism of the affected Bosnian Serb population grows, thus creating fertile conditions for the Bosnian Muslim provocations.
Mostar -- where a new Muslim-Croat war is possible anytime -- is to be the symbol of the viability of the "federation" and genuine Muslim-Croat reconciliation and co-existence. Instead, Mostar has become an excuse and venue for profound and irreconcilable strategic trends. Sarajevo is determined to demonstrate the Bosnian Muslims' unchallengeable control over the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats -- both the Herzeg-Bosna leadership and Zagreb -- would have nothing of it. War was thus likely because of Sarajevo's unwillingness to confront reality.
The long-term inherent danger in the "federation's" existentional crisis lies in the internal dynamics in Sarajevo -- in the reverberations of Sarajevo's approach to dealing with the crisis. The core issue is the enhanced and forced Islamicization of the Bosnian Muslim population as a precondition for effective mobilization for an all-out confrontation with both Croats and Serbs.
In early June, Adil Zulfikarpasic, the leader of the Muslim Bosniak Organization [MBO] elucidated the problem. He warned that a "new war between the [Bosnian] Muslims and Croats" was possible. Muslim-Croat reconciliation was not being achieved willingly. Zulfikarpasic stated that the Muslim-Croat "federation" was "non-viable" and, given the international pressure to retain it, a new war was most likely. All the negotiations are being conducted under international duress and "with one side holding a knife and the other waving a stick." Since "there is no more backing for an integral Bosnia-Herzegovina," popular fighting would erupt the moment any side overcame its current fear of international forces.
Zulfikarpasic singled out the situation in Muslim Bosnia, terming it "nightmarish". What frightens the MBO most is that Sarajevo's drive to enforce its rule over the Bosnian Muslim population enhances militancy and creates perpetual conflict, by being accomplished through forced Islamicization. Sarajevo is bringing in Islamism from the Middle East that is alien to the Bosnian Muslim population's traditional way of life and heritage. This process, an MBO official warned, served to destroy the Bosnian Muslim community more than either Croats or Serbs.
Because of its vital strategic importance for the Bosnian Serbs, Brcko is a ticking time-bomb. There is no power center which does not recognize that any disruption of the Serb communications and transportation along the Brcko Corridor means death to western Srpska, and thus constitutes a catalyst for eruption. Because of the still unresolved final status of Brcko, Sarajevo considers the crisis a legitimate opening for provocations and harsh demands which can be transformed into ultimatums and the resumption of fighting. Sarajevo is fully aware of the Clinton Administration's continued interest in strangling Banja Luka, and the US Army involvement in training of Bosnian Muslim forces in Tuzla who are overlooking the corridor. Consequently, Sarajevo is confident in its ability to instigate fighting in the Brcko area in a way which will still get the US/I-FOR to crush the Serbs for them.
Such a crisis is most likely to erupt in the wake of violent demands by Bosnian Muslim "refugees" to return to their native Brcko and I-FOR (US) support and protection of such "freedom of movement". The inevitable Bosnian Serb resistance to such a drive will put them in direct confrontation with, perhaps even the use of force against, I-FOR in the US Sector: exactly what both the Izetbegovic and Clinton Administrations would love to see happening. At the same time, even though both Pale and Belgrade are fully aware of the horrendous ramifications of a clash with I-FOR, they cannot afford to lose the Brcko Corridor. Thus, any confrontation in the Brcko area is bound to spark a wider crisis.
The explosive potential of any of these three crisis points lies in their exploiting of the real dynamics in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia as a whole. The essence of the US-led imposition of the Dayton-Paris Accords was to freeze strategic dynamics arbitrarily. The use of brute force and the credible threat of further escalation -- the might of the US and NATO -- coupled with the exhaustion of the key warring factions served to create conducive conditions for an interlude in the cessation of carnage.
But the forceful imposition of the Dayton-Paris "process" has not altered the commitment of the local population groupings and their respective leaderships to the realization of their manifest destinies. Perhaps the sole common denominator of the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs is that their respective manifest destinies do not include a Muslim-controlled, multi-ethnic and unified Bosnia-Herzegovina, the very same type of state the Dayton-Paris Accords were supposed to create.
Hence, any one, or all, of the warring factions will surge at the first opportunity to complete the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina and establish their preferred way of life. The US can impose its will on an exhausted and attritted Bosnia-Herzegovina for a brief period, especially as anti-US and anti-Europe sentiments are growing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and political pressure for a US withdrawal builds in the US. Furthermore, the quintessential grand strategic interests of both Russia and Germany are increasingly harmed by the enduring tensions in the former Yugoslavia. Both Moscow and Bonn are determined to have their proteges resolve their outstanding differences and establish a viable, though tenuous, framework for stability in the region. So Europe may move to contain the US as the local powers surge to establish a viable arrangement, most likely in a new round of intense fighting.
3. Between Real Dynamics and Politics
The present overall posture and internal dynamics of the key players is a continuation of the drive for vital interests which motivated them to break up the old Yugoslavia and endure several years of fratricidal fighting and atrocities. The Dayton-Paris Accords fail to address, let alone resolve, any of these issues. Moreover, the interlude in the violence has created a period for reflection and preparation for further pursuit of the traditional objectives. If anything, there is renewed resolve to implement the respective national plans.
The Serbs in the new Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are immersed in internal debate about their destiny. The Serbs are yet to recover from their shock. They are contemplating how to come to terms with the sudden defeat inflicted by the US and their continued demonization, even as the true facts become known. The Serbs' situation is compounded by their continued economic crisis: the lifting of the sanctions has not done much to alleviate the problem because of the withholding of foreign aid and investment. At the same time, there are initial signs of a resurrection of "realistic" or "pragmatic" Serb nationalism. This evolution is encouraged by contacts with the Russians. This revived Serb nationalism builds on awareness of the Serbian historical and regional importance yet without the aggressive militancy of some of the para-military private forces of the war. Once this trend becomes politically viable, it could transform into a driving force for democracy, reconstruction and the consolidation of a balanced strategic posture with Croatia.
The Croats are preoccupied with devising ways to preserve their chauvinistic zeal as the political asset and foundation of the Tudjman administration. Zagreb considers their regional power surge as both a strategic imperative and as the source of popular adoration for the Tudjman leadership. The recovery of Eastern Slavonia by [excessive] force is a tempting option which Tudjman's Zagreb may not be able to resist. Meanwhile, growing fears of the enduring presence of the Izetbegovic administration in Sarajevo, and the ensuing growing threat of Islamist terrorism in Croatia, make Bosnia-Herzegovina an urgent, real-time defense challenge. Indeed, Bosnia-Herzegovina is now openly compared with Iran and Libya as a terrorist state and the source of regional destabilization. Yet a greater fear of US retribution and pressure if Croatia breaks the "federation" prevents Zagreb from resolving the Bosnian problem as it would have preferred. Fearing the long-term ramifications of any delay in containing the spread of militant Islam, Zagreb is eagerly seeking any excuse -- localized conflagration -- to serve as a spark for a strategic eruption.
Izetbegovic's Sarajevo is fully aware of the building pressure from, and resolve of, its enemies. Rather than confront reality, the Islamist leadership is accepting the Iranian conspiratorial theories which explain the crisis in terms of perpetual Western hostility toward Islam. Hence, Sarajevo has given up on the West, especially the US, as a source of long-term support. Instead, Sarajevo is getting ready to lash out in revenge and despair. At the same time, exploiting the gullibility of the Clinton Administration, Izetbegovic's Sarajevo leadership is not likely to let the US forces leave in peace. Rather, General Delic is still determined to instigate a provocation which will lead to the US-led I-FOR taking on the Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
In early June 1996, addressing an Arab audience, Bosnian Vice-President Ejup Ganic anticipated the possibility of a new confrontation if I-FOR failed to impose the implementation of the Dayton-Paris Accords as interpreted by Sarajevo. "As long as there are obstacles to implementation, the danger [of renewed fighting] is always present," he stated. Concurrently, Delic anticipated "the eruption of the war once again". This war, he warned, "would extend to the region as a whole".
At the same time, and in seeming total oblivion to this dynamic, the US was increasing the political pressure on both friends and foes to ensure the timely completion of the "elections" in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Starting late May, numerous European officials in international bodies involved with the preparations for the elections, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), raised doubts about the ability to conduct meaningful elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Consequently, Washington started an effort to conceal and suppress reports, and to prevent publications which might challenge the ability to certify that conditions were ripe for elections. European officials now complain about "intense pressure" from Washington to certify that preconditions for elections exist. The US head of the OSCE's Bosnian mission, Robert H. Frowick, even instructed his staff to focus more on the positive developments rather than report the grim conditions and dim prospects for the elections. The pressure to adapt reporting reached the point that Frowick's chief of staff, also a US citizen, resigned in protest. One European observer called Frowick's instructions "a cynical move, aiming solely at justifying what will probably be a farce".
Flavio Cotti, the Swiss Foreign Minister in charge of determining if conditions were ripe for elections, continued to resist intense pressure from the Clinton Administration, including US Secretary of State Warren Christopher in person, to declare that the elections could be held on time. "If even minimal conditions are not met, then I believe it will be better to delay elections," Cotti told The New York Times. "If these elections degenerate into a farce and a drama, then it will be a negative exercise for all of the parties involved."
Nevertheless, Christopher stated in early June that the elections would go ahead in September 1996 despite all problems. US officials identified the presence of "war criminals", rather than the popular polarization and mounting inner tensions, as the primary impediment to the successful completion of the elections. Therefore, US, and to a lesser extent other I-FOR, forces will expand "more visible and proactive patrols through the country", particularly in Serb-held territory, to apprehend war criminals and assist in establishing freedom of movement. The US officials acknowledged that the primary reason for US pressure to ensure that the elections are conducted on time is Washington's mounting fear of embarrassment and difficulties for the Clinton Administration in the forthcoming US Presidential elections.
If there was nay need for an example of what the Bosnian elections would really look like, the July 1,1996, elections in the city of Mostar provided such a precedent. Technically, the elections were quite successful, for there was no violence and voter turn-out was high. However, the actual outcome of the votes in Mostar, explained a local European Union (EU) official, "is likely to foster [further] division". Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won 48 percent of the votes, all of them in the Muslim East, North and old-town Mostar, and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 45 percent of the votes, all of them in the Croat-inhabited West, South-West and South Mostar.
Although the elections were for a single city council, the results demonstrated a clear division of votes along communal lines. "The result has vindicated predictions that the elections would not change the current balance of power," an independent Western observer told Reuters. EU spokesman Dragan Gasic also anticipated a functional co-existence at best. "The estimate is that there will be no classical majority-opposition relationship. It would not be politically feasible in a town where the electorate is physically divided along ethnic lines," Gasic explained. "The SDA and HDZ will most probably be forced to form a grand coalition and cooperate on questions of joint interest." There is no expectation of a unified city government, let alone functional unification.
Nevertheless, by early July, the Clinton Administration was exercising tremendous pressure on the EU and OSCE to certify that conditions were ripe for the conduction of the national elections in September 1996. For the first time, cracks were reported in the thus-far united and resolute European stand against these elections.
But the US continued pressuring its European allies to retain forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina in an I-FOR framework well into 1997, while the US forces would withdraw to enable President Clinton to keep his promise before the elections. Still, to circumvent Washington's own promise, the US forces would establish new bases in southern Hungary, near the Croatian border, and would assemble a very heavy and "overwhelming" rapid reaction force supporting the European I-FOR remaining in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the Summer of 1996, with the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina deteriorating, the US pressure on the Europeans to retain larger I-FOR in place into 1997 and beyond was growing. The declared mandate of this I-FOR-like force, according to the Clinton Administration, would be to impose unified Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sarajevo's behalf.
And by the Summer of 1996, the original mandate of I-FOR was reaching the halfway mark. Despite US pressure on the Europeans to extend their stay in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there was increasing preoccupation among all the regional leaderships with "the day after". There should be no doubt that virtually all leaders and aspirant leaders of the three warring factions are determined to resume the active pursuit of their respective vital national objectives, if necessary through the use of force. In this context, two groups of possible scenarios are emerging:
1. The moment I-FOR withdraws, Croatia instigates a regional crisis which might escalate into war, in order to impose the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina between Zagreb and Belgrade. If Zagreb feels threatened or sure that post I-FOR conditions will not permit the escalation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Croats will instigate their regional war by attacking Eastern Slavonia and dragging the new Yugoslavia into the war. It will not take long to expand this war southwards into Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Zagreb is convinced, and not without reason and confidence, that if the US tries to intervene directly to save the Sarajevo administration the war would escalate into a European and possibly a world war. Therefore, fearing such escalation, both Bonn and Moscow would jointly strive to deter outside intervention in the Bosnian war. With the West Europeans already reluctant to do "something" for an Islamic administration in Sarajevo, such a move would essentially be anti-US.
2. Izetbegovic's Sarajevo is fully aware of the above scenario. As a result, the Bosnian Muslim elite is working to pre-empt the Croats by instigating a regional war while the US-led I-FOR is still in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sarajevo is confident that given the right "excuse" the US-led I-FOR would take on the Serbs with all the ferocity a superpower can muster, thus also deterring the Croats from challenging Sarajevo. If the Croats intervene, I-FOR would attack them too. Then on the ashes of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Izetbegovic would be able to establish his own Islamist state.
Such a pre-emptive breakout, particularly if the US-led I-FOR is slow to escalate the war, is more likely to lead to an all-out effort by both Serbs and Croats to quickly destroy Sarajevo, virtually at all cost. Both Zagreb and Belgrade know that under such conditions, their respective patrons -- Germany and Russia -- as well as the West Europe would unite to prevent the US from disrupting the new Bosnian war. Having witnessed first-hand the cynicism and opportunism of the Clinton Administration's Bosnian policy, Europe is determined to ensure that the long-term dynamic in Europe is not lost, let alone sacrificed on the altar of a misguided and irrational US policy.
As things stand at this time of writing, in the Summer of 1996, the slide toward the realization of the second group of these scenarios is accelerating.
Most telling is the escalation of Islamist special operations, terrorism and subversion. Significantly, these operations go unpunished. I-FOR is fully aware that Sarajevo's special forces, including mujahedin, are "running operations" behind Bosnian Serb lines, mainly in the US sector, and does nothing about it. Little wonder that an emboldened Sarajevo is escalating the audacity, frequency and lethality of the strikes.
The Bosnian Muslim special forces have been gradually escalating their strikes from harassment to actual special operations, such as the blowing up of the bridge near Bijeljina. The accelerated build-up of Bosnian Muslim special and terrorist forces points to Sarajevo's intention to escalate the instigation of more operations of strategic significance.
4. The Role of Islamist Terrorism
Sarajevo and Tehran continued in the Summer of 1996 to markedly expand their Islamist terrorist forces and assets, from a vast training infrastructure in the Middle East and South Asia to forward operational bases in the Balkans. Significantly, the terrorist infrastructure in Bosnia-Herzegovina is under direct control of Iran's VEVAK and Izetbegovic's AID; hence it is an instrument of the two governments. This is because Islamist terrorism is of strategic importance in the contingency plans of Sarajevo and Tehran. These activities are earmarked for spectacular terrorist operations in both the Balkans and all over Europe.
Most important, however, is the anticipated role for Islamist terrorism in the context of the consolidation of an Islamic government in Sarajevo. If and when the Europeans refuse to support, and participate in, the imposition of Izetbegovic's Sarajevo over the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Iran-led Islamists will strike, launching an intifadah of the Muslim population in Western Europe, as well as a spate of spectacular terrorism in Europe and the US itself. Beyond that, these terrorist preparations and build-up will contribute to the escalation of the Islamist jihad at the heart of the West, a longstanding objective of the Iran-led militant Islam.
A crucial component/aspect of the new terrorism infrastructure in and out of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the rise of the "Balkans". "Balkans" is now the name given to the Islamist veterans of the fighting in Bosnia -- the mujahedin -- and the Bosnian Islamists who joined their ranks having been trained in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Sudan. Presently, the "Balkans" not only concentrate in the former Yugoslavia, but increasingly contribute to other "battle fronts" in the international Islamist jihad. They build on the infrastructure and traditions established by their "Afghan" predecessors: those guerilla fighters who graduated from the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Several senior Arab security officials stress, however, that the "Balkans" are more dangerous than the "Afghans". The principal difference between the "Balkans" and "Afghans" goes beyond the improvement in military and clandestine skills between the two generations of Islamist mujahedin. The key lies in the evolution in the spirit of jihad from that of the "Afghans" to that of the "Balkans". Both groups of mujahedin are the outcome of the ideological and theological circumstances of the specific jihad which gave rise to these respective movements, as well as the concurrent overall transformation of the Islamist trend. It is significant that the Islamist world of the 1990s is far more cohesive than that of the 1980s. There is both jointness of purpose and a working operational command and control between Tehran, Khartoum and numerous Sunni Islamist luminaries.
This jointness enhances the fundamental difference between the Afghan jihad and the Bosnian jihad. In Afghanistan of the 1980s, the Muslim world was on the defensive, fighting to liberate Muslim land just occupied by the communists (both Soviets and Afghans). In contrast, there has never been an independent Muslim Bosnia. The closest Bosnia came to being a Muslim state was as the outpost of the Ottoman Empire. Presently, the Muslim world rallies to support a surge of Islam: an offensive, expansionist surge of Islam against Christian Europe. For them, the struggle for Izetbegovic's Sarajevo is the beginning of Islam's renewed march on Europe. The Islamists consider the Bosnian jihad as the first step in the reversal of the historic defeat of Turkey's armies at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
A clear expression of the importance of this trend can be found in the Turkish Armed Forces, a quintessentially secular and Westernized force. These dynamics are the security forces' own expression of the revival of pan-Turkism and Turkic chauvinism by the public at large in Turkey. The Turkish security establishment considers their growing involvement with, and support for, the Bosnian Muslim forces, a manifestation of the revival and continuation of Turkey's old glory. This is both an institutional and individual phenomenon. Turkish officers proudly point to the Bosnian use of historical unit designations, such as the "Janissary", dating back to Bosnia's contribution to the Ottoman Empire. In meetings with both Bosnian and US military personnel, Turkish officers proudly recalled their own ancestors who took part in the Turkish occupation of the Balkans, or who participated in subsequent wars in the Balkans, or who, as well, had blood roots in Bosnia. Many stressed that they considered their present support for, and training of, the Bosnian Muslim forces a direct continuation of their ancestors' contributions to the Ottoman Empire.
This growing tilt toward pan-Turkist sentiments in the security establishment reflects an overall public trend which is as much a return to Islamic self-identity as to pan-Turkist self-identity. Among Turkish intellectuals, many Western-educated, there is a growing blur between Turkic chauvinism and a move toward Islamism. Particularly among the civilians, there are also growing Islamist connotations which are as much a desire for anti-Western expression as a religious desire for a return to politicized Islam. This complex approach to modem Islamism as a political and economic issue, rather than a question of practicing religion, was demonstrated by the diversity of the voting population in Turkey for the Islamist Refah [Welfare] Party in the recent elections, and in the plurality won by the Islamists.
Even if Ankara's own motives and driving force in the revival of pan-Turkism are largely nationalistic and economic, Ankara has to rely on Islamist revivalism in order to implement its policies, from the former Soviet Central Asia, to Chechnya, and on to the Balkans. And even in its own Kurdistan, as well as in neighboring Iraq and Syria, Turkey has to rely on militant Islamists, including veteran "Balkans", to run its bolder covert operations. The close cooperation between the secular Turkish defense establishment and the various Islamist elements in Bosnia has proven a prime instrument in Turkey's own quest for glorious past: from commitment to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, to a growing involvement in Chechnya and the Caucasus as a whole. In this respect, the growing relations between the Turkish Special Forces based in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the various Bosnian Muslim special forces and Mujahedin units has provided the instruments for the recruitment of Islamists.
Starting in the Winter of 1995, a few hundred "Balkans" -- both Mujahedin and Bosnian Islamists -- were shipped to Turkey in a joint operation of the Turkish MIT (Intelligence Service) and the Refah Party. After a brief processing period in Istanbul, they were shipped to an MIT base in Northern Cyprus for advanced training. From there, the majority of these "Balkans" have been deployed to Chechnya, Afghanistan for operations in Kashmir, and eastern Turkey for deniable operations against the Kurds in Turkey and northern Iraq. There are unconfirmed reports that some of these MIT "Balkans" were involved in the recent spate of bombing in Syria. Meanwhile, a few of the best of these "Balkans", mainly Arab Mujahedin, were recruited directly by Turkish intelligence and sent for sophisticated intelligence training (espionage, recruitment of agents, codes, etc.) to be provided by the Turkish naval intelligence service in northern Turkey. These "Balkans" are earmarked as the core of long-term penetration and operations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.
The adverse potential impact of these new roles for the "Balkans" is not lost on many West European governments. Indeed, starting the Spring of 1996, several European security authorities raised the issue with Ankara. According to European officials, in response, their Turkish counterparts alluded that Ankara would not have done any of this without the blessing of, and support from, the Clinton Administration. The Turkish officials did not provide any substantiation to their assertion, nor is there an independent confirmation. However, if that is the case, and the Clinton Administration even tacitly endorsed the Turkish "recycling" of the "Balkans", then this is even worse than the US record in Afghanistan. The US has, since the end of the Afghanistan war, been burned extensively by the "Afghans", who were originally armed, trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as a result of the CIA "looking the other way". The people they supported, trained, armed and turned loose later came back to lead the anti-Western jihad of the Islamists. Washington should have known better than to "look the other way" with the "Balkans".
The Turkish use of the "Balkans" -- both for their professionalism and Islamist revolutionary zeal -- is but one case in a growing number of Islamist "causes" in which the "Balkans" supplement the "Afghans" as the standard bearers. For example, the four perpetrators of the November 1995 bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, were a Saudi "Balkan" and three Saudi "Afghans". Their network and strike were sponsored by Sudan and Iran.
The extent of the integration of "Balkans", including Bosnian Islamists, into the terrorist elite is becoming apparent in the aftermath of this Spring's exposure of terrorist support networks in Western Europe. These networks were smuggling weapons, explosives and personnel for the Algerian GIA and other North African Islamist groups. These networks answered to the high command in Khartoum. Significantly, the key members and operatives of these networks were Algerian "Balkans" and Bosnian Muslims. Were they not exposed in time, these Islamist networks would have launched a wave of spectacular terrorist strikes in France, Belgium and other West European states. Other Arab terrorists have been apprehended throughout Europe recently while traveling with Bosnian documents.
There are far-reaching global strategic ramifications from the rise and spread of the "Balkans". Already, essentially in the infancy stage of the "Balkans" phenomena, the impact of the veteran mujahedin who had served in Bosnia-Herzegovina on the various Islamist subversions and terrorism all over the world is great. "Balkans" are showing up in senior positions from the US to Western Europe, from North Africa to the Middle East, and from Chechnya to Kashmir and on to Malaysia. Even though they are still very small in numbers as compared to the "Afghans", their impact is greater. Motivated by their assertive Islamist zeal, the "Balkans" and their sponsoring states bring with them a very aggressive and offensive jihad which emphasizes the march of Islam and the conquering of new lands for the Islamist cause.
Consequently, the Islamist movement throughout the entire hub of Islam is being transformed. Until recently, radical Sunni Islam has been a predominantly localized movement: the Islamists striving to transform their own countries or communities into Islamic entities. The "Afghans" were the soldiers of Islamist solidarity, assisting brethren Islamists to build Islamic governments in their own places. In the aftermath of Bosnia, the Sunni Islamist movement is being transformed into an expanding and advancing movements seeking to spread the Islamist Revolution into foreign lands. The "Balkans" are the standard bearers and missionaries of the new Islamist Revolution. Essentially, the "Khomeinization" of the Sunni Islamist movement has been virtually completed with the emergence and rise to prominence of the "Balkans".
A place where this transformation is crucial and the long-term strategic ramifications are crucial is Chechnya. Chechnya is a major crisis which still threatens the stability of the Russian Government, and the ability of any Russian President to implement reforms and increase economic freedoms. Any slowdown in the social and economic dynamics is bound to have dire ramifications on Russia's relations with the West. Given Russia's immense global strategic importance, the West cannot afford such adverse developments.
The evolution of the Chechen crisis can be traced to the influence of foreigners. The "Afghans", with sponsorship of, and strong support from, the Iranian, Pakistani and Turkish intelligence services accomplished the Islamicization of what started as a national liberation movement. A major aspect of this phase was the adoption of terrorism -- both deep inside Russia and overseas -- as a primary instrument of the Chechen revolt. The arrival of the first "Balkans", who are also sponsored and supported by these three intelligence services, facilitated the beginning of yet another profound change in the Chechen revolt. This time, there was a gradual shift to the strategic offensive with a strong pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic character. The Chechens and their Islamist allies have been reaching out to other Muslim nations in the Caucasus in an effort to organize a region-wide Islamist uprising, as well as jointly advance into Russia and the Ukraine. "Balkans" operating out of Chechnya even made contacts with Islamist elements among the Crimean Tatars, urging them to join a regional jihad.
No government in Moscow can be expected to tolerate such a strategic threat. If the jihad rising out of Chechnya was allowed to grow, Moscow would ultimately have no alternative but to strike out at the sponsoring sources of the Chechens and their allies. The strategic ramifications of such a Russian surge would be profound, if only because Turkey is a NATO member and a Russian presence on the shores of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf would drastically alter the global strategic posture. The West cannot afford such strategic changes.
Still, at the same time, the Clinton Administration continues to shield the growing Iranian involvement in AID and Sarajevo's other security activities. The US even misleads its closest allies in an effort to conceal the extent of the Islamist presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina. For example, General Michael Walker, the Commander of the I-FOR Ground Forces, complained in May-June 1996 that the intelligence data provided by the US about the presence of mujahedin in Bosnia-Herzegovina was grossly incorrect. In one area where the US reported the presence of four Iranians, I-FOR's own intelligence information pointed to the presence of between 100 and 200 pro-Iranian mujahedin.
Eventually, in July 1996, after months of deliberate lying about the numbers of mujahedin in Bosnia-Herzegovina, senior US Clinton Administration officials began to admit that the mujahedin had remained in the country in overwhelmingly greater numbers than the US had hitherto acknowledged. Many Western and Eastern European intelligence services had based their assessments of the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina on US-supplied intelligence. The trust of the Europeans in the veracity of US intelligence claims was thrown away, particularly among the Eastern European states, new to dealings with the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The Clinton Administration, meanwhile, was also making great efforts to conceal the surge of militant Islam into Europe from Bosnia-Herzegovina by stressing the "moderate" image of the Sarajevo administration and by presenting the frequent discoveries of aid's involvement in international terrorism as low-level and isolated aberrations. The Clinton Administration sought to divert attention from these developments by preoccupying the European governments, international organizations and Western public opinion with the apprehension of Serbian "war criminals" and with having the elections on time as the primary sources of threat coming out of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In mid-June 1996, the Clinton Administration was pushing to hold the elections in September even as Bosnia-Herzegovina was falling apart. Even Izetbegovic admitted that the time was not ripe. With US support, Izetbegovic now demanded that I-FOR create the appropriate conditions of unification conducive for the holding of the elections: that is that I-FOR suppress both the Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
5. Facing Reality and History
For the Clinton Administration to acknowledge the truth, and in effect abandon the imposition of its interpretation of the Dayton-Paris Accords, would amount to an admission of the failure of its Bosnian policy. By any standard, this is a hard thing for any superpower to do, especially in a hotly-contested election year. Thus, rather than acknowledge the facts in the Balkans and recognize the vital interests of the closest allies of the United States, the Clinton Administration elected to continue with the imposition of the Dayton-Paris process and the consequent escalation of the US military involvement. It is because of this profound discrepancy -- between the realities in the region and the general course of US policy -- that continued enforcement of the Dayton-Paris Accords by the US becomes a milestone with long-term ramifications going well beyond the Balkans.
The US Clinton Administration continued through 1996 on its anti-Serb crusade, if only to justify past actions. The US insistence on the timely holding of the Bosnian elections in September 1996 despite continued deterioration of the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- and organized violence against candidates, such as the attempt on former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic in mid-June 1996 -- is indicative of this trend. Indeed, European officials stress that the Clinton Administration insisted on holding the elections primarily because their failure would look bad on the Administration's record in the US presidential elections.
Similarly, the entire Balkans policy of the Clinton Administration is driven by domestic, especially election year, interests. Increasingly, the quintessence of the Clinton Administration policy was to retain support of the pro-Bosnian lobby in the US, primarily the Arabists. Thus, with the Dayton-Paris Accords collapsing on their own, the Clinton Administration was trying to revive the Kosovo issue as the next point of contention with Serbs.
The place where the apparent Serb vulnerability and lack of resolve might be effectively exploited is Kosovo. Until recently, the lingering fear of inevitable and ruthless Serb reaction to any encroachment of their hallowed grounds in Kosovo served as a restraining factor for all Islamist factions striving to liberate the Albanians of Kosovo, let alone capitalize on their plight in order to escalate and widen the war against the Serbs.
Presently, however, the mere existence of Kosovo as a potentially unresolved issue serves as a catalyst for a growing crisis engulfing the entire Albanian population of the Balkans. The core of the Albanian issue is the Islamicization of the Kosovo problem. This, in turn, enhances the potential of exploiting militant Islamism against not only Yugoslavia but also secular and increasingly Westernized Albania, as well as Macedonia. Because of the presence of US civilians and US forces, the destabilization of Albania by the Islamists emerges as an ideal way of dragging the US into active participation in the Balkan wars even if the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis is resolved or is no longer considered valid international-political justification for such an intervention.
Since early 1996, there has been a spate of terrorist strikes in Kosovo Most attacks were carried out by Albanian separatists.
In mid-February 1996, a few bombs exploded in several Krajina Serb refugee dwellings in Kosovo. The explosions did not cause casualties or extensive damage. In Prishtina, "The Liberation Army of Kosovo" claimed responsibility for these attacks. "On 11 February 1996, the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army conducted an armed operation in Operation Zone 1. Hand grenades were used in guerrilla attacks on the refugee camps in Prishtina, Mitrovica, Pec, Podujevo, Suva Reka, and Vucitrn " The communiqué defined the objectives of the organization. "In the interest of peace in the Balkans, and the Serbian and the Albanian nations, we demand the end to the colonization, terror, and occupation of Kosovo, as well as the emigration of the Kosovar Albanians."
Meanwhile, in Albania, a representative of the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo also claimed responsibility: "We planted the bombs in Kosovo, and this is only the beginning." "The Liberation Army of Kosovo" reacted immediately, releasing yet another communiqué reaffirming their responsibility. This communiqué stressed that the recent bombings were only the beginning of a terrorist campaign. The statement said that "for the sake of peace in the Balkans, we are letting it be known to Belgrade that the actions so far were only an indication of fresh bombings and at the same time an invitation to an urgent dialogue on the withdrawal of the army and police forces from the Republic of Kosovo." "The Liberation Army of Kosovo" also urged the United States and other world powers to recognize the independence of Kosovo, "because otherwise war in this region is inevitable"
In late April 1996, Albanian terrorists again demonstrated their reach and ability to operate. On April 22, a spate of shootings in the province's towns of Stimlje, Pec and Decani and at Kosovska Mitrovica on the Rozaj-Pristina road targeted both civilians and police. In one attack, terrorists opened automatic fire and threw grenades into a Serb cafe in Decani killing five patrons and wounding a few. Shortly afterwards two policemen on patrol were attacked with automatic fire and both were wounded. Then a police car was ambushed near Brus with one fatality. Another police car was ambushed on a nearby road, with another fatality and another wounded. A week later, there was an attempt to blow up the house of the police station commander in Dusanovo. The bomb caused part of the building to collapse, but there were no injuries This time, there were only unofficial claims by "The Liberation Army of Kosovo", primarily explanations by third parties in Albania, Turkey and the Middle East that the Army was again responsible for the attacks. More important was the effort by the "establishment" front -- The Democratic League of Kosovo [LDK] -- to ensure the political impact of the terrorism. The LDK denied any connection to the terrorism. However, in late April, its leaders warned that unless Kosovo gained independence, there would be a marked escalation in Albanian terrorism. In a communiqué, the LDK warned of "further radicalization" in the region because "Albanian patience" was running out.
Since then, the low key harassment of the Yugoslav authorities by low-level sporadic terrorism continued. In early May, "The Liberation Army of Kosovo" issued an announcement that "the armed conflict in Kosovo and Metohija would resume and that it would spread throughout the Balkans" Indeed, in mid-June, there were several shooting incidents in Podujevo and Mitrovica, in which one policeman was killed and two others wounded. These attacks were immediately claimed in Prishtina and Tirana by Albanian separatists. Soon afterwards, "The Liberation Army of Kosovo" claimed responsibility for these attacks. Moreover, in Tirana, the Information Center of Kosovo [QIK] pointed out that "the new wave of state violence and terror in Kosovo proves of possibilities for efforts to cause great troubles at a time when the question of Kosovo has become prominent for the international community."
[Editor's Note: some opposition groups use the spelling "Kosova" or "Kosovar". We have standardized here on the formally-accepted spelling: Kosovo.]
The surge of terrorism did not come as a surprise. Since the early 1990s, Sarajevo and its Islamist sponsors had been actively preparing for the next round of assault on the Serbs: this time through Kosovo.
By mid-1993, Sarajevo and its allies were already preparing to launch operations into the Yugoslav strategic rear. The key was the plan to subvert Kosovo and rapidly escalate an armed struggle against Belgrade from bases in Albania. In June, the government of Saudi Arabia donated $ 1-million to build "a refugee camp" for Bosnian Muslims in Albania. However, in mid-July, a senior Bosnian official in Sarajevo confided to the BBC's Misha Glenny that "the Bosnian government intended to use the base for guerillas to be sent into Kosovo. The Serbs would not be able to differentiate the [Bosnian] guerillas, linguistically or ethnically, from the local Serbs." These Bosnian operatives would be able to carry out a series of terrorist operations which could be attributed to a Kosovo Albanian organization, thus instigating a fierce reaction by the Serb security forces, and, consequently, a cycle of violence. The ensuing widespread violence in Kosovo, Sarajevo believed, would then be used to induce Western military intervention against Yugoslavia itself.
Meanwhile, Sarajevo and the Islamists began preparing and training Albanian cadres for the future escalation of the Islamist struggle for Kosovo. In mid-1993, Sarajevo revived the Handzar Division with all its fascist culture and preoccupation with the division's role as worthy successors to its SS predecessors. The primary role of the Handzar Division is the Praetorian Guard for President Alija Izetbegovic and other senior leaders in Sarajevo. The Handzar Division is comprised of a 2,500 to 3,000 elite force deployed in Sarajevo and a 6,000 to 7,500 strong back-up force in Fojnica.
Significantly, the majority of the troops of the Handzar Division are not Bosnian Muslims. Instead, they come from the region's other Muslim minorities, primarily Albanians, and are led by veteran Pakistani and Afghan experts. "Surprisingly few of those in charge of the Handzars in Fojnica seem to speak good Serbo-Croatian. Many of them are Albanian, whether from Kosovo or from Albania itself," explained UN officers in Fojnica. "The Handzars are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strong presence of native Albanians is an ominous sign. It could be that the seeds of war are spreading south via Kosovo and into Albania, thence to the Albanians of Macedonia." These observations, made in late 1993, proved correct.
By 1995, the Handzar Division had been transformed into a zealot and combat proven special forces. In many cases, particularly in the surge into western Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Summer-Fall of 1995, they operated in close cooperation with the mujahedin units. The deployment of Albanian veterans and support mujahedin cadres to Albania began in the Fall of 1995. Meanwhile, the international Islamist leadership was completing preparations for the escalation of the terrorist campaign into Kosovo. Toward this end, the establishment of new Islamist headquarters in Tehran and Karachi were decided upon during the PAIC [Pan-Arab Islamic Conference] convened in Khartoum in the first days of April 1995. The new regional center in Karachi is responsible for Islamist activities in Albania, including Kosovo. Consequently, by late 1995, both the command echelons and operational cadres were ready for the escalation of the Islamist surge into Kosovo. Indeed, as discussed above, violence erupted in early 1996.
The renewed terrorism in Kosovo was seized upon by the Clinton Administration as an excuse for a marked increase in US intervention in Kosovo on behalf of "oppressed Albanians". This commitment was symbolized by the opening of US a Information Center and a diplomatic office in Prishtina on June 5,1996. Not by accident, it was John Kornblum, the Chief US mediator for former Yugoslavia, who opened the Information Center in Prishtina, thus signifying the political significance of the event. In his remarks, Kornblum stated that the opening of the center was another "proof of permanent US interest and concern for the people of the region".
Albanian leaders quickly stressed the political aspects of the event and their expectations from the Clinton Administration. In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Ibrahim Rugova stated that this was "a historic day for Kosovo and the peoples living there." He thanked President Bill Clinton and all other US politicians who contributed to the founding of the Center in Kosovo. Xhemal Mustafa, Rugova's information counselor, added that the opening of the USIA Center served as "a strong confirmation of the recognition and internationalization of the Kosovo issue. The fact that the United States opened its first office in Prishtina testifies that the US preoccupation, assistance, and interests in Kosovo have already become identified and are assuming the character of a serious and promising institutionalization." Edita Tahiri, LDK Chairman for Foreign Affairs, also stated that "Kosova and the Albanian issue have been acknowledged by the US Administration".
As it is, the Kosovo Albanians are reading too much into a bold maneuver of the Clinton Administration's Balkan aspects of the American election policies. The Administration does not care about the Albanians in Kosovo. The Clinton Administration is troubled by President Milosevic who is essentially living up to virtually all his commitments in the Dayton-Paris Accords and other contracts with the US. With the demonization of the Serbs presented as the justification for the US presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there emerged an urgent need in the White House to find yet another reason to continue to demonize the Serbs and confront the new Yugoslavia: enter the plight of the Kosovo Albanians.
However, these events are read differently in the Balkans. Indeed, the Clinton Administration has already created expectations among the Albanian leadership for massive intervention to ensure Kosovo's independence. Officials in Macedonia already warn that the Kosovo Albanians are "waiting for a new Dayton". Once they realize that this is not going to happen, there will be yet another victory for the Islamists and the surge of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the US regional policy is centered on the demonization of the Serbs because it is a morally-loaded subject which, because it is negative [being against the Serbs], does not require the Administration to face and explain facts. Furthermore, the continued demonization of the Serbs provides populist explanation for the Clinton Administration's not living up to commitments made in the context of the Dayton-Paris Accords.
For the Europeans, who are pursuing their own vital and long-term interests, the Clinton Administration's Bosnian policy is already emerging as a profoundly abject lesson. The Europeans are now increasingly convinced that rhetoric about allies and partners notwithstanding, the US will not hesitate to disregard or hurt European vital interests if they conflict in any way with the conveniences of the Clinton election campaign.
Despite the Clinton Administration's infliction of long-term damage to the US-West European alliance in order to pursue the pro-Sarajevo policy, the Muslim world continues to insist that whatever the US is doing is not enough. It is virtually impossible for the US to pacify and placate the Muslim World because Islamic revivalism is inherently anti-US, and calls for the establishment of a Muslim political order which is in irreconcilable contradiction with the Western world order, including the principles of the Dayton-Paris Accords. This prospect does not deter the Clinton Administration from intensifying its efforts to impose pro-Sarajevo solutions on Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its policies are dominated by election-year domestic political considerations The impracticality and deceitfulness of the Bosnian policies are thus of no concern to the Clinton White House.
Other world powers also follow closely the twists and turns of the Clinton Administration's Bosnia policy as an indication of the innermost character and traits of US policy. The readily-observed discrepancy between the declared US policy and the Clinton Administration's real actions in Bosnia plays a major role in how governments around the world base their policies and diplomacy vis-a-vis the US.
In global terms, most important is the evolution in Moscow's grand strategy. In the aftermath of the second and final round of the Russian presidential elections in early July 1996, Pres. Boris Yeltsin's Government will increase its active pursuit and defense of the traditional and strategic interests of Russia. Pres. Yeltsin's selection of Gen. Aleksandr Lebed as his national security supremo reflects Moscow's growing preoccupation with global and security issues. The formulation of a new order in Europe, and particularly the ramifications of NATO's slide eastward, is one of the highest priorities facing the Yeltsin-Lebed team. Moscow considers recent developments in the Balkans as precedents for US aspirations in Europe: emerging trends which are considered a national threat to the Russian Federation. Aleksey Bogaturov and Viktor Kremenyuk, of the Institute of the United States and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, explain Moscow's concerns:
"The point is not whether the North Atlantic Alliance is aimed against Russia politically or juridically, but that structurally and geopolitically, its expansion carries the logic of ethnic-state fragmentation according to the Western model -- which is highly destructive to Russia -- that has already manifested itself in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the former Soviet Union. A comic -- and at the same time tragic -- manifestation of this logic are the Muslim-Croatian and/or Serb formations in Bosnia, whose statehood has been hopelessly destroyed."
The Russian national security elite is committed to the restoration of undisputed Russian hegemony over virtually the entire former Soviet Union through both a web of economic relations and military might. The Yeltsin-Lebed team considers the rise of militant radical Islam a major long-term threat to Russia. The reverberation of the Islamist rise in Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly the flow of "Balkans" into Chechnya, and the consequent Islamicization of the revolt, are considered threats to the Russian long-term national security posture which Moscow finds increasingly difficult to tolerate, let alone compromise on. Hence, in pursuit of its own national security interests, Moscow will harden its position over finding a "peaceful solution" to the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis.
Essentially, Russia has quietly concluded that it can no longer trust the Clinton Administration's assurances that the eastward expansion of NATO and the cultivation of former Soviet Republics (particularly the Ukraine) are not aimed at containing and destabilizing Russia. Hence, Moscow feels compelled to concentrate on confronting the rising "threat" from the West at the expense of other strategic priorities and considerations. Aware of the Islamist escalation of the war in Chechnya using Bosnian assets, and the rise of the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc, Russia is making deals with the devil in order to free Moscow's strategic attention to dealing with the European challenge. The strategic arrangements with the People's Republic of China (PRC), accomplished during Russian President Boris Yeltsin's visit to Beijing in April 1996 are the most important outcome of this Russian policy. Moscow is preparing for either winning over, or engaging in a major confrontation with, the rise of Islam in the heart of Asia and South-West Asia. Either way, the ensuing consolidation of Russian hegemony over these vital areas of Asia would become a strategic calamity for the West.
Meanwhile, Beijing and its closest allies, particularly the key members of the Trans-Asian Axis, sense the US weakness and vulnerability. Anticipating a growing US involvement in, and sinking into, a Bosnian quagmire, the rogue states are eager and determined to exploit this US preoccupation in order to enhance their strategic posture. Again, the rise of the Beijing-led Trans-Asian Axis as a hegemonic entity in Asia will devastate US economic relations with the Pacific Rim economic powers and threaten US access to the oil resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. The US economy of the late 1990s cannot absorb any of these prospects, let alone a combination of both.
So the long-term outcome of the Clinton Administration's Bosnian policies, and especially the imposition of the Dayton-Paris Accords, is that Washington is harming its own vital and long-term interests. Without any tangible strategic gain, the Clinton Administration has already alienated and harmed relations with its closest allies and friends. At the same time, the Clinton Administration continues to help and embolden some of the US's worst enemies. All, in the name of an election year's domestic policies: a prioritization not lost on a large number of world capitals.
And what can the Clinton Administration show the prospective electorate for such a heavy strategic price?
The latest round of US diplomacy has only aggravated the situation. In the aftermath of the June 2,1996, meeting of Presidents Tudjman, Izetbegovic, and Milosevic with US Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Geneva, Zagreb had all but given up on the viability of co-existence with Izetbegovic's Sarajevo, let alone the continued existence of their "federation". Croatian officials concluded that there was no logic in a continued effort "to speed up the implementation of the civilian part of the Dayton agreement, which, despite the international community's efforts, is facing disaster". Moreover, official Zagreb has despaired of the adamant refusal of the Clinton Administration to confront the realities in the former Yugoslavia, and instead continue on its relentless campaign to demonize the Serbs and pursue "war criminals".
By mid-June, Zagreb insiders were openly challenging the US-led international attributing of the collapse of the Dayton-Paris Accords to the unfinished "hunt" for Serb "war criminals", particularly Radovan Karadzic. Zagreb insiders are now stating openly that the Karadzic issue has always been the "alibi" of the Clinton Administration for the failure of its Bosnian policy. The well-connected Goran Rosic explains:
"Everybody -- starting from the international community, to the United States to Carl Bildt, to official Sarajevo -- is ready to find an excuse for the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the fact that Radovan Karadzic remains in power, that is, in absolute power in the Serb Republic. However, that is not the whole truth. For some time now some processes have become clearer, and they lead us to the conclusion that each party has been trying more and more openly to express its dissatisfaction with the peace agreement and some of its provisions, openly placing obstacles in the way of implementation."
Indeed, the collapse of the Dayton-Paris process is the outcome of a profound phenomenon: the solidification of the self-identities of the three main peoples inhabiting Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the Summer of 1996, there was no longer any doubt about Sarajevo's commitment to the Islamicization of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In June, Ejup Ganic stressed the Islamic character of the new Bosnia-Herzegovina as the key to its unique role in Europe as a representative of the Muslim world. "We are part of and at the heart of Europe. Our presence here will give an indication of how Europe interacts with the Islamic world," he explained. Ultimately, he added, the Bosnians "are also determined to keep our Islamic identity, and we will try to reinforce that identity by extensively introducing Arabic in our ways. We will also teach about the Serbs' atrocities and mass extermination."
Zagreb insiders see in this trend a major factor in the collapse of the Dayton-Paris process due to mounting alienation between Bosnian Muslims and Croatian Catholics. They attribute Sarajevo's growing intransigence to "the fact that the Islamization of Bosnia-Herzegovina is taking place more and more openly". The intensification of the Islamicization process is the primary factor for the distabilization of Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the inherent hostility and confrontational relationship between Sarajevo's Islamist doctrine and Christianity.
Expressing the perception of the Zagreb elite, Goran Rosic is most apprehensive about Sarajevo's coping with the unfolding reality in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He notes that "the Bosniak-Muslim leadership is slowly grasping that the whole Bosnia-Herzegovina still exists only on paper". Domestically, Sarajevo "is adjusting its policy more and more openly to the idea of the pure Bosniak state in the territory under the control of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Army". At the same time, "before the eyes of the international community, it uses all its forces to struggle for a whole and united Bosnia-Herzegovina". Herein lies the potential source of the eruption of fighting.
Rosic explains that Sarajevo has not yet given up on its desire to instigate a major military confrontation between I-FOR, the Bosnian Serbs and even the Bosnian Croats. "Alija Izetbegovic and his associates have introduced a novelty by which they put pressure on the Serb entity (they are using these tactics in Stolac, too) and increase tension. In an organized way they send members of their nation into the Serb entity (Doboj, Prijedor, Brcko) and thus provoke the Serbs. At the same time they are testing the resoluteness of I-FOR to protect civilians. These attempts have proved unsuccessful so far. The frequency of them suggests that even worse incidents could happen, which is probably the objective of such a 'policy'. In the same way, they put pressure on the international community to enable the large-scale return to the homeland of those Bosniak Muslims who are in exile all over the world. Their return could create a critical mass of homeless and dissatisfied which could result in new crises, both in the Bosniak Muslims' relations with the Serb Republic and with their [Croat] partner within the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina." The consequent spate of Islamist terrorism and subversion throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina is all but inevitable.
Goran Rosic, reflecting the perception of official Zagreb, has only a grim outlook for Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Having all this in mind, one can conclude that such an approach by the international community toward Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the behavior of the Bosniak-Muslim and the Serb side, suggest that Bosnia-Herzegovina is situated between war and peace at the moment. No vital question has been solved, and day-by-day the renewal of conflict is growing more and more certain." Zagreb is losing hope in the US-led international community, concluding that 'T-FOR is no longer such a guarantee of peace as it was three or four months ago, and that its role is becoming more and more questionable". If the September elections were imposed by the US, they would "cement the final division of Bosnia-Herzegovina".
Consequently, Izetbegovic's Sarajevo will have no escape from confronting the contradiction between the reality of a small Islamic state hostile to both Croats and Serbs, and Sarajevo's genuine and declared commitment to consolidating, by force if necessary, Islamic control over the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina. Zagreb is convinced, and not without good reason, that Izetbegovic's Sarajevo will make a desperate attempt to "liberate" the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina before accepting reality. The ensuing war will most likely transform into a regional war as predicted by Delic. Belgrade shares this assessment.
Indeed, at the time of this writing, in the Summer of 1996, Izetbegovic's Sarajevo was intensifying its drive for the consolidation of control over the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina through any means. Confronted with the prospects of US-imposed elections, Sarajevo was attempting to remove from the scene potential contenders to Izetbegovic: as demonstrated in the assassination attempts on Abdic and Silajdzic. Moreover, Sarajevo does not rule out the use of force in order to ensure Izetbegovic's hold over the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina. "No honest man in Bosnia can remain unarmed," Izetbegovic recently told a crowd in Gorazde. The reason for this militarization is to ensure that "One day, all Bosnia will be liberated." This is not idle rhetoric. Since April 1996, General Delic and the Bosnian Muslim High Command are actively preparing for such a war, a war which includes attack on the US contingent in I-FOR in order to induce a rapid US withdrawal which would leave behind the bulk of the US forces' most modem heavy weapons. At the same time, faced with the realization of the extent of the US commitment to the survival and military primacy of Sarajevo, as reflected in the Iran-Bosnia scandal, Zagreb is determined to reverse these trends. President Tudjman and his closest allies are desperate for a strategic breakout which will not be held against Croatia. Zagreb perceives that a provocation which will alienate the US from Sarajevo, while laying the blame on the Muslims and/or Serbs will result in Western acquiescence for the Croatian ascendency to regional hegemony The consequent carving up of Bosnia-Herzegovina between Croatia and the new Yugoslavia is a strategic must for Zagreb. Hence, the possibility of a sudden upgrade in the conventional military capabilities of Bosnia-Herzegovina is a nightmare to Zagreb: a potential challenge to their long-term plans and strategy. A quick implementation of the Bosnian Muslim military build-up might push Zagreb into an early and expedited implementation of its worst-case plan: instigating a regional war involving the new Yugoslavia. If not contained, such a war would probably escalate and transform into a European or even a world war.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration continues to insist on the imposition of the Izetbegovic administration on all of Bosnia-Herzegovina and particularly the Bosnian Serbs. In its relentless efforts to bolster Sarajevo's hold overall of Bosnia-Herzegovina through the demonization and destruction of the Bosnian Serbs, the Clinton Administration remains not only oblivious to the complex realities of the former Yugoslavia of the mid-1990s, but also of the historical record and lessons. In her 1941 masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, written in the aftermath of her 1937 travels through Yugoslavia, Rebecca West identified the relations between Serbs and Muslims in Sarajevo as a reflection of the greater dynamics in Bosnia:
"This beautiful city speaks always of their preoccupation with one another, of what the Slav, not to be won by any gift, took from the Turk, and still was never won, of the unappeasable hunger with which the Turk longed throughout the centuries to make the Slav subject to him, although the Slav is never subject, not even to himself."
Selected Bibliography >>