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For your attention
by threehegemons
22 April 2002 23:16 UTC
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Steven Sherman spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you 
should see it.

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to 

America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian Muslims
The Srebrenica report reveals the Pentagon's role in a dirty war
Richard J Aldrich
Sunday April 21 2002
The Observer

The official Dutch inquiry into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, released last 
week, contains one of the most sensational reports on western intelligence ever 
published. Officials have been staggered by its findings and the Dutch 
government has resigned. One of its many volumes is devoted to clandestine 
activities during the Bosnian war of the early 1990s. For five years, Professor 
Cees Wiebes of Amsterdam University has had unrestricted access to Dutch 
intelligence files and has stalked the corridors of secret service headquarters 
in western capitals, as well as in Bosnia, asking questions. 

His findings are set out in "Intelligence and the war in Bosnia, 1992-1995". It 
includes remarkable material on covert operations, signals interception, human 
agents and double-crossing by dozens of agencies in one of dirtiest wars of the 
new world disorder. Now we have the full story of the secret alliance between 
the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to 
assist the Bosnian Muslims - some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now 
fighting in "the war against terrorism". Pentagon operations in Bosnia have 
delivered their own "blowback".  

In the 1980s Washington's secret services had assisted Saddam Hussein in his 
war against Iran. Then, in 1990, the US fought him in the Gulf. In both 
Afghanistan and the Gulf, the Pentagon had incurred debts to Islamist groups 
and their Middle Eastern sponsors. By 1993 these groups, many supported by Iran 
and Saudi Arabia, were anxious to help Bosnian Muslims fighting in the former 
Yugoslavia and called in their debts with the Americans. Bill Clinton and the 
Pentagon were keen to be seen as creditworthy and repaid in the form of an 
Iran-Contra style operation - in flagrant violation of the UN security council 
arms embargo against all combatants in the former Yugoslavia.  

The result was a vast secret conduit of weapons smuggling though Croatia. This 
was arranged by the clandestine agencies of the US, Turkey and Iran, together 
with a range of radical Islamist groups, including Afghan mojahedin and the 
pro-Iranian Hizbullah. Wiebes reveals that the British intelligence services 
obtained documents early on in the Bosnian war proving that Iran was making 
direct deliveries.  

Arms purchased by Iran and Turkey with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia 
made their way by night from the Middle East. Initially aircraft from Iran Air 
were used, but as the volume increased they were joined by a mysterious fleet 
of black C-130 Hercules aircraft. The report stresses that the US was "very 
closely involved" in the airlift. Mojahedin fighters were also flown in, but 
they were reserved as shock troops for especially hazardous operations.  

Light weapons are the familiar currency of secret services seeking to influence 
such conflicts. The volume of weapons flown into Croatia was enormous, partly 
because of a steep Croatian "transit tax". Croatian forces creamed off between 
20% and 50% of the arms. The report stresses that this entire trade was clearly 
illicit. The Croats themselves also obtained massive quantities of illegal 
weapons from Germany, Belgium and Argentina - again in contravention of the UN 
arms embargo. The German secret services were fully aware of the trade.  

Rather than the CIA, the Pentagon's own secret service was the hidden force 
behind these operations. The UN protection force, UNPROFOR, was dependent on 
its troop-contributing nations for intelligence, and above all on the 
sophisticated monitoring capabilities of the US to police the arms embargo. 
This gave the Pentagon the ability to manipulate the embargo at will: ensuring 
that American Awacs aircraft covered crucial areas and were able to turn a 
blind eye to the frequent nightime comings and goings at Tuzla.  

Weapons flown in during the spring of 1995 were to turn up only a fortnight 
later in the besieged and demilitarised enclave at Srebrenica. When these 
shipments were noticed, Americans pressured UNPROFOR to rewrite reports, and 
when Norwegian officials protested about the flights, they were reportedly 
threatened into silence.  

Both the CIA and British SIS had a more sophisticated perspective on the 
conflict than the Pentagon, insisting that no side had clean hands and arguing 
for caution. James Woolsey, director of the CIA until May 1995, had 
increasingly found himself out of step with the Clinton White House over his 
reluctance to develop close relations with the Islamists. The sentiments were 
reciprocated. In the spring of 1995, when the CIA sent its first head of 
station to Sarajevo to liaise with Bosnia's security authorities, the Bosnians 
tipped off Iranian intelligence. The CIA learned that the Iranians had targeted 
him for liquidation and quickly withdrew him.  

Iranian and Afghan veterans' training camps had also been identified in Bosnia. 
Later, in the Dayton Accords of November 1995, the stipulation appeared that 
all foreign forces be withdrawn. This was a deliberate attempt to cleanse 
Bosnia of Iranian-run training camps. The CIA's main opponents in Bosnia were 
now the mojahedin fighters and their Iranian trainers - whom the Pentagon had 
been helping to supply months earlier.  

Meanwhile, the secret services of Ukraine, Greece and Israel were busy arming 
the Bosnian Serbs. Mossad was especially active and concluded a deal with the 
Bosnian Serbs at Pale involving a substantial supply of artillery shells and 
mortar bombs. In return they secured safe passage for the Jewish population out 
of the besieged town of Sarajevo. Subsequently, the remaining population was 
perplexed to find that unexploded mortar bombs landing in Sarajevo sometimes 
had Hebrew markings.  

The broader lessons of the intelligence report on Srebrenica are clear. Those 
who were able to deploy intelligence power, including the Americans and their 
enemies, the Bosnian Serbs, were both able to get their way. Conversely, the UN 
and the Dutch government were "deprived of the means and capacity for obtaining 
intelligence" for the Srebrenica deployment, helping to explain why they 
blundered in, and contributed to the terrible events there.  

Secret intelligence techniques can be war-winning and life-saving. But they are 
not being properly applied. How the UN can have good intelligence in the 
context of multinational peace operations is a vexing question. Removing light 
weapons from a conflict can be crucial to drawing it down. But the secret 
services of some states - including Israel and Iran - continue to be a major 
source of covert supply, pouring petrol on the flames of already bitter 

&#183; Richard J Aldrich is Professor of Politics at the University of 
Nottingham. His 'The Hidden Hand: Britain, America and Cold War Secret 
Intelligence' is published in paperback by John Murray in August.  


Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

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