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(E) VIEWPOINT FROM LONDON
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/20/2003 | Politics | Unrated
(E) VIEWPOINT FROM LONDON

 

Viewpoint from London

Charles R Shrader's A Military History
THE SARAJEVO-BELGRADE DEAL

By Brian Gallagher

The Croatian Herald, Australia No. 974 - 11 July 2003

Did the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina support
Belgrade during the Serbian invasion of Croatia in
1991? This is a question worth looking at especially
in light of a new history of the Muslim-Croat war by
American military historian Charles R Shrader. It is
being publicised as reaching 'uncomfortable'
conclusions. These conclusions are that Croats were
outgunned and on the defensive in that conflict; not a
view that will not go down well in some circles. Given
such re-assessment, it is worth looking at Sarajevo's
behaviour towards Croatia in 1991.

Much is made of the alleged deal between Franjo
Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic to partition
Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). In their noted history "The
Death of Yugoslavia", the authors Laura Silber and
Allan Little make the rational point that this
agreement did not last long, as the Serbs made their
move against Croatia shortly after it. This alleged
agreement is much aired, especially in regard to the
Muslim-Croat war. It no doubt serves the purposes of
many in different ways such as the international
community, the Serbs, some Croatian politicians, and
for obvious reasons the Bosnian government of the
time.

It is in Silber/Little's work that we find some
disturbing facts about the behaviour of the then
Sarajevo government that the publicity around the
alleged Milosevic/Tudjman deal has helped obscure.
Tudjman had put feelers out to BiH President
Izetbegovic's government via its Croat members about
opening a second front against the Serbs using the BiH
Territorial Defence forces (TO). However, pro-Belgrade
Bosniak Interior Minister Alija Delimustafic had
already placed the BiH TO on Belgrade's side. He
agreed to allow the Yugoslav Army (JNA) to use BiH as
a command base to attack Croatia. JNA General
Kadijevic agreed with the Bosnian leadership to set up
joint patrols.

This help was highly significant. Silber/Little quote
no less a figure than JNA counter-intelligence chief
Aleksander Vasiljevic on the matter. He states how
joint Bosnian/JNA patrols and checkpoints were set up
prevent armed movements by paramilitaries and to
facilitate for JNA movements. BiH was needed to get
the JNA to Knin in Croatia. Vasiljevic clearly thinks
that Bosnian help to the JNA was instrumental: "If
they had not got through we would never have been able
to fight. Bosnia was our corridor to Krajina (occupied
Croatia)".

This obviously reflects on Delimustafic's boss,
President Izetbegovic. Izetbegovic respected and
feared the JNA, praising it at one point as a
"stabilising effect" in BiH - blaming reservists for
trouble. He had agreed with Kadijevic to joint
Bosnian/JNA patrols.

Indeed, when there were murders of muslims by Serbs in
the town of Bijeljina in 1992, Izetbegovic - under
pressure - invited in the JNA to the town. This,
despite the JNA slaughter of Croats in Croatia.
Furthermore, the JNA had the previous year attacked
and destroyed the the Bosnian Croat town of Ravno. The
JNA had already shown aggression towards BiH yet
Izetbevovic invited them to Biljeljna. The non-Serb
population was swiftly ethnically cleansed. Little
wonder that many Bosnian Croats did not trust
Sarajevo.

Silber/Little shy away from the implications of the
agreements with Belgrade. But it is fairly clear from
this that Sarajevo supported Serbian aggression
against Croatia, prior to the Serbs all-out attack on
BiH. This needs more exploration, especially given the
high profile claims regarding Croatia's role in BiH
during the war.

This matter should not detract from the reality of
Serbian aggression against BiH, nor does it mitigate
any Croat atrocities committed against Muslims. Nor
indeed should it detract from many Bosniaks who
supported Croatia. But Sarajevo's role in supporting
Belgrade’s criminal enterprise against Croatia in 1991
is a matter that is long overdue for proper
examination.


*For those interested, Charles R Shrader's "The
Muslim-Croat Civil War in Bosnia : A Military History"
should be available this month, published by Texas A&M
University Press Consortium ; ISBN: 1585442615

© Brian Gallagher

My 'Viewpoint from London' column appears fortnightly
in the Australian 'Croatian Herald' and thereafter at
www.croatiafocus.com

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