"In view of the US covert support to the Croats it will be interesting to see if the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague will seriously investigate this matter."
Srebrenica - A Safe Area?
Appendix II - Intelligence and the war in Bosnia 1992 – 1995: The role of the intelligence and security services
Chapter 4, Secret arms supplies and other covert actions

Report Published on Behalf of The Dutch Government, 10 April 2002

"...the [Srebrenica] enclave increasingly acquired the status of a 'protected area' for the [Bosnian Muslim] ABiH, from which the ABiH could carry out hit and run operations against, often civilian, targets. These operations probably contributed to the fact that at the end of June the [Serbian] VRS was prepared to take no more, after which they decided to intervene: the VRS decided shortly after to capture the enclave. In this respect, the [illegal US sponsored] Black Flights to Tuzla and the sustained arms supplies to the ABiH in the eastern enclaves did perhaps contribute to the ultimate decision to attack the enclave. In this connection it is not surprising that Mladic and other Bosnian Serbs constantly complained about this, but usually received no response to their complaints..."
Srebrenica - A Safe Area?
Appendix II - Intelligence and the war in Bosnia 1992 – 1995: The role of the intelligence and security services
Chapter 4, Secret arms supplies and other covert actions

Report Published on Behalf of The Dutch Government, 10 April 2002

Visit Web Home Page of Dutch Government Report at
http://www.srebrenica.nl/en/a_index.htm


Appendix II

Intelligence and the war in Bosnia 1992 – 1995: The role of the intelligence and security services

Chapter 4
Secret arms supplies and other covert actions

7. Conclusions

The following quotation gives a clear indication of what the secret operations in the Balkans were all about.

'All the conflicts concerned are fundamentally struggles for power, irrespective of whether the operations are initiated in order to provide humanitarian aid or to limit the scope of an armed confrontation. (...) Experience shows that the parties to the intervention inevitably become parties to the conflict, with their own distinct interests'.[1]

The secret arms supplies to the warring factions took place within the framework of a complex international political constellation.

The United States had to deal with a variety of fields of tension. After the Gulf War, it was payback time and in the Arab world (especially Saudi Arabia) it was expected that Washington would support the Bosnian Muslims. Furthermore, great pressure was brought to bear on the Clinton administration by the media and Congress, which was dominated by the Republicans. On the other hand, open military support would bring the United States into conflict with European countries that were contributing ground forces to UNPROFOR. The European countries expected that additional arms would encourage the conflict to flare up, resulting in a growing stream of Displaced Persons. The lift and strike strategy (lifting the embargo and resorting to air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs) that the Americans opted for, was partly motivated by a desire to meet domestic and foreign pressure: a 'political gesture', because the US government knew that the Security Council would not agree and that it would lead to a decision in London and Paris to withdraw from UNPROFOR. The US lobby in the Security Council for lifting the arms embargo was also connected to the desire not to have to deploy any American ground forces.[2]

The third party country strategy offered an even better way out of this dilemma: the so-called 'Croatian pipeline' (arms supplies from Iran to Croatia and from there to Bosnia) was an alternative to strengthening the Muslims and Croats in a military sense after the creation of the Muslim-Croat Federation. Furthermore, a stronger Bosnia and Croatia would ensure a reduction of the pressure on Washington to send ground forces.

The American government could do nothing towards supplies by third party countries, because Congress had removed that possibility. A law drafted by senators Nunn and Mitchell banned the use of government funds for the support of or assistance in enforcing the arms embargo. It is the firm conviction of Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, who in 1993-1994 was chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, that American personnel themselves were not involved in the purchase and transport, but were responsible for the funding. According to her, these supplies definitely were a flagrant violation of international law: the actions of these bodies meant that the American government violated Security Council resolutions.[3]

As such, the UN itself in part also generated these secret operations. The fact is that Bosnia was officially admitted to the United Nations as the 177th member state. It is strange then that the Security Council did not draw the logical conclusion that a new state may take measures for defence against an armed attack. The embargo curbed the legal arms trade, but did nothing to reduce the demand for, and the supply of, arms, and only displaced it onto illegal circuits.[4]

Although the US government will have observed the increasing influence of Iran, they put up with it. Sarajevo would ultimately, it was thought, allow the political and military solidarity with the United States to take precedence over that with Teheran. In the course of time, US intelligence services will have established that the number of Mujahedin fighters was not considerable and moreover that they were not in great favour among the Bosnian population. The military leaders of the ABiH also had a low estimate of their fighting power. The Mujahedin seen especially as a 'political tool' for obtaining the support of some countries in the Arab world.

At the same time, the Islamic fighters played a role as a political lever: Izetbegovic was aware that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were unhappy with the Iranian influence.[5] There is no doubt that the Bosnian government will have played this trump card to gain the support of these two countries. Izetbegovic clung as long as possible to the Iranian connection, but in 1996 Sarajevo had to let go of this under US pressure. The same was also true of bringing in the Mujahedin. They were tolerated in Bosnia, and were used by Izetbegovic as a political lever for attracting funds in the Middle East.

In view of the long history of Turkey in the Balkans, an active role in the region for this country was predictable. The traditional Greek links with Serbia and the political support of Athens to Belgrade will without doubt have played a role. Furthermore, Ankara will have wished to contain the Iranian influence. Turkey was a perfect candidate to serve as a direct supplier. The armed forces had the aircraft, arms and logistic infrastructure. Operations could take place undisturbed from the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus, and Croatia and Bosnia were easy to reach. The American 'logistics patronage' moreover ensured that the flights to Tuzla remained 'unseen'. It was likely that the Croatian pipeline would be discovered, but because UNPROFOR did not have the mandate and the resources to act against it, it did not matter. It was likewise to be expected that the direct flights to Tuzla, Visoko and Bihac would be seen, in spite of the fact that the AWACS had been rendered 'blind' or did not fly. The Americans managed through damage control to limit the damage, while taking a further step-up in the pressure on transatlantic relations into the bargain.[6]

The indirect American support of the ABiH by looking the other way in the presence of direct arms supplies and the Croatian pipeline were described as a sort of 'Vietnamization' of the war. In other words: a strong ABiH was created, which was able to compensate for the lack of American ground forces with a robust mandate.[7] Something similar happened at the end of the war in Vietnam. It is not strange that different views existed within the Clinton administration on arms supplies to Bosnia and the influx of Mujahedin. There were also greatly divergent views within the CIA on a comparable operation during the Reagan administration, when Stinger missiles were supplied to the Mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan. The then Head of Operations for the Middle East at the CIA, T. Twetten, described the supporters of collaboration with the Mujahedin fighters within the Reagan administration as 'strange people developing strange ideas' at the time.[8] Now too there were dangers attached to illegal arms supplies, which some certainly did recognize.

The direct results of the clandestine arms supplies to the warring factions are difficult to identify precisely. In general terms, the VRS will have consolidated and sometimes reinforced its military position. The problem with the Bosnian Serbs was not so much the availability of light and heavy arms, but rather shortages of trained soldiers. They were supplied amply from Serbia. The clandestine arms supplies were therefore of greater importance to the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims. The training and the supplying of arms, for example, simplified the Croatian operations in the Krajina in mid 1995.

Alongside secret arms supplies, the company MPRI provided training. An observer who was a witness to the operations in which Croatian commandos crossed the river Una during the offensive against the Bosnian Serbs, observed that this was a 'textbook US field manual river crossing'.[9] By engaging this company, Washington at the same time also reduced the danger of 'direct' involvement.[10] The operation resulted in the killing of more than 500 civilians and the exodus of more than 150.000 ethic Serbs from the Krajina. In view of the US covert support to the Croats it will be interesting to see if the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague will seriously investigate this matter.[11]

The ABiH had no lack of soldiers, but did lack arms. Heavy arms especially were necessary, but these did not flow through the Croatian pipeline. Only light arms and ammunition came through, because Zagreb was all too afraid that the Bosnian Muslims would terminate the Muslim-Croat Federation sooner or later, and would turn on Croatia with these 'Iranian arms'. The Croats had for instance not yet forgotten the fighting around Mostar in the autumn of 1993. The ABiH then paid the VRS to shell Croatian positions. In some areas, the Croatian authorities therefore also collaborated with the VRS, and there were supporters of containing the flow of arms to Bosnia.[12]

The clandestine arms supplies through the Croatian pipeline and Black Flights were a violation of the arms embargo imposed by the international community against the warring factions in the former Yugoslavia. This embargo was officially sanctioned by the Security Council. The Black Flights were moreover a serious violation of the No Fly Zone over Bosnia.[13] This could have led to the total ruin of the peace process, and the negotiations on reopening Tuzla airfield for humanitarian flights were put directly at risk.[14] The special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Akashi, reported regularly in 1994 and 1995 on new arms and weapons systems. UNPROFOR, however, had no mandate to monitor or to oppose the violations of the arms embargo.[15] The sanctions and the No Fly Zone were violated systematically and could not be seriously enforced. This sent the wrong signals to the warring factions, namely that the international community was not prepared to put serious effort into this issue.[16]

The influence of the supplies was also felt in East Bosnia when in April 1995 the ABiH Spring offensive started. The ABiH in Srebrenica also received new arms. It has been demonstrated that the clandestine supplies usually led to rapid transit by helicopter to the eastern enclaves such as Srebrenica and Zepa. New arms generally facilitated new sorties from the enclaves into Bosnian-Serb villages and military positions, which in turn provoked a response from the VRS. This sometimes put Dutch soldiers in danger, because in the enclaves the ABiH all too often used Dutchbat's OPs as cover in military actions against the VRS.[17] Therefore the enclave increasingly acquired the status of a 'protected area' for the ABiH, from which the ABiH could carry out hit and run operations against, often civilian, targets. These operations probably contributed to the fact that at the end of June the VRS was prepared to take no more, after which they decided to intervene: the VRS decided shortly after to capture the enclave.

In this respect, the Black Flights to Tuzla and the sustained arms supplies to the ABiH in the eastern enclaves did perhaps contribute to the ultimate decision to attack the enclave. In this connection it is not surprising that Mladic and other Bosnian Serbs constantly complained about this, but usually received no response to their complaints.[18] In the eyes of the VRS, the complaints were perhaps justified, but it must not be forgotten that UNPROFOR did not have the mandate to oppose the supplies. In fact the sanctions and the arms embargo had little substance. At most, the flow of arms, ammunition, resources, oil and other goods was reduced somewhat. The smuggling trade flourished, and otherwise organized international criminals, including Russians, ensured sufficient supply.[19] The border between Serbia and Srpska over the Drina may well have been monitored by the ICFY mission, but this check was far from watertight.

Smuggling operations from Serbia to Srpska took place daily. There were perhaps too few observers to man all the crossings, but neither did any major supplies of tanks, APCs and artillery take place, as the Bosnian Muslims claimed. There was cooperation from the Yugoslav authorities, because Belgrade had much to lose in the event of excessively visible violations of the embargo. The UN headquarters in Zagreb did hear constant rumours of support of the VJ, but hard evidence of it was never received.[20] Secret UN documents, to which the media referred and that indicated that the VRS was receiving 'high-level military support' from the VJ and that personnel and equipment was being supplied across the Drina[21], were not found by the NIOD in the UN archives. The conclusion was therefore that there was Serbian involvement in the war in Bosnia in 1995, but not in a direct way. The military infrastructure of the old Yugoslavia was still largely intact; the Serbian assistance related to logistics support, components, payment of officers' salaries and communications.[22]

From the American side it was confirmed that no evidence was ever supplied that arms went to the Bosnian Serbs across the Drina. The road via Croatia was open, however. The conclusion therefore was that the embargo along the Drina was 'fairly effective', albeit not watertight.[23] There was another Western intelligence service that never had hard evidence in the period before the fall of Srebrenica of the VRS receiving arms from the VJ, but it still cannot be ruled out completely.[24] In addition, the ICFY mission had to contend with a formidable opponent in the form of Kertis, who is described by Western intelligence services as the best organized smuggler in the Balkans. Large deliveries probably took place completely outside the view of ICFY, and much was supplied with low-flying helicopters or through the Krajina; this then happened with the knowledge of Croatia, which had an interest in a sustained conflict between the ABiH and the VRS because it tied up Bosnian-Serb troops, who could then not be deployed against the Croats. It also assured that the ABiH was not nurturing any particularly large-scale offensive plans against Croatia. Zagreb will moreover, as with Iran, have skimmed the Serbian supplies.

The arms supplies to the warring factions increased the instability in the region and allowed the armed conflict to flare up. It is no coincidence that offensives by the ABiH, VRS or Croats took place a few weeks after the military material was delivered. A common pattern was as follows: clandestine supplies, training - whether or not supervised by instructors - and after that the start of offensives. New arms mostly facilitated, the VRS complained, renewed sorties from the enclaves into Serbian villages and military positions, which in turn provoked a response from the VRS. Finally, the reconstruction of the secret arms supplies shows that divergent views existed in the various NATO member states on the possible consequences for the UNPROFOR troops in the former Yugoslavia. Washington had different ideas on this from most European capitals, but then Washington had no ground forces in Bosnia.

 



[1] Všlimški, Intelligence, p. 86.

[2] David Morrison, 'How Bosnia is Becoming a Priority', National Journal, 20/08/94.

[3] Interview with P. Neville-Jones, 15/11/01.

[4] Johan Peleman, 'Wapenhandel naar BosniŽ-Herzegovina', Noord-Zuid Cahier, Vol. 3 (1997) 22, pp. 94-95.

[5] See also: Roger Cohen, Hearts grown brutal, p. 408.

[6] See also: 'Allies and Lies', BBC Correspondent, 22/06/01.

[7] Sean Gervasi, 'Involvement of the US and German intelligence services', Strategic Policy, No. 3, 1995, passim.

[8] Bill Gertz, 'Study reveals "politicization" of intelligence', The Washington Times, 09/10/00.

[9] Charlotte Elgar, 'Invisible US Army defeats Serbs', The Observer, 05/11/95. See also W. de Jonge, 'Train and Equip', in: Militaire Spectator Vol. 169 (2000) 9, pp. 480-489.

[10] Thomas H. Henriksen, 'Covert Operations, Now More Than Ever', Orbis, Vol. 44 (2000) 1, p. 153.

[11] George Rudman, 'Hague tribunal could spell trouble for former U.S. officials', The Washington Times, 18/05/02 and Jeffrey Kuhner, 'Tribunal probes U.S. aid to Croatia', The Washington Times, 06/12/02.

[12] Owen, Balkan Odyssey, pp. 385-386.

[13] James Risen & Doyle McManus, 'U.S. Okd Iran Arms for Bosnia, Officials Say', The Los Angeles Times, 05/04/96.

[14] UNGE, UNPROFOR, Box 139. G-2 HQ UNPROFOR, Daily Info Summary, 11/02/95.

[15] UNGE, UNPROFOR, Box 124. Akashi to Annan, Z-1070, 18/07/94.

[16] Filippo Andreatta, The Bosnian War and the New World Order, WEU Occasional Paper No. 1, October 1996, p. 14.

[17] For example: UNNY, DPKO coded cables De Lapresle to Annan, Z-528, 04/04/94.

[18] For this: see also Chapter 8 of this study and especially Part III of the Srebrenica report.

[19] William C. Potter, Djuro Miljanic & Ivo Slaus, 'Tito's Nuclear Legacy', Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Vol. 56 (2000), 2, pp. 63-75.

[20] Interview with Tony Banbury, 11/05/00.

[21] See: 'Documentary alleges Serbian Arms Used to Invade Srebrenica', ANP English News Bulletin, 30/05/95 and Reuter, 29/05/96.

[22] Interview with R.A. Smith, 12/01/00. Smith did not rely on intelligence reports from UNPROFOR.

[23] Confidential interview (14).

[24] Confidential interview (8).


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