by Srdja Trifkovic
It’s been over two years since my last major article on the jihadist hotbed in the Balkans, and a year since The Rockford Institute’s Center for International Affairs organized international conferences on terrorism in Chicago and Belgrade. Hardly a day goes by without some further confirmation of our conclusion that “the Balkans is the weak link in the global war against terrorism,” but the refusal of the Western elite class to face the reality appears to be growing more resolute with each new piece of evidence, ever more dogmatic in its assumptions and more callous in its execution. The latest whistle-blower on jihad’s Balkan shenanigans is Catalin Harnagea, former director of Romania’s post-communist intelligence service SIE. In an exclusive interview to the Jurnalul National, (April 5), he disclosed some interesting details about the involvement of jihadist terrorist groups in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and their lasting influence there. He first recapitulated the links between the former Bosnian-Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic and his friend and member of ruling National Islamic Front in Sudan, Dr. Elfatih Hassanein-omal-Fatih. The latter’s Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) was used as an arms-smuggling front as early as 1992. Harnagea says that U.S. sources knew of the links between Sheik Omah Abdel Rahman, convicted of organizing the first WTC attack in 1993, and TWRA; and yet they allowed their Bosnian-Muslim clients to develop their own connections unhindered: Several Bosnian Muslims have direct ties with TWRA, including Irfan Ljevakovic, a founder of the SDA, the Bosnian Muslim political wing and the man responsible for bringing mujahadeens to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Alija Izetbegovic, SDA and Bosnian Muslim president, guaranteed Fatih’s credentials to the Die Erste Osterreich Bank (Austria), enabling him to open an account there. [emphasis added] Erste Bank recently bought the majority stake in Romania’s largest lender, Banca Comericiala Romana, or BCR. The Bosnian Muslims used the bank account to solicit and transit funds for arms purchases… [T]he Bosnian Muslim authorities issued a passport to Osama bin Laden himself. The passport was issued in the Bosnian embassy in Vienna in 1993. The detail about Die Erste Osterreich Bank is new, but Harangea’s other assertions sound familiar. Some were summarized by Magnus Ranstorp, a specialist at the Swedish National Defense College, in his testimony before the 9-11 Commission. He warns that the presence of Islamic militants inside Bosnia makes it an attractive gateway into Europe for terrorists. “They came in ten years ago, that was the first warning signal, it was the embryo of what became al-Qaida in Europe,” he told Houston Chronicle’s Gregory Katz last December. “The Iranians are supporting activity there, and the Balkans have become the crossroads where we see the merger of Islamic extremist groups who reach out to organized crime groups.” Ranstorp said well-established organized crime networks in the region provide the terrorist gangs with routes for people smuggling and with phony identification documents: People being smuggled in add to the security threat… Most are economic migrants but hand-in-hand with that are people in organized crime who allow terrorism to be possible. They move in the same circles and need the same things. If you want to tackle terrorists, you have to tackle the supporting environment, the organized crime rings and the human trafficking rings. Law enforcement officials from many countries now talk openly of a “hidden alliance between terror networks and organized crime gangs that control heavily used smuggling routes in the Balkans is making it easier for terrorists to infiltrate Western Europe,” making the region “a paradise for al-Qaida.” This warning was illustrated by the arrest in Serbia, in March 2005, of a Moroccan accused of taking part in the deadly 2004 attacks on the Madrid train system that killed nearly 200 people; he was on his way back to Western Europe. How did this all come to pass? Why are Bosnia and Kosovo—until two decades ago virtually unknown provinces of the former Yugoslavia—becoming safe for jihad? Has it happened by accident, or by someone’s malevolent design? A decade ago an Orientalist who was at that time Yugoslavia’s ambassador in Ankara, Darko Tanaskovic, came across an interesting little brochure in a second-hand book shop in Istanbul. It was a very old propaganda pamphlet issued by an Albanian émigré organization, and it contained a simplified colored map of the Balkans. The map showed a green arrow emanating from Turkey, thrusting through the Muslim-populated parts of the Balkans (Thrace, Macedonia, Kosovo, Sanjak, Bosnia), severing the links of the unbelievers’ defensive steel chain, and victoriously heading to the north-west, towards the heartland of Europe. This geopolitical idea, known for decades as the Green Route (“Zelena transverzala”) both by the advocates and opponents of Islamic inroads into Europe, was simple but very suggestive. “I was fascinated by this concept,” Dr. Tanaskovic says, “even though I thought that it could not be of much help in understanding the phenomenon of Islam in the Balkans.” As Yugoslavia started disintegrating in the early 1990s, most Western analysts of world affairs promptly categorized the Green Route thesis as a crude, anti-Muslim conspiracy theory, mainly propagated by nationalist Serbian academics. Then along came Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations? and his subsequent book of the same name. The supporters of the Green Route thesis welcomed Huntington’s work because he used the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-95) as a key illustration of the Christian-Muslim “fault-line wars.” The proponents of a pro-Bosnian Muslim, pro-Kosovo Albanian policy in Washington, by contrast, insisted that helping Muslims in the Balkans was the best way of courting favor for the United States in the Islamic world. The Green Route theory has gained fresh credence, in non-English-speaking Europe at least, after 9-11. (Cf. e.g. Laura Iucci: “La Bosnia resta un serbatoio di terroristi,” Limes No 6-2003.) It is by now hard to dispute that the radicalisation of Islam in the Balkans—deliberate or not—turned out to be the net result of the actions of the “international community” during the Yugoslav crisis. In fact, “If Western policy in the Balkans was not meant to facilitate the Green Route, the issue is not why but how its effects paradoxically coincided with the enduring aspirations and goals of pan-Islamism, including its extremist and even terrorist manifestations.” After 9-11 “nothing was supposed to be as before,” but the U.S. policy in the Balkans has inexplicably retained its Islamophile bias that had been so remarkably persistent during the Clinton years. In the meantime, the Green Route has morphed from an allegedly paranoid Islamophobic propaganda ploy into a demographic, social and political reality. But why has the radicalization of Islam in the Balkans been covered up? Professor Tanaskovic says that an answer to this question could help explain how the objectively convergent action of radical Islamism and the leading Western democracies in the Balkans was possible. The absurdity of this ad hoc regional alliance is demonstrated by its end result, he says, namely the emergence of a patently “weak link” in the front-line war on terrorism: the American role in the West’s problematically tolerant attitude towards the extremist Islamism in the Balkans is not a consequence of not being informed about the facts. Within Washington’s policy-making community there exists an awareness that the Balkans is a part of the front-line. U.S. sources acknowledge that those regions in the Balkans where Muslims are in majority must be considered to be prime suspect entry points for the ‘Islamist International’ and terrorists. And yet, Tanaskovic notes, when questioned about the existence and the magnitude of the Islamist terrorist threat in the Balkans, Western representatives are typically evasive: They do not deny the existence of various activities that point to Islamist extremism and terrorist attempts to infiltrate into the Muslim milieu in the Balkans, but, as a rule, almost immediately, relativise it by saying that it is unlikely to disturb the social, political and security balance in the region, or to damage American (Western) vital interests. Then follows the reassuring mantra about the pro-European orientation of secularized Balkan Muslims with the optimistic conclusion that the accelerated process of the Euro-integration of the whole region would narrow the space for radical Islamism until such tendencies will finally disappear. The problem with this politically correct rhetoric is not that it is absolutely wrong but that it becomes less right as time goes by. A majority of the Muslims in the Balkans are nominally pro-European, but how do they perceive their European vocation? Are they likely to enter Europe as even more devoted Muslims? An identical query, Tanaskovic adds, concerns the Euro-integration of Turkey, a constitutionally secular country. The issue is on the agenda just as for the first time after Ataturk, self-declared Islamists have seized political power in Ankara: “Could anyone deny that these moderate Islamists are pro-European since they have been trying so hard to enter the EU? What kind of Europeans will the Turks prove to be and what will an EU incorporating Turkey look like?” These are issues, he says, that look as if they will only be thought of later, after the event, perhaps when it is too late. The principal defect of the Western approach towards the “New Balkan Islam,” Tanaskovic concludes, is its naïve faith in the attractive powers of secularisation: “This increasing divergence between the reality of the Islam in the Balkans and western complacency is bewildering and confusing. What kind of tactics is this within the framework of the global war strategy against terrorism? And why it is so dogmatically applied but only in the Balkan theatre of operation?” The involvement of the Clinton administration in the Balkan wars was a good example of the failed expectation that pandering to Muslim ambitions in a secondary theater will improve the U.S. standing in the Muslim world as a whole. The notion germinated in the final months of Bush-pere’s presidency, when his Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said that a goal in Bosnia was to mollify the Muslim world and to counter any perception of an anti-Muslim bias regarding American policies in Iraq. The result of years of policies thus inspired is a terrorist base the heart of Europe, a moral debacle, the absence of any positive payoff to the U.S. and the establishment of a vibrant, resilient jihadist base in the heart of Europe. The collusion between Muslim terrorist groups and criminal gangs in the Balkans has also spawned a criminal network with jihadist sympathies that currently supplies Western Europe with thousands of smuggled humans (most of them Muslims) and with the bulk of its heroin, mostly of Afghan origin. The trade is controlled mainly by Albanian Muslims, with the mujahedeen providing the logistics. The problem of Islamic terrorism in Southeast Europe may not be resolved short of a major restructuring of the current Balkan architecture that would entail splitting Bosnia into three fully autonomous, ethnically-based cantons, decentralizing Kosovo, and preventing its independence. The alternative is to create a lawless black hole centered in Pristina and to allow the ruling Muslim establishment in Sarajevo to develop even further its symbiotic relationship with the sources of Islamic radicalism. Far from advising a radical turn, however, the 9/11 Commission approvingly noted in its Report that “The United States defended, and still defends, Muslims against tyrants and criminals in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.” (p. 377) Remarkably enough, the same report admits that it was partly in the context of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s that the “groundwork for a true global terrorist network” (p. 58). And yet the Commission ended up recommending more pro-Islamic interventions along the lines of Bosnia and Kosovo. Such policies should be reappraised, because to continue encouraging the Muslim sense of pure victimhood embodied in the myth of the “genocide” in Srebrenica is to feed would-be suicide bombers with a political pap that nourishes their hate. If the war on terrorism is to be meaningful, that idiocy must stop. Pandering to global jihad, in the Balkans or anywhere else, is not only bad, it is utterly counterproductive.