The Balkan Side of Syria


The European Implications of a War among Muslims.
By Luca Susic (translated by L. Pavese)
It looked like the case had been definitively closed in April of 2013, when Croatian President Ivo Josipovich firmly declared that his country did not sell weapons to the Syrian rebels but rather to the Kingdom of Jordan. But a few days ago, several Croatian newspapers resumed the offensive, repeating that, during the first seven months of 2013, Croatia sold material worth more than 26 M€ (millions of Euros) to the Syrian anti-government forces. In fact, according to the newspapers, the export of light weapons was organized through Jordan, and the incredible increase of sales to the Middle Eastern kingdom is offered as evidence.

President Josipovich

According to Mr. Danko Radaljac (a reporter for the daily Novi List) in the course of her first twenty years of independence Croatia supplied Amman weapons worth a total of just $ 1.035, basically nothing; but in 2012 the sales increased to M$ 6.5, that is, a 6280 percent increase in the total sales of the 1992-2011 period.

So far, there hasn’t been an official refutation from the Croatian government, or from the President, but the serious allegations bring to mind what had emerged last Spring, when Zagreb was accused by reporters of the New York Times of having entered an agreement with Saudi Arabia for the supply of weapons to the Syrian Islamist rebels.
It is worth pointing out that the presence of former Yugoslavian weapons in the hands of anti-Assad jihadists was already confirmed last year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, by the intelligence agency Stratfor and, above all, by the Croatian publication Obris. The latter proved that the rebels were in possession of equipment of Balkan origin, such as M60 (82 millimeters) recoilless guns, M79 (90 millimeters) anti-tank rocket launchers and RBG-6 (40 millimeters) multiple grenade launchers.

RBG-6 in Syria. 
The Balkan countries  are also, against their will, involved in another sort of export to Syria: the transfer of Islamist volunteers. This issue returned recently to the forefront in Europe after Germany’s international broadcast service Deutsche Welle published a report on the danger posed by the return home of these fighters. Journalist Esad Hećimović, who is an expert on the subject and was interviewed on the matter, stated that it is very likely that, after their Syrian experience, the Islamic fundamentalists will begin to train new recruits in the former-Yugoslavia, and target reporters and politicians whom they consider troublesome, such as Bosnian Interior Minister Radoničić.  Mr. Hećimović also pointed out that the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina (which calls itself “the sole and unique community of Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina”) could not find the right way to relate with these extremists who ended up forcefully antagonizing the community.
As Igor Tabak of Obris magazine reported, the Bosnian situation is the most potentially explosive due to the greater concentration of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda and to Iran, who arrived in the country during the war of 1992-1995 (supposedly, they are at least 2000); but also for the presence of faithful Muslims who became more radical in the years following the conflict. According to the expert, the increase in the number of “re-converted” Muslims can be confirmed by the fact that many Bosnians “are now observing festivities that they would have never acknowledge before,” and more and more women wear the hijab in the streets. In Tabak’s opinion (but not only his) all this happened because, when the war was over, the foreign fighters who stayed behind in Bosnia obtained the passport of the newborn republic and, thanks to the funding from Saudi Arabia, they were able to build new mosques through which they are promoting a more extreme Wahabist version of Islam. 

Considering the fact that the Bosnian Croat-Muslim Federation is now shaken by very strong popular protest (the rate of unemployment has reached record levels, especially among the youth) there exists the real risk that these extremist Muslim fringes, who can count on a good deal of cash and are well organized, could influence an increasingly large part of the local population.

  Luca Susic is a Trieste born Italian journalist, who writes about defense, energy and politics with a focus on the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The article was originally published on the Italian online magazine Analisi Difesa, and was translated and published here with their permission.

I'd like to thank J.J.P. for reviewing the English text, and your comments will be greatly appreciated.
  Thank you.
Leonardo Pavese


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