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March 27, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 182
Bosnian Thunder

War in the Midst of Truce

by Milos Vasic

Two large and several small attacks by the Bosnian Moslem army opened this year's war season in Bosnia in keeping with the March schedule just like 1992 when it all started.

The choice of target showed that the Moslem ambitions are long-term and relatively modest: Majevica and Vlasic are strategic heights whose capture would make it easier for the Moslem army to launch more attacks. Majevica is also important because it includes the Stolice peak (915m) and the communications tower there which is used for both military and civilian coded and open communications. The tower links communication lines from Knin and Banja Luka to Belgrade and Pale.

Some informed sources believe that the fall or destruction of the tower would be a serious blow to the Serbs since its loss would seriously endanger the operative abilities of the Bosnian Serb army. It has already taken some punishment from Moslem heavy artillery. Majevica also has strategic importance in itself.

Both Majevica and Vlasic allow control over important, vast areas. Whoever holds Majevica controls the right bank of the Sava river and Posavina corridor on the north, approaches to Tuzla, Bijeljina and Zvornik. Whoever holds Vlasic controls the Lasva valley, Travnik and the Zenica-Travnik-Jajce communication line.

The Moslem attacks are just the start of an offensive modeled on earlier offensives. The Moslems will try to tire out the Serbs by attacking in several places at once using their mobility and greater manpower. It's unlikely that there will be a decisive strike in any theater of operations; the Moslem army isn't strong enough and the Serbs aren't weak enough while the Croats have no intention of choosing an ally.

All that was clear from two statements by Moslem prime minister Haris Silajdzic. He said "Bosnia is tired of the cease-fire" and added that diplomatic delays don't mean a thing. Moslem army commander Rasim Delic spoke of the "neutrality" of the big powers in an unusually cold manner and the need to make things easier for his 5th corps, the most painful point for the Moslems: Bihac where the 5th corps is reportedly fighting combined Bosnian and Krajina Serb troops who are supporting rebel Moslem leader Fikret Abdic's territorial defenses. Tactically, Delic has every reason to make things easier for 5th Corps commander Atif Dudakovic; politically, enough time has passed in waiting; militarily, the Moslems can't launch that kind of attack yet.

The Moslem's most educated general Jovan Divjak published an analysis of the situation in a London periodical recently. That analysis is self-critical: Divjak said Dudakovic spread himself thin in last autumn's offensive and added that his troops had not captured any operatively important area. He also claimed that the Sarajevo government's military industry couldn't produce enough materiel and that the army has arms enough for 50,000 of its 200,000 troops. He said the Serbs around Sarajevo have an average of 35 artillery pieces on every kilometer of front line. Finally, he said "despite cease-fire violations" by the other side the Moslems felt the cease-fire was "unacceptable" because "it threatens to freeze the front lines".

Divjak added that his army couldn't undertake any key operation without Croat support. They can't arm themselves without the Croats.

That support won't be forthcoming as long as Tudjman is so anti-Moslem and the best example of Moslem-Croat cooperation is Mostar.

The Croats knew what was coming and could hardly wait for the disappearance of Croat Defence Council general Vlada Santic in Bihac. Santic, a former Yugoslav army reserve officer, was promoted to general in command of a battalion and spent the last year scurrying between Dudakovic, Milan Martic, Radovan Karadzic and Abdic. Rumor has it that Dudakovic punched him out once while Moslem 502 brigade commander Hamdija Abdic threatened to kill him. VREME learned that Santic was probably killed because several villages in the Bihac pocket were lost to the Moslems because of his taciticizing. Some sources said he had unfinished business deals with at least two sides in the area. Whatever the truth, his disappearance and later reports that he was murdered (three Moslem military policemen were arrested) were the ideal opportunity for the Croats to end their cooperation with the Moslem army.

Spring has come to Bosnia early; the war is continuing where it left off; nothing has changed in Bihac; the federation is where it was a year ago. It looks like we'll have to wait another year for anything to change.

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