Muslim World and Bosnia

Frustration with UN response leads some Islamic nations to aid Bosnians

AS the West sits idly on the sidelines and watches the systemic extermination of Bosnian Muslims, an outraged Muslim world, with clenched fists and whispers of jihad (holy war), readies itself to become involved in the Balkan war.

The Islamic Conference Organization (ICO), 50 Muslim countries with more than 1 billion inhabitants, following the lead of its two most outspoken members, Iran and Turkey, has been calling for military intervention in Bosnia. Islamic countries view the inaction of the United Nations as Western hypocrisy toward the Muslim world, especially in light of the swift, decisive end brought to Iraq's adventurism in Kuwait.

Anti-Serbian sentiments are boiling in these countries, and many point a finger at the UN as a benign culprit in the Bosnian fiasco. Hikmet Cetin, Turkey's foreign minister and usually a staunch supporter of the West, could no longer restrain his criticism of the UN and lashed out at Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Mr. Cetin said the secretary-general "has failed to discharge his duties with the required sense of responsibility and seriousness."

Ayatollah Emamikshani, a senior Iranian cleric, was equally critical: "If the UN seeks to take things seriously and declare itself to be the organization of nations ... and not an organization of arrogant powers ... it must rush to the aid of those being tyrannized." He proposed that "all the Islamic states should form a united army for the liberation of Bosnia-Herzegovina." Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's foreign minister, added weight to Emamikashani's proposal by stating that Tehran could "act independentl y to protect the Muslims of Bosnia."

Such rhetoric is expected from fundamentalist Iran. But similar threats coming from Turkey, perhaps the most westernized Islamic country in the world, are cause for concern. Turkey is torn between its patronage to the West and its moral obligation to fellow Muslims next door. Many elements within the country see Turkey as bending backwards to appease the West, while, as it is argued, Turkish concerns continue to be put on the back burner by its so-called European allies. The situation has reached a point

where further Turkish inaction could threaten the current government. Vocal elements within Turkey are increasing their call for active engagement in Bosnia. Necmet Erbakan, leader of the Turkish Prosperity Party, bluntly stated his party's intentions on Turkish television: "If we come to power, we will do in Bosnia what we did in Cyprus." This is not only a call for action but amounts to a slap in the face for the UN, considering the UN's long-time involvement in Cyprus.

Islamic countries, no longer able to restrain their feelings, have been providing clandestine aid to the Bosnian Muslims. In September 1992, an Iranian Boeing 747, which was supposed to be carrying relief supplies to Bosnia, was intercepted by Croatian authorities in Zagreb. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the plane was loaded with 4,000 rifles and more than 1 million rounds of ammunition. That this was only one of many aid deliveries from Iran suggests that other arms shipments have gotten throu gh. Pro-Iranian sources in Lebanon also disclosed that more than 50 veteran Hizbullah guerrillas had been dispatched to Bosnia to help train and organize the Muslim fighters.

TURKEY has also been active in delivering clandestine aid to Bosnia. The Turkish newspaper Ozgur Gundem reported that a force of 1,000 men is being readied for deployment in Bosnia. The report, which was confirmed by an official associated with the Turkish General Staff, said that the unit was being set up by the 28th Mechanized Brigade. The soldiers were to be sent into Bosnia in small groups, wearing civilian clothes to avoid detection.

Apparently, Turkey also is involved in arming the Bosnians. In January, the newspaper Milliyet reported that Saudi Arabia had asked Ankara if it could purchase 40 armored combat vehicles, which it would in turn send to Bosnia. In March, the acting spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Ferhat Ataman, went out of his way to deny German television reports that Turkey was sending arms to Bosnia.

Although most such reports are denied for political reasons, arms from Islamic countries have been getting through to Bosnia, mostly through mountain roads from Croatia. In September 1992, Rusmir Hadzihusenovic, the Muslim mayor of Konjic (near Sarajevo) confirmed that his town had received arms: "Two weeks ago we received the first weapon deliveries, 32 lorries full, and in recent days another 60 trucks have arrived in Konjic."

Unable to tolerate the crimes being committed by Serbs against fellow Muslims, ICO Secretary-General Hamid Algabid declared that it had "become necessary to intervene militarily in Bosnia-Herzegovina to stop the massacres committed by the Serbs against the Muslims."

In an extraordinary conference of Islamic foreign ministers held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in December 1992, a resolution was passed that called for full compliance by the Serbs to all UN resolutions regarding Bosnia. The ICO set a Jan. 15 deadline, after which it would intervene militarily, with or without the UN. According to Turkish sources, the initial deployment would probably consist of a contingency of at least 5,000 Iranian troops, who are ready for immediate deployment.

The Jan. 15 deadline came and went, but in light of the Vance-Owen negotiations at the time, Islamic countries took no action. Now, however, after the breakdown of negotiations and with the UN implementing one toothless resolution after another, Islamic countries are nearing he end of their patience and self-control.

"What was done to end the occupation of Kuwait," demanded Suleyman Demirel, the Turkey's prime minister, "should be done in Bosnia-Herzegovina today." Ali Khamenai, Iran's spiritual leader, was less diplomatic. If the West is unable to stop the devastation of the Bosnian Muslims, said Mr. Khamenai, then "they [the West] should allow our young Muslim combatants to give the Serbs their dues."

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