Lieberman and the Terrorist Hotbed in the Balkans

By LBF Editors
Saturday, 20 Feb 2010

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The Balkans region is a major target of global Jihad, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman says. He addressed a subject that is still taboo in Washington: how the U.S. policy helped create a terrorist hotbed in Europe "that now refuses to go away."

The jihadists in southeastern Europe are using well-established methods, Lieberman said, which include huge transfers of funds and the establishment of “sleeper” cells in the region. Intelligence services had evidence that Islamic terrorist organisations were already recruiting in the Balkans, Lieberman added, and Islamic and Saudi charities were continuously transferring funds to Muslims of Bosnian and Albanian origin. Citing Israeli intelligence sources, Lieberman said that Muslim militants planned to exploit tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Balkans to create unrest and instigate violence. Bosnian Muslims and Albanians had been recruited for terrorist training camps in preparation for being sent home to foster an Islamic revolution, according to Lieberman.

Examples abound. In December 2009, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee – one of two men jailed in the United States for planning terrorist attacks – was found by American investigators to have been in contact with Mirsad Bektašević, a Bosnian-born Swedish citizen who was convicted in 2007 of plotting to cause explosions in Europe to make foreign troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

By siding with Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s and by supporting Albanian terrorism and separatism for the past two decades, Washington has fostered the establishment of the Green Transverse or “Green Corridor” (Zelena transverzala -- see The Balkan Monitor article on this site) that seeks to create a geographically contiguous chain of majority-Muslim or Muslim-dominated polities from Turkey in the southeast to the northwesternmost point of Bosnia at Cazin.

Israeli foreign minister has merely summarized some notable trends among Muslim communities in the Balkans which strongly suggest that the Green Corridor is taking shape, either deliberately or spontaneously. Nevertheless, many Western academic experts and media commentators (especially in the English-speaking world) have been a priori dismissive of any suggestion that a long-term Islamic geopolitical design exists in the Balkans, let alone that it is being systematically pursued. Thanks to Lieberman’s alert, however, it will no longer be possible to claim that the notion of the Green Corridor is a product of any one interested party's "propaganda” with “Islamophobic” overtones.

Lieberman’s statement brings to mind another prominent Jewish commentator who tried to sound the same alarm almost two decades ago. The Bosnian war was still raging when my late friend Sir Alfred Sherman, former advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and co-founder of The Lord Byron Foundation, warned in The Jewish Chronicle (London) that the Muslims’ objective was “to create a ‘Green Corridor’ from Bosnia through the Sanjak to Kosovo” that would separate Serbia from Montenegro. Western powers were “in effect fostering this Islamistan,” Sherman warned, and developing “close working relations with Iran, whose rulers are keen to establish a European base for their politico-religious activities.” On this point, too, Lieberman echoed Sherman’s concern from 1994: Iran was involved then, and it still is now.

Sherman’s diagnosis proved to be prescient. A decade later it was echoed by Col. Shaul Shay of BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. In his 2006 study Islamic Terror and the Balkans he noted that “the Balkans serve as a forefront on European soil for Islamic terror organizations, which exploit this area to promote their activities in Western Europe, and other focal points worldwide:

"T]he establishment of an independent Islamic territory including Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania… is one of the most prominent achievements of Islam since the siege of Vienna in 1683. Islamic penetration into Europe through the Balkans is one of the main achievements of Islam in the twentieth century.” Shay’s account shows how the Bosnian war provided the historical opportunity for radical Islam to penetrate the Balkans at a time when the Muslim world – headed by Iran and the various Islamic terror organizations, including al-Qaeda – came to the aid of the Muslims. The Jihadist operational and organizational infrastructures were thus established.

Israeli intelligence sources on which Lieberman relies for his information are well aware that, in the Balkans, Al-Qaeda and its loosely linked local offshoots are capable of fielding operatives who are “European” in appearance and seemingly integrated into the Western society – the “white al-Qa’eda.” There is a growing gap between the reality of Islam in the Balkans and Western mainstream narrative about the allegedly moderate and tolerant “Balkan Islam.” The problem will not be resolved without critical reexamination of Western policies as well as Western illusions. That problem has morphed over the past two decades into a demographic, social and political quagmire.

The U.S. policy in Southeast Europe over the past two decades in general, and Washington’s policy in Bosnia and Kosovo in particular, was based on the expectation that satisfying Muslim ambitions in a secondary theater will improve the U.S. standing in the Muslim world as a whole. The policy has never yielded any dividends, but repeated failure only prompts its advocates to redouble their efforts - under Obama no less than under his two predecessors. In reality, far from providing a model of pro-Western “moderate Islam,” Kosovo, Muslim Bosnia, Sanjak, western Macedonia, and southern Bulgaria are already the breeding ground for thousands of young hard-line Islamists. Their dedication is honed in thousands of newly-built, mostly Saudi-financed mosques and Islamic centers. The intent was stated by the head of the Islamic establishment in Sarajevo. “The small jihad is now finished … The Bosnian state is intact. But now we have to fight a bigger, second jihad,” Mustafa Ceric, the Reis-ul-Ulema in Bosnia-Herzegovina, declared over a decade ago.

This statement reflects the inherent dynamism of political Islam: a truce with Dar al-Harb is allowed, sometimes even mandated, but a permanent peace is impossible for as long as there is a single infidel entity refusing to submit to Dar al-Islam. The immediate bill of such policy will be paid by the people of the Balkans, as it is already being paid by Kosovo’s disappearing Serbs; but long-term costs will haunt the West.

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