Balkan Strategic Studies

October 1997

US Moves to Help Bosnian Muslims Attack Serbs

Originally published in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy journal.

The recent (September 22) Washington DC Strategy '97 conference workshop on Balkan security highlighted the fact that the US Clinton Administration policy was confirmed as "securing [Bosnia Herzegovina leader Alija] Izetbegovic's Islamic state at all cost, including direct US military intervention". In the workshop, Strategic Policy Senior Editor Yossef Bodansky said that, in mid-September 1997, "US senior officials suggested in Sarajevo that the US forces would remain in Bosnia beyond their scheduled pullout in June 1998". By the end of September, confirmation of this was coming in, as the normally pro-Izetbegovic New York Times prepared to run a strong piece on the matter. [It ran on October 3, 1997, while this edition was on the press -- Ed.] The Times piece noted: "The Muslim-led Government in Sarajevo appears to be intensifying a clandestine program to arm and train its military, and senior NATO officials say it is close to -- or may already have achieved -- the ability to mount a crushing offensive against the Bosnian Serb-held part of Bosnia." Times correspondent Chris Hedges quoted a senior NATO commander as saying: "The question no longer is if the Muslims will attack the Bosnian Serbs, but when. The only way to prevent such an attack . . . is for the peacekeeping mission to extend its mandate." Senior NATO officials have confirmed to the Times that illegal arms shipments to the Sarajevo Muslims were now commonplace, and that an Iranian Pasdaran general posted to the Iranian Embassy in Zagreb was working with the Croatian Government to facilitate arms smuggling to Izetbegovic's forces.

There is some indication that the Clinton White House believes that the military consolidation of Bosnia Herzegovina under the Izetbegovic Administration (bear in mind that not all Muslims in the country support this Administration) would be desirable. The Clinton Administration materially and illegally assisted the Croatian consolidation of its territory with the "ethnic cleansing" (to use the Croatian phrase) of the Krajina region, sweeping United Nations peacekeepers out of the way and resolving the issue, once and for all, militarily. Now, a similar "ethnic cleansing" of the Bosnian Serbs from Bosnia Herzegovina seems imminent, where once these people -- mostly farmers -- held legal title to 60 percent of the land. Meanwhile, the US is spending $ 300-million to arm and train the forces which will, in contravention to the Dayton Accords, undertake the purge against the now ill-equipped Bosnian Serbs. And US diplomacy has been to fragment and cower the Bosnian Serbs still further.

One well-placed British source told Strategic Policy: "Washington does not care at this stage about the historical rights of peoples in the area. They have made their commitment. All that the rest of NATO can do is to attempt to restrain Washington, Sarajevo, Zagreb and Tehran. The US has also made sure that rump Yugoslavia, under Milosevic, cannot even raise a voice in protest. Clinton has supported both Croatian and Bosnian Muslim 'ethnic cleansing' so that, in Washington's eyes, viable states can be created, and to ensure that this happens they have helped Milosevic destroy the Yugoslav Armed Forces."