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October 24, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 161
Bosnian Thunder

Playing The Waiting Game

by Milos Vasic

Thirty months of war in Bosnia have brought disappointments to all of the warring sides. The Bosnians hoped for a deciding event and that is proved by their seemingly easily, but actually well thought out, decision to give up on the lifting of the arms embargo. They hoped the Milosevic-Karadzic clash would at least ease their everyday suffering. They also hoped the federation with the Croats would do begin functioning, but that never happened.

Karadzic's side hoped that they could force at least symbolic concessions on the maps and the Bosnian Serb leader even publicized some victories in that context, but the relevant world capitals gave him an immediate cold shoulder. Then even Alain Juppe's idea on ``equal treatment'' for the warring sides became a great step forward. The long-term disappointment was obvious in the Krajina Serbs' reservation regarding the idea of a union of all Serbdom, the only ideological argument left to Karadzic. Finally, the third disappointment was the ease with which Slobodan Milosevic neutralized advocates in Serbia of an all-Serb union.

Croatia's political scene is less transparent; the opposition would love to trip up Tudjman on his Bosnian policy, as long as they do not appear anti-Croat, i.e. treasonous. And that's where the Herzegovinian mafia is waiting for the opposition, knifes grasped firmly. Tudjman doesn't seem to have decided whether the Washington agreement on a federation with Bosnia is a great success or a forced step that he's ashamed of. All that has caused the Croat paralysis in Bosnia. General Ante Roso said in Sarajevo recently that the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) won't interfere in Serb-Bosnian conflicts as long as a political solution is possible. That was immediately illustrated by the withdrawal of HVO troops from the front lines above Konjic to the disappointment of the Bosnians. The main disappointment for the Croats is the waste of time in which something could be done.

The Bosnians have gotten used to the idea that they'll only get what they win themselves. The diplomatic initiatives, maps, peace plans, agreements, federations ar all good because they do no harm, but their effects are uncertain and far away, as the Bosnians have seen so many times to date. So the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is working on two fronts: military and diplomatic.

Militarily, nothing new is happening. The B-H army is continuing attacks in several places at once and stretching Mladic's forces thin. That's where an escalation can be expected, since the Bosnians are getting ever greater quantities of arms and that seems to be the only profit from the Washington agreement. Observers seem to have missed an important incident; early in October, an AN-26 transport plane full of weapons was shot down over Republic of Serb Krajina (RSK) territory. A cover-up ensued, but logical questions remain: the AN-26 was carrying three tons of weapons and needed a long runway to take off and land; so where was it going? London's ``Daily Telegraph'' says it was going to Atif Dudakovic (commander of the B-H army 5th Corps that captured Western Bosnia). Experts have known for some time that weapons have been coming out of the Ukraine and other countries and being flown into Bosnia and Croatia. Those planes can be expected to land openly on B-H territory at some time, preventing the Croatian side from taking the cream of the crop, as it has been doing so far.

Maybe the military success of the 5th Corps was caused by the increasing self-confidence of the Bosnians now that they're getting more weapons and they eliminated dissident Muslim leader Fikret Abdic (Oslobodjenje said a para-state formation had been eliminated in the republic, leaving just two more). The latest incidents on Mt. Igman were predictable: the Konjic-Igman-Hrasnica road is of vital importance to the Bosnians because it's the only supply route into Sarajevo. More Muslim attacks should be expected in that area until the ``blue (UN) routes'' are reopened. Sarajevo's patience is wearing thin after 30 months of siege. Karadzic is counting on that fact and is trying to provoke the Bosnian side into violating the rules of the game (exactly what is happening on Igman), bring Milosevic into an embarrassing position and strengthen the war lobby in Belgrade. Sarajevo is aware of that and is playing along cautiously.

Paradoxically, the key to the whole story lies in Zagreb. Tudjman won't be able to avoid facing his main political choice much longer: whether to ally with Milosevic or Izetbegovic. Political games with both of them won't hold up any longer. The Herzegovinian mafia is pressuring Tudjman to keep to the policy of dividing up Bosnia between Croats and Serbs; the opposition sees a long shot for itself in a union with the Bosnians (they see an opportunity to become the saviours of small Croatia and the creators of Greater Croatia).

Tudjman seems to be seriously considering Milosevic's predictions of normalization in the Balkans. That scenario would save him embarrassment and bring Croatia closer to Europe: the Krajina Serbs would agree to reintegration into Croatia with a degree of autonomy sooner or later; the highway would reopen, as well as rail and other road links between Zagreb and Belgrade, enabling Milosevic to do away with Karadzic's final trump card - the corridor through Brcko - and put both the Bosnian and RSK Serbs under Belgrade's direct control. Karadzic would be isolated in Pale and eastern Bosnia and that would marginalize him and destroy him politically.

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