Thursday, July 20, 2006

While Lebanon Boils, Watch Bosnia

By Douglas Farah, Wednesday July 19, 2006

It is always very hard to focus on broad pictures when so many fires are in need of being put out. But it is imperative to keep in mind in the ongoing conflict Iran’s long-standing ties not only to Hezbollah, but to Islamists in Bosnia, a relationship that spans more than a decade.

There is concern among Bosnian contacts that, if Iran feels things are going badly in Lebanon and that the war needs another front, it would take little to ignite Bosnia. It would not be hard to do and the international presence in Bosnia is greatly reduced. So is the intelligence capacity developed in the late 1990s. Several key intelligence-gathering units have been dissolved in Bosnia in the past six months, meaning the West is more blind there than any time since the mid-1990s.

To date Iranian intelligence maintains a huge apparatus in Bosnia and several dozen, if not hundreds, of trainers with the elite units of the Bosnian military. In addition, several hundred mujahadeen who fought in Afghanistan and then Bosnia remain scattered around Bosnia, many of them still with the elite Bosnia units or in the intelligence apparatus.

It is worth remembering this heavy Iranian involvement in the Bosnian conflict because it was in Bosnia that al Qaeda developed its template for future operations. One of the most interesting things is that, while the mujahadeen and Bosnian Muslims were supported by Saudi Arabia and many others, much of the aid flowed through Iran, despite the Shi’ite-Sunni divide. The bridge was Hasan Cengic, an Iranian intelligence agent and later Bosnia’s deputy defense minister who has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department. Cengic did some of his earliest weapons deals through Viktor Bout, who flew in hundreds of tons of weapons for the Bosnian Muslims in 1992. He later “sold” Cengic at least one aircraft, and perhaps more.

Cengic, although working on behalf of Iran, coordinated the Saudi’s multi-hundred million dollar financial support for the Bosnian Muslims as well. There are concrete examples of this. During one period in the late 1990s, Wa’el Julaidan, now designated by both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as a terrorist financier, received $8 millon from a Cengic-controlled account of the Third World Relief Agency. Julaidan later repaid the money to the TWRA account in a series of smaller payments.

Given Iran’s ongoing desire to push a pan-Islamist agenda and the advantages it gains from ongoing turmoil-not only in terms of oil revenues, but in terms of being able to build alliances, move agents and set a pan-Islamist agenda-its leaders could well feel the need to use another arrow from its quiver. But it could be that no one is watching Bosnia as it prepares to burn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can't find Osama bin Laden? Perhaps we're not looking in the right place: http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/002686.php

Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Helped Turn Bosnis into Militant Islamic Base: http://www.senate.gov/%7erpc/releases/1997/iran.htm#top