14 February 2007

Iranian influence: Bosnia

A very interesting thing happens when you see a news item about a distraught Bosnian shooting people in an American shopping mall: you remember way back when the US first started to be involved in Bosnia and the troubles that were seen there, particularly to one Nation in particular that violated agreements, accords and Treaties. That Nation was and still is Iran. Perhaps we can look back and have a slight reminder of why the United States first agreed to help in that area of troubled peoples.

Why did the US decide to try and do things there? Well, some of the early ideas were expressed by Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) as found in the Congressional Record: May 10, 1994, LIFTING THE ARMS EMBARGO ON BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA:

Mr. President, I strongly support Senator Dole and Senator Lieberman's legislation. I strongly feel that we must allow these people to defend themselves. As the Vice President of Bosnia said in my office 3 weeks ago, "We are dying. At least let us die fighting." If we do not lift this embargo with or without--hopefully with--the agreement of the United Nations, we will have a blot on the history of this Nation which will take a long time to erase because we failed to allow a decent and honorable people to defend themselves.

I would like to make an additional comment, Mr. President, about the impact that has not been discussed on the floor of this situation in Bosnia. Throughout the Moslem world today, Moslems are wondering and asking the question: Would the United States and the United Nations be so loath to lift this embargo if these people were not Moslems?

A couple of weeks ago, there were large-scale demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul. Islamic fundamentalism, which is a great threat to peace and freedom throughout the world, is using the cause of the Moslems in Bosnia as a way to inflame and, indeed, enrage the passions of Moslem peoples throughout the world.

Mr. President, it is an unjust charge that the United States of America and the United Nations is discriminating against Moslem peoples. But believe me, it is real and it can have far-reaching consequences as well.
The highlighting is my own throughout. Now do we see how Mr. Pell viewed trying to help out in war torn Bosnia? It was a necessary stand AGAINST the spreading of Islamic fundamentalism and an attempt to allow the Bosnian people to find some peace amongst themselves. Otherwise the US would have a blot upon its record that would last a bit less than 9 years before the Left started to lobby against doing anything to stop another repressive regime that was working with terrorists of all stripes, including the Islamic fundamentalist kind. Yes the US won such wide acclaim by bringing peace, prosperity, free elections and not one single terrorist act to Bosnia in record time! President Clinton made President Bush (43) look like a real piker in that realm.

Oh, wait a second.

From Congressional Record: May 7, 1996 (Senate), DOCID:cr07my96-154, AMERICAN TROOPS IN BOSNIA:[Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)]
Now, Mr. President, in addition to the total abrogation of his word to the American people regarding when the troops would come home from Bosnia, we now learn that, in fact, while President Clinton was stopping us from lifting the arms embargo, he was allowing another country to provide arms in violation of the embargo. Was it a legitimate ally of the United States? No, Mr. President, it was not a legitimate ally of the United States that was allowed to violate the arms embargo that we in this Congress were trying to lift. No, it was an enemy of the United States, a terrorist country: Iran.

Despite widespread rumors that Iranian arms were being shipped to Bosnia in violation of the arms embargo, an embargo this administration said we must support, and despite senior officials' strong denials, we learn we were deceived. Here we have the quotes, Mr. President. On April 15, 1995, a State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns, told the Los Angeles Times, "We do not endorse violations of U.N. embargo resolutions whatever. We are not violating those resolutions. We don't endorse anyone else who is violating them."

On June 16, 1995, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said, "I think you get some instant gratification from lifting the arms embargo. It is kind of an emotional luxury, but you have to ask yourself, what are the consequences of that?" As late as March of this year, President Clinton himself told Congress that "Iran continued to engage in activities that represent a threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States."

Mr. President, despite all of those statements by senior administration officials and the President himself, we have learned in recent weeks that this was not the case at all. Just 3 weeks after the President's report to Congress on Iran, it has been reported that the administration had given its tacit approval of the shipment by Iran, one of America's most hostile adversaries, of weapons to the Bosnian Muslim government.

We are justified in concluding, Mr. President, that the Clinton administration policy on Bosnia has been cynical. What many of us were advocating for so long--arming the Bosnians and allowing them to defend themselves with legitimate sales of arms by people who cared about the people--was, in fact, being opposed by the administration by day, but by night secret arms shipments from Iran were moving forward with the administration's blessing.

Now, Mr. President, we are faced with similar cynicism regarding the deployment of American troops. Those troops are there precisely because the administration refused the suggestions by Senator Dole and others in the Senate that arming the Bosnians and letting them fight for themselves was the best way to go. Instead, the administration adopted a half-a-loaf policy of covert arms shipments from Iran, which was too little, too late, from the wrong source.

As with arm sales to Bosnia, the American people have been deceived by the Clinton administration on the question of withdrawing American troops from Bosnia. Very simply, the President made a commitment to the American people, and he is now saying he will not honor that commitment.
And then a bit further into things we get the following from Sen. Larry Craig, (R-ID):
Let me read two quotes that I think speak volumes about what our President has caught himself in--that is, doublespeak. Mr. President, today you are not telling the American people the truth. For the last several months, you have been caught in a very difficult and very deceptive game of doublespeak.

Your representative, Richard Holbrooke, who immediate repudiated the Dayton peace accord was quoted on May 3 in a Reuters article saying:
"I will state flatly for the record that this policy was correct--"
He is referring to allowing the Iranians to move arms into the former Yugoslavia.
"and that if it hadn't taken place, the Bosnian Muslims would not have survived and we would not have gotten to Dayton."
That is an absolute opposite from what our President has been telling us. Mr. President, that is double speak.

The next quote from Richard Holbrooke:
"We knew that the Iranians would try to use the aid to buy political influence. It was a calculated policy based on the feeling that you had to choose between a lot of bad choices, and the choice that was chosen kept the Sarajevo government alive. But it left a problem--were the Iranians excessively influential on the ground?"
Mr. President, President Clinton once again was caught in double speak. This Congress gave our President an option, a viable, responsible, well-thought-out option, to allow the arms embargo to be lifted so that parity could be built on both sides. He chose not to do that. He chose to openly and publicly deceive the American people.


As I mentioned, a main part of the debate on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia has involved the arms embargo, first imposed against the Yugoslavian Government in 1991.

Information continues to surface, showing that while the Congress was openly debating the lifting of the arms embargo, the administration was giving a green light to Iran, allowing them to circumvent the arms embargo.

Richard Holbrooke, the administration's representative who helped to mediate the Dayton Peace Accord, was quoted in a May 3, 1996, Reuters article saying:
"I will state flatly for the record that this policy was correct and that if it hadn't taken place, the Bosnian Muslims would not have survived and we would not have gotten to Dayton."
Mr. President, I would agree with the comment made by Mr. Holbrooke. Allowing Iran to circumvent the arms embargo was not this administration's only choice--it was certainly not a correct choice. The Congress, just last year, provided President Clinton a viable alternative by the passage of S. 21, legislation that would have unilaterally lifted the U.N. arms embargo illegally enforced against Bosnia.

There was ample reason to question the enforcement of the 1991 embargo against Bosnia. The original embargo was not imposed on Bosnia, because it did not exist in 1991. Rather, it was imposed on Yugoslavia. In addition, enforcement of this embargo could arguably violate Bosnia's right to self-defense under article 51 of the U.N. charter.

The legal, unilateral lifting of the arms embargo that was called for in S. 21, would have allowed rough parity to exist in this conflict.

The President chose to veto S. 21, citing concerns that it would be breaking from an agreement with our allies, and diminish our credibility with Europe.

Mr. President, the only credibility that has been diminished here has been through the administration's efforts to allow one of the strongest supporters of terrorism around the world, Iran, to violate the arms embargo and gain a foothold in Europe.

In addition, Iran only provided light weaponry to the Bosnian's, which was fine for providing a little protection. However, it was not enough to provide the needed shift in the strategic military balance, altering Serbia's enormous advantage in the conflict. Therefore, even after this evasion of the arms embargo had begun, thousands of Bosnians were still being killed, and the Serbian forces continued to capture more territory.


Mr. President, these elections will not occur until September at the earliest. It is, therefore, likely that our troops will not be withdrawn until January 1997.

Mr. President, Richard Holbrooke made another assertion about the administration's decision in the May 3 reuters article, with respect to the risks of dealing with Iran.
We knew that the Iranians would try to use the aid to buy political influence. It was a calculated policy based on the feeling that you had to choose between a lot of bad choices, and the choice that was chosen kept the Sarajevo Government alive. But, it left a problem--were the Iranians excessively influential on the ground?
The article continues with Mr. Holbrooke claiming that this problem was adequately dealt with through the negotiations of the Dayton accord, by including in the agreement that all foreign forces would have to leave the country. This is precisely one of the problems that our troops have had to face: the removal of foreign forces including Iranian forces.

In addition, it is my understanding that this arms transfer operation was allowed to continue until January of this year--after our troops were beginning to be deployed as peacekeepers in Bosnia.

In closing, the Iranian presence that the Clinton administration helped to promote is now actively threatening the Dayton accord, the American and NATO peacekeepers seeking to enforce it, and the military viability and democratic character of Bosnia itself.

Mr. President, this situation needs to be addressed, and our troops need to be brought home.

I thank my colleague from Texas for taking out this special order. I hope the select committee in the House will thoroughly investigate what this President is failing to do in foreign policy.
And from Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-GA) and any resemblance you hear to this and current remarks by those Congresscritters Upon the Hill is purely intentional:
In addition to, I think, setting a political precedent that could lead to problems in the future, let us just look at the financial ramifications of it. The United States, which is now the single world power, in a period of enormous domestic financial pressure cannot be the ultimate financial resource in resolving these world conflicts. And the cost of the operation in Bosnia has been and continues to be enormous. The effect of that is to squeeze training, squeeze logistical support, and squeeze research and development in our own standing military. These vast sums of money going into the peacekeeping operations put enormous pressure on the ultimate mission of our own military, which is to defend the integrity and the shores of the United States.

At the time we were discussing all these questions, Secretary Perry came before our Foreign Relations Committee, and in testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee Secretary Perry indicated that the maximum duration of the U.S. commitment would be 1 year. And I can remember on the lips of virtually every member of the committee was the assertion or the worry, the anxiety that there would be mission creep; that we would get into nation building; that we would begin to assume the responsibility of rebuilding this poor and war-torn country and circumstance. And there was worry because of the ethnic divisions that in 1 year how would all that be quelled. But the assurances from the administration, the assurances from Secretary Perry were that we would not be in a mission of nation building; it was a military mission, as suggested by the Senator from Texas, and that it would be 1 year and that would have to suffice. That was the U.S. commitment.

As the Senator from Texas has suggested this morning and has read some of the quotes of the London Times of April 30:
The Clinton administration has scrapped plans to withdraw its forces by the end of the year.
And we are beginning to hear pleas from the European theater and suggestions that, well, we maybe cannot conclude this at the end of the year, and, yes, maybe we will be involved in other activities other than the initial military mission of separating the warring parties.

That suggestion leaves the American people once again unclear as to how to respond to a Presidential commitment. You go to the American people and say we are going to send your sons and daughters over there but they are only going to be there a year. You come to the Congress. You say we are only going to go for 1 year. We are going to have a very narrow, very defined mission.

When we began to discuss an exit strategy, it was quelled in a minute because the administration said the exit strategy was we are out of there in a year. And now with the slippage of time, we begin to undermine those commitments. Not only does that leave the American people, not only does it leave their Representatives, the Congress of the United States, unclear as to just where we are and where this all leads, but it is almost a certainty to mean more resources, more dollars.

What that means is more pressure on the principal mission of the military, more pressure on the budget, more pressure on the funds necessary to train American soldiers, more pressure on the budget to enter into research and development to keep us the technological military we displayed in the Persian Gulf--keep it at the edge.
Yes, it does sound familiar, but do remember that President Clinton did *not* ask for an open-ended commitment in Bosnia. Iraq, however, had no Congressional time-limit upon it at the start and that commits the US to fight to *win* no matter what the cost in blood and money. That is the difference between a 'peacekeeping mission' and going to war. And here we see *why* the US had two divisions drop to their lowest readiness ratings since Vietnam: by not increasing the level of National commitment as happens in wartime, the military was given a fixed budget and much, much more to do. So it has ever been, and 'peacekeeping' that has no defined end-state at the beginning is asking for a blank check without the frivolity of asking for National commitment via War Powers. Going to War, however, under Congressional Authorization means that the Nation is willing to put forth that commitment.

So with things not trudging along well, what was the Clinton Administration's view on Iran in Bosnia? Well, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) asked the State Dept. for its views and got them in a letter from Barbara Larkin, Acting Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs dated 20 MAY 1996, which he had put into the Congressional Record: June 11, 1996 (Extensions), DOCID:cr11jn96-22, THIRD-COUNTRY ARMS DELIVERIES TO BOSNIA AND CROATIA, an excerpt follows:
The political and military dynamic in Bosnia changed in March 1994. In that month, as a result of active U.S. mediation by our Special Envoy, Ambassador Charles Redman, the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and the Bosnian Croat community signed agreements ending their military conflict and setting up a bi-communal Federation between Bonsia's Muslims and ethnic Croats. The newly born Federation immediately received strong U.S. diplomatic support, and deservedly so; its founding principles reflected pluralistic Western values and the cease-fire it engendered helped free up government forces to defend their country against the Serbs and, over time, altered the military balance.

When President Tudjman of Croatia approached Ambassador Galbraith in Zagreb in April 1994 to elicit U.S. views on allowing third-country arms shipments to Bosnia via Croatia, we determined that a negative response could have led to the collapse of the Federation and a new deterioration of the Bosnian Government's military position. Instead, we decided that the best course was neither to object to nor approve of arms transfers to Bosnia through Croatia. This was consistent with our practice in the preceding months not to take active steps to prevent third-country arms shipments. At the same time, we did not believe it would have been appropriate to endorse actions contrary to UN Security Council resolutions. Thus we told Ambassador Galbraith to state that he had "no instructions" on the matter.

Our decision eventually bore fruit. By sustaining the Federation and eroding the Serbs' military advantage, it paved the way for the American diplomacy, backed by NATO air power, that produced the peace agreement at Dayton. Our decision allowed us both to observe our legal obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 713 and to promote the achievement of peace.

How did the Administration assess the implications of such a policy change on international adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 713 and U.S. efforts to get friends and allies to stop trade, economic dealings, and investment ties with Iran?

Iran's entry into the Bosnian conflict occurred long before the April 1994 decision. Iranian efforts to gain influence in Bosnia date back to the 1980s. They gained momentum in 1991-92, in the early stages of the war, when the international community proved unable to confront Serb aggression. During this period, despite the UN arms embargo, Iran established itself as Bosnia's principal arms supplier and dispatched hundreds of Revolutionary Guard and other personnel to assist in training Bosnian Government forces. Iranian military aid was part of a multi-pronged campaign of support that also included intelligence cooperation along with economic and humanitarian assistance. We have no evidence that Iran's presence in Bosnia increased significantly after April 1994. It is also worth noting that, through the Dayton Accords and subsequent diplomacy, we have reduced Iranian military influence in Bosnia to its lowest levels in years.

The April 1994 decision had no discernable impact on U.S. efforts to gain international support for the use of economic pressure to alter Iran's objectionable behavior, including its support for terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Prior to 1994, our Allies had generally been unresponsive to our requests that they not provide Iran with economic benefits such as new official credits and loan guarantees. In the past year, however, following the President's decision to impose a trade and investment embargo against Iran, most European countries have substantially reduced the pace and volume of economic activity with Iran. We continue to urge European governments to join our efforts to pressure Iran economically. Based on our ongoing consultations, including the April 19 meeting in Rome of the U.S.-EU-Canada Working Group on Iran, we have concluded that the April 1994 decision has not significantly affected our Iran diplomacy.

Did the United States have discussions regarding these deliveries only with the Croatian and Bosnian authorities, or did the United States also have discussions directly with third countries supplying or financing these arms deliveries?

The United States had no communications with Iran regarding arms for Bosnia, nor are we aware of any occasion on which U.S. officials, in any discussions with other countries, requested them to transfer arms to Bosnia or Croatia.

What countries besides Iran were involved in the financing and delivery of arms to Bosnia? Were Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt involved?

We have provided classified documents which address this question to the Senate Intelligence Committee and we will provide these same materials to appropriate Congressional committees that request them.

If there was a change of policy, why was there a change of policy, and who was informed of it? Was Congress informed, were Allies informed, and were all appropriate officials of the United States informed about a change in policy that affected stated, public policy? If not, why not?

In order to succeed, the thrust of our diplomatic activity both before and after April 1994--adhering to our obligations under UN resolutions, maintaining the cohesion of the Western Alliance, while not taking action to prevent the Bosnians from receiving weapons--required great discretion. That is why the Administration kept the April 1994 discussions with the Croatian government closely held within its own ranks.

It should be noted, however, that the Congressional leadership and relevant committees were made aware of the existence of Iranian arms shipments both from Administration-provided intelligence briefings and press reports. Furthermore, the U.S. decision not to object to such shipments was not inconsistent with the will of Congress as expressed in a June 1994 vote in the House of Representatives to lift the arms embargo unilaterally. In October 1994, the full Congress voted to cut off funds for U.S. enforcement of the arms embargo. No exception for Iranian arms was contained in the legislation, nor was any such exception proposed during the debate.
Thus when looking to stop shipments of arms the US decided to punt and let the UN take the blame for not telling folks which Nations could or could not act as a funnel for illegal shipments! Now, some folks may think that is just fine and dandy, but it really does point to a lack of any foreign policy via the Clinton Administration. Was the US to just act ONLY on UN directives, or did the Nation actually have a real live foreign policy that it was pushing forward? Luckily Europe bailed the Administration out by finally deciding that waiting for the UN was the equivalent of watching the grass grow, until they realized it was bamboo and would take a long time to actually finish growing. But the really interesting news is about Iran which did not increase its commitment level in Bosnia which was already in the hundreds. That lovely bit about 'reducing their numbers to the lowest level in years' and also stating the long-term commitment of Iran and the large number of people they had already been sending points to that 'reduction' as being minuscule. And the grand solution to this? Apply more sanctions that no one is willing to actually enforce. Finally when asked about other support from areas with an Islamic terrorist problems, the Administration says that is only for closed-door discussions.

So, the Clinton Administration's stance on stopping Iranian influence in Iran? 1) Apply sanctions, 2) Ask others to join you, 3) Point to a few people shifting in and out as a significant reduction of forces, 4) Do nothing. The result of this? Congress did what it always does in such circumstances - send out a group on a 'fact finding mission' and do the Inspector Clouseau bit. From Congressional Record: March 19, 1998 (Extensions), DOCID:cr19mr98-6, THE REPUBLIC OF HUNGARY AND THE REPUBLIC OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, Congressional Delegation Trip Report March 5-9, 1998, Members: Representatives C.W. Bill Young, Tom Sawyer, Neil Abercrombie, Henry Bonilla, Tillie Fowler, Eddie Bernice Johnson, David Minge, Charles Bass, George Nethercutt, Allan Boyd. And I will excerpt just this bit of it as it is pertinent:
The Ambassador reviewed the "train and equip" program with the delegation and offered his opinion that besides working to redress the Muslim/Croat military disadvantage vis-a-vis the Serbs, it had important side benefits. These include helping keep out Iran and other interests who had supported the Muslims or Croatians during the war. It also provides a forum whereby the Muslims and Croats are learning to work together, not only at the military level but also at the political level which is essential if the Federation government is to become a success.

The delegation then had the opportunity to question both the Ambassador and Jacques Klein. In response to queries, Mr. Klein explained the goal of being able to gradually withdraw U.S. forces by disengaging them from many functions over time as civilian institutions develop or are reestablished.

Mr. Klein then expressed his view as to some of the larger geopolitical issues involved in Bosnia. Simply stated, he said, Europe does not want a Muslim-dominated state in the region and a viable Serbia and Croatia are viewed as needed to prevent that from happening.
So, its been nearly 4 years since all this fun started and Iran is *still* influencing things on the ground in Bosnia and Europe is still frightened about that influence. And I thought the idea was to get Iran OUT of Bosnia. Slowly this drops off the Congressional Radar screen as NATO and the UN are slowly involved and things never do seem to get straightened out. And I do wish that Europe would actually take a material role in things at least at the level the US does. But perhaps they are not serious about not wanting a Muslim State on their doorstep.

Even worse is this report from the Joint Committee on Special Operations at Globalsecurity.org on Iranian Intelligence Operations:
Iranian intelligence agencies are also mounting extensive operations in Bosnia to gather information and counter Western influence. As of late 1997 more than 200 Iranian agents have insinuated themselves into Bosnian Muslim political and social circles, and infiltrated the US program to train the Bosnian army. Iranian is collaborating with a pro-Iranian faction in Bosnia's intelligence service, the Agency for Investigation and Documentation. But Iran's intelligence operations extend far beyond the training program, and are aimed at influencing a broad range of Bosnian institutions.
Thus, not only was Iran *not* reducing its numbers in Bosnia, it was actually infiltrating *more* people into Bosnia than before, so the Clinton Administration not only didn't know the base of the trendline, but did not know its direction either, which was UP not DOWN.

That does not, however, means that such influence by Iran disappears, only that the short attention span of Congress has been exhausted. In one of the stranger sources I have yet to look at for real news is Pravda! Little did I think a couple of decades ago that it might actually have some *news* content in it. That said this short article from 09 OCT 2002 has this on goings-on in Bosnia:
Islamic Fundamentalists from al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad Meet in Bosnia

An illegal meeting of Islamic fundamentalists from over 50 countries took place yesterday in the Bosnian town of Travnik, which is under the control of the Muslim-Croatian Federation. According to the law-enforcement authorities of Bosnia's Serbian Republic, the meeting included representatives of Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Active Islamic Youth.

According to representatives of the special forces of the Serbian Republic, al-Qaida radicals were in Travnik for two days, but neither the Bosnian police nor SFOR peacekeeping soldiers made any attempt to arrest them. In Travnik Islamic delegates reached an agreement on the 'full consolidation' of religious and political movements in the battle against 'American aggression'. According to Rosbalt's correspondent, over twenty Islamic radicals illegally entered Bosnia from Albania.
Quite the confab! There you have some of the deadliest Islamic terrorist organizations all sending representatives to a pow-wow right under the noses of the NATO forces there. I think we can take it that the Clinton Administration never did properly 'reduce' Iranian influence in Bosnia.

Over at Globalsecurity.org they have this as part of their entry for Al-Qaida on a page last updated on 15 AUG 2006:
Location/Area of Operation
Al-Qaida has cells worldwide and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. Coalition attacks on Afghanistan since October 2001 have dismantled the Taliban–al-Qaida’s protectors–and led to the capture, death, or dispersal of al-Qaida operatives. Some al-Qaeda members at large probably will attempt to carry out future attacks against US interests. Other known areas of operation: United States, Yemen, Germany, Pakistan.

Al-Qaida is a multi-national network possessing a global reach and has supported through financing, training and logistics, Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Eritrea, Kosovo, the Philippines, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Yemen, and now Kosovo. Additionally, al-Qaida has been linked to conflicts and attacks in Africa, Asia, Europe, the former Soviet Republics, the Middle East, as well as North and South America.

The headquarters of al-Qaeda are not known anymore.

  • From 1991 to 1996, al-Qaeda worked out of Sudan.
  • From 1996 until the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, al-Qaeda operated out of Afghanistan and maintained its training camps there.
  • U.S. intelligence officials now think al-Qaeda’s senior leadership is trying to regroup in lawless tribal regions just inside Pakistan, near the Afghan border, inside Pakistani cities or in Iran.
  • In May 2003, administration officials claimed that senior al-Qaeda figures were in Iran and urged Tehran to apprehend them. Sa'ad bin Laden, Usama bin Laden's son, in an October 2003 report, is said be among those in Iran.
  • Al-Qaeda has autonomous underground cells in some 100 countries, including the United States, officials say. Law enforcement has broken up al-Qaeda cells in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Albania, Uganda, and elsewhere.

It is impossible to known precisely, due to the decentralized stucture of the organization. Al-Qaida may have several thousand members and associates. It trained over 5,000 militants in camps in Afghanistan since the late 1980s. It also serves as a focal point for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, some members of al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin.

External Aid
Bin Laden, member of a billionaire family that owns the Bin Ladin Group construction empire, is said to have inherited tens of millions of dollars that he uses to help finance the group. Al-Qaida also maintains moneymaking front businesses, solicits donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations. US efforts to block al-Qaida funding has hampered al-Qaida’s ability to obtain money.

Al-Qaida has cooperated with a number of known terrorist groups worldwide including:

  • Armed Islamic Group
  • Salafist Group for Call and Combat and the Armed Islamic Group
  • Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Egypt)
  • Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya
  • Jamaat Islamiyya
  • The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
  • Bayt al-Imam (Jordan)
  • Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir)
  • Asbat al Ansar
  • Hezbollah (Lebanon)
  • Al-Badar
  • Harakat ul Ansar/Mujahadeen
  • Al-Hadith
  • Harakat ul Jihad
  • Jaish Mohammed - JEM
  • Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
  • Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan
  • Laskar e-Toiba - LET
  • Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the Philippines)
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (Malaysia, Philippines)
  • Al-Ittihad Al Islamiya - AIAI (Somalia)
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
  • Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen)

These groups share al-Qaeda’s Sunni Muslim fundamentalist views. Some terror experts theorize that Al-Qaeda, after the loss of it Afghanistan base, may be increasingly reliant on sympathetic affiliates to carry out it agenda. Intelligence officials and terrorism experts also say that al-Qaeda has stepped up its cooperation on logistics and training with Hezbollah, a radical, Iran-backed Lebanese militia drawn from the minority Shiite strain of Islam.

Al-Arabiyah television reported on 20 October 2004 that Jama'at Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad hadr released a statement claiming it has officially joined the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Al-Jazeera broadcast a statement by the group identifying itself as Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad in Bilad al-Rafidayn (Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers). Iraq is commonly known as the land of the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. The statement has not been verified. Usama bin Laden'd 29 October 2004 video broadcast on the Arab TV network Al Jazeera made no mention of Zarqawi, suggesting that the report a few days earlier that Zarqawi and Bin Laden had joined forces were in error.
    Busy folks, aren't they? Still, this does point up a problem that once militant Islamic fundamentalists with a bent towards terrorism get to a place, they are very difficult to remove plus the internetworking support structure means that going after al Qaeda requires an in-depth job that is across the board.

    The fine folks at Globalsecurity.org also provide this bit from their Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty library, which is part of a series aired in 2005 about Iran's extensive backing of terrorism abroad:
    Outside of the Middle East, Iran also appears to have sought to use its aid to Bosnia's Muslims during the conflict there to secretly train fundamentalist groups.

    Analyst Nima Rashedan said much of the evidence of such activities comes from documents seized by NATO forces in Bosnia.

    "This is a case that happened in a place in Bosnia. Before the Dayton Accords and the presence of the United States and NATO in Bosnia, the Islamic Republic had sent groups to Bosnia, including the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, led by Mohammad Reza Shams Naqdi, and his deputy, Hossein Allahkaram, based near Sarajevo -- another group from the Intelligence Ministry -- who had set up a camp, training fundamentalists close to [Alija] Izetbegovic's Democratic Action Party, to establish the intelligence apparatus of Bosnia. Later, NATO attacked the camp and arrested a number of people, including Iranian intelligence officials. The most interesting point was the discovery of documents that were part of the curriculum for the training of Bosnian intelligence recruits by Iranians. Among the instructions in the texts were methods for killing opposition figures and silencing journalists. That is, the Intelligence Ministry instructed a foreign organization's members how to intimidate, hunt, kidnap, eliminate, and threaten the families and the financial sources of journalists," Rashedan said.
    Thus the absolute and direct link of captured documents and Intellligence Agents from Iran on the training of recruits in Bosnia is seen. This is not some short term affair for Iran, obviously. Now, how the internetworking of terrorist organizations can be seen from another perspective, we have this from the written testimony presented to the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, 13 DEC 2000 from Ralf Mutschke, Interpol's Assistant Director, Criminal Intelligence Directorate:
    Structural links between political terrorism and traditional criminal activity, such as drugs trafficking, armed robbery or extortion have come increasingly to the attention of law enforcement authorities, security agencies and political decision makers. There is a fairly accepted view in the international community that in recent years, direct state sponsorship has declined, therefore terrorists increasingly have to resort to other means of financing, including criminal activities, in order to raise funds. These activities have traditionally been drug trafficking, extortion/collection of "revolutionary taxes", armed robbery, and kidnappings. The involvement of such groups as the PKK, LTTE, and GIA in these activities has been established.

    I would like to draw the particular attention of the Committee to the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), considering the events of December last year. On 14 December 1999, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested near Port Angeles, Washington State, while trying to enter the United States from Canada. He was in possession of a timing device, explosive materials and false identification documents. Ahmed Ressam is known to have shared a Montreal (Canada) apartment with Said Atmani, a known document forger for the GIA. It has been established that before Ressam attempted to enter the US, he was in the company of Abdelmajid Dahoumane in Vancouver (Canada) for a 3 to 4 week period. An Interpol Red Notice was issued regarding the latter. The investigation has revealed links between terrorists of Algerian origin and a criminal network established in Montreal and specializing in the theft of portable computers and mobile telephones. The group in Montreal was in contact with individuals involved in terrorist support activity in France, and with several Moudjahidin groups who are active in Bosnia.

    Subsequent to the arrest of Ressam, the Montreal police arrested twelve persons who were committing theft of valuable goods in cars in the Montreal downtown area. The proceeds of these criminal activities were sent to an international network with links to France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Bosnia.

    The events in Canada and the United States should be seen in a wider perspective. Indeed, intelligence shows that several Algerian terrorist leaders were present at a meeting in Albania, which could also have been attended by Usama bin Laden, who was believed to be in Albania at that time. It was during this meeting that many structures and networks were established for propaganda and fund raising activities, and for providing Algerian armed groups with logistical support. The arrest at the Canada-US border in December 1999 may indicate that the Algerian terrorists are prepared to take their terrorism campaign to North America.

    The GIA is a very active and deadly terrorist organization operating mainly in Algeria but which has also mounted several terrorist attacks in France, including the hijacking of an Air France jetliner in 1994 and a bombing campaign in 1995. Their aim is the overthrow of the Algerian Secular Government and its replacement with an Islamic state. They have developed large scale support and financing activities in Europe and other parts of the world. An analysis recently conducted at the Interpol General Secretariat has revealed GIA involvement in a number of criminal activities in several European countries. Although the information received is fragmented, it has been established that GIA support networks are involved in extortion, currency counterfeiting, fraud, and money laundering.

    The above examples concern traditional terrorist groups with a well-defined political ideology who are only involved in organized crime on a secondary level. However, two of the main emerging threats today seem to emanate, on the one hand, from more hybrid groups who operate in highly unstable, often war-torn countries or regions, and, on the other hand, loose alliances and cooperation among different, already existing transnational criminal organizations. Albanian crime groups are highly representative of this trend.
    Do note that this was in 2000 and al Qaeda was already seen as involved in Algerian terrorists while bin Laden was believed to be in Albania. Thus the capture of GIA terrorists in the US and Canada before 9/11 points to a longer term and deeper involvement by al Qaeda and other organizations against the US. Now, as Mr. Mutschke is looking at the coincidence of organized crime and terrorism, he cites this interesting passage further on talking about Albanian organized crime:
    Finally, Albanian criminal groups frequently engage in burglaries, armed robberies and car theft in Europe and the United States.

    There might still be links between political/military Kosovar Albanian groups (especially the KLA) and Albanian organized crime. Of the almost 900 million DM which reached Kosovo between 1996 and 1999, half was thought to be illegal drug money. Legitimate fundraising activities for the Kosovo and the KLA could have been be used to launder drug money. In 1998, the U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Usama bin Laden. Another link to bin Laden is the fact that the brother of a leader in an Egyptian Djihad organization and also a military commander of Usama bin Laden, was leading an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict. In 1998, the KLA was described as a key player in the drugs for arms business in 1998, "helping to transport 2 billion USD worth of drugs annually into Western Europe". The KLA and other Albanian groups seem to utilize a sophisticated network of accounts and companies to process funds. In 1998, Germany froze two bank accounts belonging to the "United Kosova" organization after it had been discovered that several hundred thousand dollars had been deposited into those accounts by a convicted Kosovar Albanian drug trafficker.
    That is Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Remember that bin Laden may not only be in the region for himself, but for allies and compatriots in terrorism. This is how the terror internetworking grows: trusted individuals giving entree to new organizations and areas, thus opening up further capabilities within the entire network. From there he extends the network analysis even further:
    In order to smuggle their illicit products into the U.S., Colombian drug cartels began forming alliances with Mexican groups, who have a well-developed smuggling infrastructure for transporting drugs across the vast border with the United States. As Mexicans began to charge more for their services, Colombians established relationships with various Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and African-American groups which act as smugglers and retailers for Colombian wholesale cocaine. Colombians have also formed an alliance with some of the Nigerian drug trafficking groups based on product exchange. In the early 1990s, Nigerian groups supplied heroin to Colombian drug traffickers in exchange for cocaine. Colombians were able to develop their own heroin market, while Nigerians started selling cocaine in Western Europe. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, an important alliance was formed between Colombian drug cartels and the Sicilian Mafia. Since the cocaine market in the U.S. was saturated, and because cocaine could be sold with higher profit margins in Europe, Colombians wanted to enter the European drug market. The Cosa Nostra’s well established heroin network was easily applicable to cocaine. In addition, the Sicilians had an excellent knowledge of European conditions and were able to neutralize law enforcement officials through bribery and corruption more effectively than the Colombians. From the Sicilian perspective, the alliance with Colombians was an opportunity to regain part of the market that had been lost to Chinese heroin traffickers. In recent years, South American drug cartels have been forming alliances with East European/Russian Organized Crime Groups in order to support and diversify their operations. East European groups have offered drug cartels access to sophisticated weapons that were previously not available. Helicopters, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and even submarines are on the drug cartels’ "shopping list." The East European groups provided new drug markets in Russia, the former Soviet Republics, and Eastern Europe, while consumption was decreasing in the U.S. In 1993, Russian police intercepted a ton of South American cocaine which had been shipped to St. Petersburg by one Russian crime syndicate working with a Colombian drug cartel. In another example, a Russian crime leader was arrested in January 1997 in Miami by U.S. agents for the exportation of cocaine from Ecuador to St. Petersburg (Russia) and then to the United States. In exchange for these services, drug cartels pay for transactions with high quality cocaine. East European/Russian crime syndicates and corrupt military officers are supplying sophisticated weapons to Colombian rebels in exchange for huge shipments of cocaine. Although the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) receives most of the arms, some of them are distributed to Hezbollah factions.
    Yes, you do read that correctly as a culmination of contacts and organizations extending from Eastern Europe to South America using not only organized crime but Hezbollah offshoots in South America. Also the combination of contacts between Hezbollah and FARC is extremely worrying as it gives each of these organizations a longer list of contacts and suppliers that are nearly global in scale.

    Beyond all of that, however, is another piece of the Bosnia-Iran puzzle, which is the nuclear portion. This piece comes from Appendix A of a report by Mark Gorwitz on Foreign Assistance to Iran's Nuclear and Missile Programs, OCT 1998:
    With the disintegration of Yugoslavia many of these scientists are looking for work. The possibility of recruitment by Iran is of particular concern. The effect of the covert program by the US to use Iran to supply Bosnia with arms needs to be analyzed.(19) Whether these ties will be exploited by Iran to gain access to sensitive technology remains to be seen.(20)
    Previous to that he describes the various purification and separation work for radionucleotides done in the Former Yugoslavia. Not to make too fine a point of that is the Communist era agreements between Iran, Yugoslavia and Russia, as reported at the RFE/RL Iran Report, 3 May 1999, Volume 2, Number 18 archives:
    On 30 April, Belgrade's state-owned, pro-Milosevic news agency, Tanjug, reported that the KLA is supported by many foreign states. Tanjug reported: "Many terrorist activities of the organization are organized and prepared in Iran with the help of other Islamic countries: Pakistan, Turkey, Syria." On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said although Iran supported the Bosnian Muslims militarily, it would not supply the KLA with weapons deliveries, because "the situation in Kosova is different from the Bosnia war," the German daily "Franfurter Allgemeine" reported on 24 April.

    Curiously, there are reports that Iran is part of a secret alliance including Yugoslavia, Russia, and Iraq. The Paris-based Arabic newspaper "al-Watan al-Arabi" reported on 23 April that a delegation of Iranian intelligence officers paid "an important secret visit" to Moscow to discuss details of the alliance. The Iranians requested the most-up-to-date Russian arms, in exchange for which they pledged that the Bosnia experience would not be repeated. Iran promised to "not escalate its solidarity with the Muslims of Kosova to the extent of sending units of the Republican Guards or Hizballah units or military equipment to help the Kosova Liberation Army. The Iranians pledged not to arouse Islamic sentiments and not to rally and finance extremist movements, as happened in Bosnia, for jihad [holy war] in Kosova."

    The newspaper also reported the existence of an older tripartite arrangement between Belgrade, Baghdad, and Tehran. Leading Iranian figures in this deal were Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezai, and former Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian. Via this arrangement, Iraqi oil was smuggled to Iran, and Yugoslav companies based in Tehran would then sell the oil, repaying Iraq with arms and military equipment. Also, these companies ensured the delivery of oil and banned equipment to Yugoslavia.
    The names of the Nations may be different, but the players tend to remain the same, and any background helps to re-establish previous contacts. That is why Iranian influence on the European doorstep is so dangerous: it hides the open attempts by Iran to garner material support and expertise for its own needs, and it furthers the spread of terrorism as they support Islamic fundamentalists that can then infiltrate into the rest of Europe.

    And since those names also tend to stay put in the Intelligence Community, those same folks who missed the increase in Iranian Intelligence agents shifting into Bosnia in the 1990's, I tend to not see similar reports from them as reliable, as reflected in this press briefing at the US State Dept. by Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman on 17 OCT 2006:
    QUESTION: Okay. According to reports from Slovenia U.S. Congressional Advisor Joseph Bodanowski claimed that a terrorist organization has come up with a plan entitled: "Balkans 2020." The plans include establishment of terrorist camps in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Sandzak, which is a Serbian territory, from where terrorist would carry out attacks against the rest of Europe. Do you have anything on that or make any comment?

    MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I'm not familiar with these reports. Certainly we continue to work worldwide in the fight against terrorism. We have a good cooperative relationship with many of the countries in the Balkans on these kinds of issues and certainly we'll be doing everything we can to assure that there are no terrorist operations ongoing anywhere in the Balkans.
    Let me know when you folks find those 200 or so Iranian agents. Unless that number has gone *up*. And don't mind those three bombs that exploded in Travnik in 2005 or the bombing of a Muslim Bosnian President's grave. Or the bombing of a journalist's residence in 2004. Or blowing up of an ex-Chief of Police's car across from a police station in 2004. Or the bombing of a mosque in Orahova to prevent some folks from returning home after fleeing as refugees. Or the bombing of a secondary school.

    Remember that Bosnia does not have terrorist operations going on there.

    And those are reducing... most likely because Iran has gotten very, very busy elsewheres the past couple of years.


    Harrison said...

    Criminal networks abound.

    Powerful post, a jacksonian. Hillary Clinton's accusations of Bush leaving behind a mess in '08 for the nation to clean up - when Clinton's own mess was even more entrenched and with greater long-term implications.

    A Jacksonian said...

    Harrison - Not only do the criminal networks abound, but they are cross-supportive with the terrorist networks. Organizationally this is giving each of them wide and deep access to all sorts of means and methods that would escape the purview of either alone. Terrorist infiltration and exfiltration of personnel can now serve as conduits for crime syndicates, while crime syndicates can offer sustainment for terrorist operations that normal shipping cannot support.

    This is what I have been pointing out with previous posts like Template of Terror, Web of the Supernote, and looking at the AQ Khan ring along with how drug lords in South America operate. Throw in the illegal gem business that includes the Emerald Gangs in South America, Blood Diamonds in Africa and various other gem stones in places like Kashmir and you start to get the feel for how extensive this intertwined set of operations can get. Terrorists can now get logistical support via crime syndicates, work criminal activities and offer those same syndicates ways to get into areas that they are normally restricted from.

    I hit the Clinton Administration harder in my post on The Volunteer Fifth Column and the entire mess that they left behind, including knowing that al Qaeda was supporting terrorist operations in the US and Canada, along with Yemen, show that they had no foriegn policy and would not address terrorism in any way, shape or form. And we are left the poorer for that and in much, much more danger.

    This intertwining of criminal and terrorist activities makes BOTH harder to address and each of them deadlier over time.

    We had best learn that, or history will remind us of our stupidity.