From: Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, 4-5, 1998

Terrorism and the Balkans:

Italy Becomes Iran’s New Base For Terrorist Operations

Iranian Islamists have established an effective terrorist infrastructure in the Balkans region. Its axis runs from Albania, through Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Italy. There, a forward operations center in Milan is preparing to export terror into Western Europe. Senior Editor Yossef Bodansky uncovers this clandestine web which has already attempted the assassination of Pope John Paul II.

At the international conference on Bosnia in Bonn on December 10, 1997, the US made a strenuous effort to expand the definition of the “Bosnian problem” to include all Muslim “causes” in the Balkans. Indeed, the Conference’s final declaration included a US-inspired warning about the dire effect of the “escalating ethnic tensions” in Kosovo: a province of Yugoslavia which has nothing to do with Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) or the implementation of the Dayton Accords.

A leader of the Bosnian Serb delegation, Momèilo Krajisnik, observed that by riding on the sympathy to the Bosnian Muslims, the conference “tried to sneak the Kosovo issue through the back door” into the center-stage of international politics. Indeed, populated with an ethnic Muslim Albanian majority, Kosovo is fast becoming the new “darling” of the US Clinton Administration’s Balkans policy.

Moreover, the White House’s recent discovery of the Kosovo issue as a political priority comes at the time when terrorism and subversion inspired by Islamists are spreading and escalating among Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM), and Albania itself. This recent escalation is the most visible component of the first phase of Tehran’s long-term plan, currently being implemented. This plan includes intense preparations for the eruption of hostilities in Kosovo. Moreover, these activities could not have taken place but for the consolidation of Iranian presence in Albania. Another significant aspect of this effort is Iran’s maintenance of a command structure in Italy run by a veteran terrorist now serving as a senior Iranian diplomat.

The current escalation of sectarian violence in Kosovo is not a sudden event, but a result of thorough preparations in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as throughout the Muslim World. [Outside the scope of this article, these activities are described in great detail in the author’s book Some Call It Peace, pp. 155-160.]

The significance of the Iranian activities in Albania and Kosovo is in their larger context: the growing importance of both the Balkans-based infrastructure as the Islamists’ primary entry point into Europe, as well as the establishment of an Iranian intelligence, command and control center in Italy. There has been an overall increase in significance of the Italy-Balkans infrastructure since the Spring of 1997, because tensions between Iran and West European states grew in the aftermath of the verdict in the Mykonos trial, and local security forces now pay more attention to Iranian activities. Meanwhile, the dynamics in B-H compels Iran and the Izetbegovic Administration to keep a low profile in order not to alienate the Europeans to the point of refusing to go along with the US-imposed policies.

The first demonstration of the capabilities of the Italy-Balkans system, its sophistication and resilience, was an attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in the Spring of 1997. In March, Ayatollah Khamene‘i chaired a special meeting of the Special Operations Committee which scrutinized the details of the proposed operation and assessed its importance. Significantly, despite the backlash throughout Western Europe of the early-April Mykonos verdict, Tehran determined that the operation was too important to be called off. Indeed, teams of the Special Missions Division continued to inspect and activate Lebanese, Turkish, Algerian and Moroccan squads and teams in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

Significantly, the operation was conducted even though the new “nerve center” of Iranian intelligence, located in Milan, was not yet ready and thus not used in support of the operation. Several elements of the Mahdi Chamran’s External Intelligence took part in the operation. Most important were: clandestine elements of the al-Quds forces “that take care of [terrorist] attacks and military operations abroad”; special units of the Internal Security Department; and the rear/safe-haven logistical base in Sarajevo from where the foreign terrorists began their operations. An Islamist terrorist, presently held in Western Europe, identified Mahdi Chamran operating with the nom de guerre Mehid Sharam, as the head of this structure.

The operation which prompted Tehran to activate the fledgling European operations center was the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II. This operation was launched after a detailed pre-mission briefing had taken place in the Hammamet Hilton in Tunisia. Working with an unusually precise intelligence warning, the Italian security forces had been searching for Islamist terrorists, both agents already in-country and agents known to have been arriving since early Spring. This force, in excess of 20 or 30 expert terrorists identified as “close to the Iranian HizbAllah”, was known to be plotting bomb attacks against Pope John Paul II as well as at airports.

At its core was a “suicide commando group trained in Bosnia” comprised of 18 terrorists. They arrived in Italy via Rome’s Fiumicino airport after traveling through several third countries. The key terrorists were from Turkey (including Islamist Kurds), Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iran. Some of them arrived in Italy by air from Turkey and elsewhere, while others arrived by ship from Tunisia. The detonators were smuggled from Germany, both commercially and in Iranian diplomatic mail.

The main mission of this terrorist force was to assassinate the Pope by exploding a car bomb along a route he was to take in Rome. The car, with stolen diplomatic license plates, was to be parked under the colonnade in St. Peter’s square at a point along the itinerary habitually used by the Pope. The car bomb could be exploded by both a martyr inside and by remote control from a nearby observation post.

Tehran planned on the attack on the Pope being the curtain-raiser for a campaign of terror throughout Western Europe. Several Iran-sponsored Islamist terrorist groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, France and Germany were known to be planning attacks in Europe. The forward operational base of the entire campaign was in Milan, from where communications with the rear headquarters in Bosnia were maintained.

Ultimately, the high-level, countrywide security alert and manhunt, which was later extended to Western Europe, deterred the terrorists and prevented the assassination. Yet, as a testimony to the efficacy of the Iran-sponsored terrorist system, all the terrorists known to have been involved in Italy escaped. If the counter-terrorist operations had successfully prevented the attack on the Pope, they had failed to unearth and destroy the Iran-sponsored terrorist infrastructure in Italy. The entire network simply went underground.

In late September 1997, Tehran’s Italian network was ready to make another attempt on the Pope’s life. A network of some 20 terrorists — Croats, Bosnians, Tunisians, Algerians, and Moroccans — was organized in Bologna. The key members of this network were former mujahedin who had fought in Bosnia. The network’s commander, a Moroccan citizen, arrived from Spain on the eve of the operation with up-to-date instructions. The network had logistical support from local networks affiliated with Algeria’s Groupe Islamique Armée (GIA). The operational plan called for repeated attempts to hit the Pope between his arrival at Bologna airport and the cathedral where he was to attend the congress of the Congregation of the Holy Sacrament. Italian security forces located and arrested 14 members of the network just a few hours before Pope John Paul II’s arrival at Bologna.

Meanwhile, profound changes had affected the functioning of Iranian intelligence, and the terrorism system it sponsors, in Italy. The chief of Iranian Intelligence in Italy, Hamid Parandeh, had by now not only been exposed as a spy by the Italian security services, but was directly implicated in several terrorist operations and plans. Hamid Parandeh had been in Italy for several years undercover as an Iranian diplomat. He first served with the Iranian Embassy in Rome and later transferred to the Embassy to the Vatican. There, he served as a Press Attaché from August 22, 1995, to January 25, 1996, before his stay in Rome became untenable.

By early 1997, Italy had emerged as the center of regional and European operations. During a visit to Italy, mainly Rome and Milan, in March 1997, Mohsein Rafiq-Dost purchased a building in Milan that was expected to become a new clandestine HQ for the Iranian intelligence and terrorism network. Meanwhile, the support system in B-H had been expanded and made more resilient.

Another Iranian diplomat, Mahmud Nurani, has now emerged as the Rome-based chief of Iranian intelligence. Nurani is a senior terrorist-diplomat who served in Beirut in the early 1980s as the forward representative of Mohtashemi-Pur. In this capacity, he was instrumental in the organization of the HizbAllah and in its launching of a series of bombing operations in Beirut, as well as the launching of the hostage-taking campaign. Nurani’s appointment highlights the network’s priorities. The entire Iranian and terrorism establishment was jolted into action in the Fall of 1997 after the nomination of Qorban Ali Najaf-Abadi, a confidant of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamene‘i, as Minister of Intelligence.

Presently, Nurani’s most important mission is overseeing the expansion of the Iranian intelligence hub in Albania, consolidating a Muslim Axis into Bosnia, Italy and northwards into Austria-Germany; the source of hi-tech and strategic materials for Iran’s strategic industries.

Albania became ripe for Iranian penetration and subversion in the mid-1990s. Albania emerged after the Cold War as a European country with a Third World economy. The collapse of its all-embracing communism, along with its first exposure to Western media images and its proximity to wealthy Italy, resulted in an overwhelming desire to attain Western standards of living.

organized crime, initially by Albanians and Italians, later joined by a host of mafias from China to Russia to the Middle East, became the primary exploiting element of Albania’s plight. Albania became a primary artery for the flow of arms, drugs, counterfeit and other goods controlled by Italian and international organized crime entities.

This surge of criminality also created a backlash in Albania’s simple, rural and morally straightforward society. The “solution” to social ills which promises salvation from both criminality and present day chaos and poverty: Islam.

After months of tumultuous social breakdown and populist revolt, Tiranë is so desperate for socio-economic aid from any quarter, that it does not regulate these activities. Furthermore, large segments of the population are amenable to doing just about anything, particularly if their activities are coated with religious-moralistic slogans.

These two factors facilitate Iranian deep penetration of Albania. Tehran’s penetration is conducted on two levels. Overtly, the Iranians and their Islamist counterparts have built up a comprehensive financial support network: from banks and institutions to run the formal economy to a web of humanitarian organizations offering all types of social services. Beneath this, a clandestine web forms an operational intelligence base for all of Europe.

There have been several clear indications of the importance of the Albanian initiative. A recent meeting of Iran’s Supreme Economic Council of Iran was devoted to the situation in Albania. Vice-President Behezad Navabi, now entrusted with the task of coordinating the overt socio-economic initiatives in Albania, summoned to this meeting such senior officials as Mohsen Nourbakhsh, the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, and top officials from the relevant ministries. Moreover, Navabi is instructed to coordinate his activities with Iran’s intelligence system. Navabi instructed the officials to draw up and begin implementing a long-term plan aimed to expedite the realization of Tehran’s three main long-term objectives in Albania: (1) To set up a commercial bridgehead not too far from the heart of Europe; (2) To consolidate a strategic axis along the Sarajevo-to-Tiranë line by expanding subversive and Islamist-political presence; and (3) To organise a forward base for Iranian intelligence from where it would be possible to launch infiltration missions into Italy, Austria, Greece, and onward into the heart of Western Europe.

Implementation of Tehran’s designs is already set in motion. Working through Iran’s various semi-official foundations and funds, Iranian intelligence has already established “contacts” with the numerous Iranian and Islamist trading initiatives in the main cities of Albania, as well as channeled funds for the launching of many more such initiatives. Meanwhile, Tehran is making an all-out effort to economically bolster, and boost ties with, the Albanian Arab-Islamic Bank (AAIB). By making the AAIB the primary instrument for the flow of foreign currency into Albania, while placing several loyalists of Tehran at the top, Tehran transformed the bank into an institution which makes every effort to smooth the economic and legal path for Iranian penetration. Indeed, the AAIB has already established formal ties with a series of Iranian banks. Mohsen Nourbakhsh has instructed these banks to set up operations in Albania irrespective of the economic viability and risks of these ventures. Tehran’s own economic intelligence functionaries are deployed throughout the Iranian financial institutions in Albania. Taken together, these activities put Iran in a unique position of near dominance over the Albanian financial system.

Concurrently, Iranian intelligence is stepping up its involvement with the activities of organized crime in and out of Albania. Since the early 1990s, these ports have been used by Iranian intelligence and its allies for the smuggling of drugs and weapons for B-H, as well as a point of transfer of counterfeit funds and drugs from the Middle East to the Italian mafia. As a rule, the large-volume logistics operations have been conducted through the Albanian port of Durrës, while smaller but more sensitive cargoes were shipped via Sendein (north of Durrës).

However, by mid-1997, Albania has become the center of the primary illicit traffic routes which cross the Balkans: arms to Bosnia-Herzegovina, drugs from the Middle East and Colombia for Western Europe, and funds from Russia for laundering in the West. The Italian mafia is a dominant force. The geographical proximity of southern Italy has created a dangerous link between the Mafia networks of southern Italy and the Albanians. Together, they orchestrate the rôle of the foreigners who become increasingly active on the Albanian scene: the Russian mafiya; the fledgling Montenegrin organized crime groups; as well as the fully integrated drug trafficking mafias and terrorist organizations from Kosovo and from the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iran, Syria-Lebanon and Turkey.

On the Italian side of the Adriatic, the Apulian mafia has been described as “the top dog” of the illegal traffic system between Europe and Asia via the Brindisi-Tiranë link. The new Sacra Corona Unita [United Sacred Crown], that is also known as “the fourth mafia”, is a well organized and structured top-down decision-making mafia that presently exercises undisputed reign over the provinces of Brindisi, Lecce, and Taranto. The Apulian mafia has transformed Italy’s southern ports into a primary venue for the entry of illegal goods and people into Italy and onward into the rest of Europe. On the criminal front, the most active sectors are the trafficking in arms, drugs, prostitution, and usury. On top, there is a rapidly expanding flow of illegal immigrants of every nationality, a phenomenon now exploited by Iranian intelligence to insert agents and terrorists into Europe.

Meanwhile, the wars throughout the former Yugoslavia have revived the traditional arms trafficking across the Adriatic. The Russian mafiyas and their Albanian counterparts still dominate this trade in the Balkans. On the Italian side, virtually the entire Italian criminal organizations with access to the Adriatic coast now take part in illegal weapons trafficking. The Italian mafia cells prefer to operate out of the Emilia-Romagna region because of the money-laundering possibilities offered by the Romagna riviera’s tourist industry. The Italian mafias buy everything — weapons of all kinds, as well as chemical and bacteriological substances and strategic nuclear materials. Most of these weapons are resold to governments and terrorist entities they run or sponsor. The radioactive materials are rerouted to the Middle East, often in exchange for drugs. The main shipping routes for this trade passes through Albania and Apulia.

The historic route of illegal immigrants entering Europe from the East passes through Trieste or the Apulian ports. Presently, Albania has become a staging area for immigrants from most Asian states, including China. They arrive at Italian shores via Durresi. Dominating the traffic between Durresi and Brindisi, the mafia has also organized the traffic of illegal immigrants. People are inserted by small very fast and powerful motorboats that land entire families of illegal immigrants on the Apulian shores in the space of two to three hours. Upon arrival in Italy, they are picked up by special “taxi services” that bring them to mafia-run “camps” further inland where a sorting-out process takes place and where often the immigrants' ultimate future is decided. The vast majority are smuggled onward toward Italy’s and Europe’s northern regions. Iranian intelligence is exploiting this massive illegal flow of humanity in order to clandestinely infiltrate and insert its own terrorists and operatives into Europe. If any of these individuals is caught, he will be considered yet another illegal migrant, rather than the spy or terrorist that he is, and be treated accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Iranians continue to expand their training and recruitment in Albania, preparing more and better operatives for infiltration into both Kosovo and Western Europe.

The recruitment process is based on the outreach to the impoverished population in Albania. The Iranians have established a number of foundations alongside their banks that are engaged in humanitarian services and charities. Most important is the “construction Jihad” which is directly affiliated with Iranian intelligence via Tehran’s semi-officials founds. In Albania, the Jihad operates as a highly-motivated organization with ample funding. It is involved in encouraging small trade, in setting up small factories, and generally, in creating jobs in urban and other impoverished areas. Through its social and economic work, the Jihad has become a formidable instrument, making it very easy for the Iranians to conquer the peoples’ hearts as well as gain popularity and consensus in a wide social context. This kind of a social environment creates favorable conditions for recruitment of individuals and the solicitation of active support from institutions — be they port facilities, factories, or financial entities.

Moreover, the key Sunni Islamist associations, such as Al-Haramain and Al-Muwafaq, which concentrate on proselytizing for Islam, constitute another instrument for extending Iranian influence. Relying on donations from the Persian Gulf states and the possibility of high-paying jobs in these oil states, these institutions represent an attraction for a wide segment of the young population. In reality, these associations are mainly used to recruit and to train Albanian mujahedin. Their recruitment methods are those perfected in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Under the guise of diversified Islamic educational institutions and rural area development projects, the Iranians and their Arab Islamist allies have established training camps in a variety of remote areas in Albania. In order to run these camps, Tehran transferred numerous groups of Arab and Albanian mujahedin from Bosnia. After a brief stay in these Albanian special training camps, special teams made of either veteran mujahedin or recently trained Albanians are sent out of the country. A large number cross into Kosovo either directly or via Macedonia. The high-quality assets are sent into Western Europe mixed in with the large groups of desperate refugees that cross the Straits of Otranto every night.

Meanwhile, by late 1997, the Tehran-sponsored training and preparations of the Liberation Army of Kosovo (UCK — Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves — in Albanian, OVK in Serbian), as well as the transfer of weapons and experts via Albania, were being increased. Significantly, Tehran’s primary objective in Kosovo has evolved from merely assisting a Muslim minority in distress to furthering the consolidation of the Islamic strategic axis along the Sarajevo-to-Tiranë line. And only by expanding and escalating subversive and Islamist-political presence can this objective be attained.

In the Fall of 1997, the uppermost leadership in Tehran ordered the IRGC High Command to launch a major program for shipping large quantities of weapons and other military supplies to the Albanian clandestine organizations in Kosovo. Khamene‘i’s instructions specifically stipulated that the comprehensive military assistance was aimed to enable the Muslims “to achieve the independence” of the province of Kosovo. This Iranian decision constitutes a change in policy. Until recently, Tehran restricted direct funding on the territory of Yugoslavia to such programs as funding of educational programs of the separatist groups and their Islamic indoctrination, as well as the financing of mosques and related religious and social-humanitarian activities. The funding of terrorist and subversive activities was limited to preparatory and support activities outside Yugoslavia: in B-H, Albania, Iran, Afghanistan-Pakistan, etc.  

Now, the IRGC was ordered to eliminate even this thin distinction. Indeed, by early December 1997, Iranian intelligence had already delivered the first shipments of hand grenades, machine-guns, assault rifles, night vision equipment, and communications gear from stockpiles in Albania into Kosovo. The mere fact that the Iranians could dispatch the first supplies within a few days and in absolute secrecy reflect extensive advance preparations made in Albania in anticipation for such instructions from Tehran. Moreover, the Iranians began sending promising Albanian and UCK commanders for advanced military training in al-Quds forces and IRGC camps in Iran. Meanwhile, weapons shipments continue. Thus, Tehran is well on its way to establishing a bridgehead in Kosovo.

While the UCK is the primary beneficiary of Iranian military support, in determining the extent of the effort to be made Tehran is working with estimates made back in the mid-1990s by followers of Dr Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo [LDK], on the requirements for an armed struggle in Kosovo. The study was prepared by Zaim Berisha, a former lieutenant-colonel in the Yugoslav People’s Army, with the assistance of Ejup Dragaj. (Both were sentenced to six and a half years in gaol in Yugoslavia for subversive activities.)

Berisha and Dragaj developed the administrative and structural organization of the army of the Kosovo republic. By their calculations, Kosovo would need a liberation army of 40,000 men equipped with 288,000 items of weaponry: including 26,250 automatic assault rifles, 2,250 machine guns, 5,500 revolvers, 10,450 submachine guns, 850 mortars of various calibres, 182,750 hand grenades, as well as other various lethal devices, and ammunition. The calculations made by Berisha and Dragaj do not include the weapons which the Kosovo Albanians already possess clandestinely.

Berisha and Dragaj envisage the Kosovo armed forces to be comprised of 18 brigades (three for Pristina, two each for Podujevo and Kosovska Mitrovica, and one each for Vucitrn, Glogovac, Pec, Prizren, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Kacanik, Djakovica, Decane, Klina, and the area in and around Drenic). Each brigade is supposed to consist of 2,000-2,500 men. The brigades will be grouped into three corps (Pristina, Kosovska Mitrovica, and Urosevac) with 12,000 to 15,000 men each, as well as a number of special purpose units answering directly to the high command. For the initial stage of the liberation struggle, the army would need two sets of infantry munitions rations for each unit. This amounts to around 86-million rounds of ammunition and mortar shells, plus permanent stocks of ammunition for reserves.

The liberation army was to be only the first phase in building military power. Ultimately, the Kosovo Albanians must field such heavy weapons as tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and rocket launchers, if they hope to evict the Serbian forces from Kosovo. The force planning of Berisha and Dragaj envisages that their forces will be supplied with these weapons by the Muslim world and the West through Albania, very much along the same principles of weapons supplies to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s.

In early December 1997, Fazli Veliu, chairman of the People’s Movement of Kosovo Party [LPK] branch for the diaspora, noted a similar trend in the long-term development plans of the UCK. “The creation of [the UCK] begins with guerilla groups, platoons, and then reaches a point where it becomes a people’s army. Indications that it [the UCK] is a disciplined and properly led army have already been given.” Indeed, the growing Iranian involvement in Albania-Kosovo has an immediate impact on the operational structure and organisation of the UCK. The recent reorganization of UCK is strongly influenced by the approach of Berisha and Dragaj to building a national liberation army. The UCK is presently divided into four theaters of operations. The possible locations of these theaters are:

Meanwhile, there is growing grassroots support and acceptability to the UCK and the policies it represents — militancy and radicalism — throughout Kosovo. The spate of UCK terrorism during the Fall of 1997, particularly the attacks in the Srbica Municipality and the village of Vojnik, as well as the kidnapping of Bozidar Spasic, the Obilic police chief, in the middle of Pristina should be considered intentional provocations against the Serbian police aimed to elicit a massive retaliation that would in turn lead to a popular uprising. Thus, the ongoing terrorism campaign in Kosovo should be considered the initial phases in implementing the call for an uprising.

Iran-sponsored activists have already spread the word through Kosovo that the liberation war has already broken out. If current trends prevail, the increasingly Islamist UCK will soon become the main factor in overturning the long-term status quo in the region. Concurrently, the terrorist activities have become part of everyday life throughout Kosovo. Given the extent of the propaganda campaign and the assistance provided by Iran, the spread of terrorism should indeed be considered the beginning of an armed rebellion that threatens a major escalation.

Tehran’s greatest achievement is in its ability to consolidate a genuine Kosovo-Albanian political alliance behind the UCK and its campaign of terrorism. The UCK can thus claim, and not without justification, to be implementing the policy of a genuine political bloc. This newly formed political bloc is comprised of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo led by Adem Demaci, the Democratic Christian Party of Kosovo led by academician Redzep Qosja, and the Union of Independent Trade Unions led by Hajrulahu Gorani. Moreover, Demaci has already made a deal with the prime minister in exile, Bujar Bukoshi according to which Demaci would be “President of the Republic of Kosovo” while Bukoshi would remain the “Prime Minister” beyond his current term.  

Concurrently, Veliu stated that the UCK is neither “some part of the LPK’s body”, nor “the armed wing of the LPK, but [is using the LPK’s organ] to make the public at home and abroad clear about its existence and its liberation activity, about the victories and the relevant responsibilities. The liberation army undoubtedly has the overall support of the LPK, but it is not part of this party and does not belong only to this party. The army enjoys the support of the people of Kosova and belongs to them.” Veliu stressed that no Kosovo-Albanian political party controls the UCK. “The fact that this army is autochthonous [ie: originating from that land] is indisputable.”

Ultimately, however, these politicians are trying to place themselves in relation to the only force in Kosovo generating genuine public support: the Liberation Army of Kosovo (UCK). By late 1997, public opinion polls throughout Kosovo ascertained that the UCK enjoys the support of over 65 percent of the population, that is, nearly twice as much as all the other political parties combined. Furthermore, the support for the UCK and its radical violent policies is overwhelming among the young people who also expect that the UCK will be institutionalized as a leading force of the political separatist movement. Little wonder, therefore, that most Kosovo-Albanian politicians strive to associate themselves with the UCK in one form or another.  

The primary obstacle to the rise of the radical camp is Dr Ibrahim Rugova, and the mainstream LDK. Demaci, Bukoshi, and Qosja are convinced that Rugova’s policies are too moderate and that he should therefore be discredited and removed. Demaci even claims he has already obtained support for Rugova’s ouster from more than half the members of the “Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo”. However, given Rugova’s international standing and position vis-à-vis the US and the West as a whole, his ouster is bound to harm the Kosovo “cause”. On the other hand, Rugova’s assassination, “by the Serbs” of course, will simultaneously make him a most popular martyr and remove him from active politics. Indeed, there are indications that the UCK’s radical wing is considering the assassination of both Rugova and Fehmi Agani, the LDK deputy chairman, and blaming Belgrade for the killings.

The assassination of Rugova would also be bound to push a large segment of the Albanian population in Kosovo into active participation in an armed struggle. Meanwhile, numerous Kosovo-Albanian leaders openly anticipate the imminent outbreak of a popular armed struggle. For example, Mahmut Bakali, Demaci’s advisor on political strategy, has been giving statements and assessments anticipating such a development with a growing frequency. Similarly, both Gorani and his Union of Independent Trade Unions now declare themselves in favor of a more aggressive and violent policy.

Veliu concurs with this approach. He points out that taken together, the UCK’s operations of late November 1997 should be considered a liberation war. “The attacks simultaneously launched in 14 centers controlled by the occupier and those that occurred in the Drenice area in recent days to defend our people and to carry out the liberation step by step, have drawn the attention of the establishment centers, the state, and military experts. We no longer need to persuade through words, when shooting is heard, when we liberate areas, and when there is optimism to continue, the fight grows.” Thus, by late November, the armed struggle, that is, terrorism and subversion, had become the primary instrument in the Kosovo-Albanian struggle for the liberation of Kosovo.

In December, there was a concurrent and noticeable expansion in the petty violent and terrorist activities of small detachments of the UCK. These were aimed primarily to demonstrate the UCK’s presence in, and create popular awareness of centrality to the struggle for, Kosovo. Adopting IRA-style tactics, masked and armed representatives of the UCK have begun showing up at funerals. Such an appearance in the village of Lausa by three members of UCK at the funeral of an Albanian killed during the latest incidents in Kosovo in the Srbica region was openly interpreted as an unequivocal message that the patience of the Kosovo-Albanian is running out. Meanwhile, local “political” activists point to the intensified activities and preparations at UCK training centers in Donji Prekaz as proof that the Kosovo-Albanians have already started an armed struggle and a terrorism campaign for their independence.

By mid-December 1997, several Albanian leaders in Kosovo were alarmed by the long-term ramifications of the radicalization and Islamicization of their struggle for independence. Most eloquent is Bajram Kosumi, the Chairman of the Kosova Parliamentary Party.

Kosumi believes that “the great majority of the Albanian people” supports the UCK. “The Albanians are interested because they have lost the faith that they can liberate themselves from Serbia through peaceful resistance… The interest of the Albanians in the UCK comes after waiting for seven years for the international community to support the peaceful formation of the state of Kosovo.” Kosumi attributes this failed policy to “a narrow circle in the LDK led by Dr. Rugova.” Furthermore, since “the LDK, with its structural organisations and its own political philosophy, is unable to make a fast or radical move,” Kosumi observes, “the LDK as it appears today in fact does not exist. It will survive a little longer in its present moribund state.”

The grave ramifications of the “collapse of the LDK” are that this event “casts doubt on the philosophy of peaceful resistance as an effective means of solving the issue of Kosovo, which has been personified by the LDK”. In itself, Kosumi argues, this development constitutes a major crisis to the Kosovo movement. “For seven years, the LDK, with its delusions of grandeur, has fought against and destroyed any alternative or even the very idea of any active form of peaceful resistance.” The only successful struggle of the LDK has been against the ideas of Demaci, Qosja, and other leaders.

Therefore, the LDK has created the circumstances for the rise of a radical and drastic challenge as the sole viable alternative to its domination. “The UCK with its military methods has been put forward as the alternative. A people that is enslaved, as the [Kosovo] Albanians are, have the right to use all effective methods for their own liberation.” Kosumi warns that this radicalisation of the struggle for Kosovo is playing into the hands of Belgrade because “it is the lack of any concept of how to solve the Kosovo issue that is pushing Serbian political circles toward war… There is also the possibility that through war they [the Serbs] might win a portion of Kosovo forever.”

Kosumi is grim about the prospects of his people. “Is there any chance of preventing war in Kosovo?  Is there any chance of a fair solution to the Kosovo issue, barring the use of war?  A war to solve this issue would be a triumph of Serbian militarist policy over the Albanian policy of peace and over the peaceful policy of the international community, which, despite is hesitations, has invested something in a peaceful solution of the issue.” Kosumi urges that “the possibility of preventing war must therefore be the main subject of debate for every Albanian political party. Now that the UCK has appeared on the scene, it is not only the LDK, but all the other political parties that find themselves on a knife edge. … The Albanian political parties now face the question of ‘to be or not to be’.”

The main question to be resolved, Kosumi argues, is “what will happen to the political parties if they are not in a situation to activate peaceful resistance?  They will either be destroyed or will move over to collaboration with Belgrade.” Kosumi believes that the LDK is already well on its way to establish a certain form of collaboration with Belgrade. Thus, the key to saving Kosovo from war and destruction lies in the hands of the other opposition parties. “If the[se] parties do not succeed in activating [peaceful political] resistance, war in Kosovo is almost unavoidable,” Kosumi concludes.

Fazli Veliu takes the question of the centrality of the UCK-led armed struggle even further. He stresses that in performing the “essential and indispensable” mission, the UCK “makes serious efforts to liberate the country from the southern Slavs and defends people who face a serious danger of extermination according to the Serbian fascist plans.” Thus, Veliu also sees no alternative to an escalating armed struggle led by the UCK in Kosovo. “The only solution [to the Kosovo problem] is the liberation of areas occupied by the southern Slavs. The UCK, the LPK, and our people will achieve this through pain, sacrifice, and continuous effort until the final war.” Furthermore, Veliu explains, the armed struggle is the only viable instrument for nation-building and the sole catalyst for the political dynamics required to achieve victory. An independent Kosovo, he stresses, “will be achieved through our unity and the creation of a joint military and political front that includes the relevant authorities who would play a lawmaking rôle pending the liberation of the entire country. Meanwhile, the basic institutions of the state will also be established. After liberation, the UCK will play its rôle to defend our state. Now and in the future, the education in the field of military matters should continue to improve and progress, in order to be able to challenge those armies that aim at endangering the overall Albanian autochthonous status.”

Washington’s growing interest in the Kosovo problem should be examined in view of Kosovo’s seemingly inevitable slide to an armed conflict led and dominated by the Iran-sponsored UCK. For the Clinton Administration, Kosovo is the next point of pressure on Belgrade, as demonstrated in the sudden and unwarranted inclusion of the subject in the Dayton II conference on B-H. Given the concurrent Iranian dominance over the rising Islamist subversive and terrorist movement in Kosovo and Albania, is this a mere coincidence or is there another round of tacit cooperation between Washington and Tehran?

There are striking and dangerous parallels between the rise of the Iran-sponsored Islamists in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Albania and Kosovo. In both cases, the Iranians succeeded to infiltrate an essentially secular and Westernized Muslim community and, by capitalizing on what started as a national liberation struggle, subvert it from within into becoming a bulwark of Islamist terrorism and radicalism. That the Iranians and their allies enjoyed the support of loyal followers within the ranks of aspirant leaders of both movements need not detract from the extent of Tehran’s achievement in Sarajevo, the dire ramifications for Europe's stability of this achievement, and the dire ramifications of a virtually inevitable triumph in Albania/Kosovo/Macedonia unless the international community steps in to actively prevent it.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, goaded by a zealous and activist Clinton Administration, the West and the UN actively supported and facilitated the rise of the Bosnian Muslim Administration. Officially, the Clinton Administration decided to “look the other way” as Iran and its Islamist allies delivered weapons and volunteers to the Bosnian Muslim forces in violation of the UN embargo. The recent discovery of Sarajevo-supported plots against the Pope and sponsorship of Islamist terrorism in the heart of Western Europe has led several European governments to rethink the wisdom of their Bosnian policies.

Hence, why must the West repeat its mistakes in Kosovo? If in B-H, the Clinton Administration could claim that faced with the plight of the Bosnian Muslim civilian population (in itself a fallacy) the US had no alternative but to tacitly permit the flow of Iran-dominated Islamist aid to B-H, there are no comparable circumstances concerning Kosovo. Yet, with the ramifications of Iran's lingering hold over Sarajevo clear, the Clinton White House is actively encouraging the surge of a “Kosovo crisis” while knowing full well that the main local Muslim forces are dominated by Islamist terrorist forces and sponsored by Iran.

There is neither a humanitarian crisis in progress, nor a reason for not knowing the outcome of the rise of militant Islamism, to warrant such a policy.

NLPWESSEX, natural law publishing