Skip to main content
October 3, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 158
Bosnian Games

The Embargo Trick

by Milos Vasic

First of all, recall the Izetbegovic press conference when the Pope's visit to Sarajevo was cancelled. The Bosnian Muslim leader urged the lifting of the arms embargo and calmly said that he was aware of the possible dangers he would face, including sacrificing the Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia. Bosnian army commander General Rasim Delic also insisted on the lifting of the embargo during a visit to the US just a few days earlier. The rest of the Bosnian politicians and generals have been crying for arms since the war began. Both houses of the US Congress put the screws on President Clinton with resolutions demanding that, if all else fails, the US administration should lift the embargo unilaterally and arm the Bosnians, regardless of what their NATO allies, Russia and Croatian President Tudjman suggest.

What the allies think is well know: France and Great Britain have clearly stated that they would withdraw their troops (along with propaganda-political analyses that that would prolong the war). The Russians have opposed that idea all along as well as Croatia (spiteful people say that many prominent Croatian politicians would thereby lose their commissions and the Croatian army would lose its supply of free weapons because of the duties it charges on arms smuggling to Bosnia).

Suddenly, Alija Izetbegovic spoke up calmly in Washington D.C. last week to say that Bosnia really did not care if the arms embargo is lifted or not. He said that they will survive 1995 and why should problems be created where there are none. So what does that mean?

In Sarajevo, Izetbegovic's statement was not surprising, at least not in political circles, army circles or among UNPROFOR observers. To everyone in Sarajevo it is completely clear that things would only get worse if the embargo is lifted, even if only by the US. UNPROFOR officers openly say that the UN contingent could not be immediately withdrawn from Bosnia in these conditions. ``Our greatest nightmare is Bosnian women and children lying in front of our vehicles, Bosnian soldiers, and the Bosnian Serbs who are already eyeing our vehicles, boots and watches,'' a French Major said. Even a casual glance at the maps showing the positions of British and French troops is enough to prove the Major's point.

The interpretations offered by Bosnian politicians and officers are much more interesting. Two high-ranking Bosnian officials believe (unofficially and anonymously) that the lifting of the arms embargo would do more damage than good. One general offered a very precise explanation: ``It's too late for it now, they didn't lift the embargo immediately. Now the rules of the game make the immediate withdrawal of the French and British inevitable, along with ensuing chaos and a possible desperate attack by Mladic's army. Even if we survive all that, I am convinced that the lifting of the embargo would make Bosnia-Herzegovina dependent on the great powers for a long time and I have no faith in that dependency. It seems to be better this way; we'll fight longer but we'll have a clear victory and much better options when a political solution is found.''

The more pragmatic Sarajevo politicians drew attention to the sad fact that there is another winter to survive and that UNPROFOR is indispensable.

You should also recall that General Delic invested a lot of effort early this year to change the impression that his army had strengthened considerably. There was a need for a balance between showing the world that the army was getting stronger and not discouraging everyone who advocated the lifting of the embargo.

That game continued: Bosnian politicians, seemingly well-coordinated and with a good sense of timing, waited until late September. Izetbegovic and Prime Minister Silajdzic went to Washington with an offer for the US administration. The results are partly visible: Clinton, the British and the French breathed a sigh of relief, the Russians calmed down, the Croatians breather more easily, General Mladic was left disappointed (judging by his statements that the lifting of the embargo would do him more good than the Bosnians), the UN are happy.

But what about the Bosnians? As far as we can see, they get a slightly quieter winter (Sarajevo suddenly received gas and electricity immediately after Izetbegovic's statement); they've become cooperative and generous; Mladic lost his excuse for an all-out assault and Karadzic lost his opportunity to plant another fait accompli before Milosevic; The Bosnians lost nothing and are still counting on the fact that time is on their side, so they can wait till next spring; and finally, Clinton now owes them a favor because they got him off the hook. The favor has not been disclosed, but obviously the Bosnian army got much larger shipments of weapons even before all this. Perhaps the answer lies in a State Department statement about two months ago which mentioned another US option: to stop the air and sea blockade of Bosnia.


Research on Living Conditions in Eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina (Including the Muslim Enclave of Srebrenica)

VREME brings you the results of the first research to date about war living conditions in eastern Bosnia and eastern Herzegovina: what residents are in need of and from whom they receive aid.

In the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, the residents are completely dependent upon aid given by the UNHCR.

Muslims and Serbs from this area discuss their problems.

``The most common occupation named by residents of Bijeljina, Sokolac, Zvornik, Gacko, Nevesinje and Trebinje counties is that of soldier. Except for a privileged minority, war has not been a profitable endeavor. Residents of these areas depend mainly upon aid provided by humanitarian organizations for their basic needs.''

``Every fifth citizen is hungry.''

``23 percent of all children under the age of five and 38 percent of all children under the age of one show signs of malnutrition.''

``Why does a kilo of salt cost 60 DEM in Srebrenica?''

Material available by order only. Order now!

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.