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May 10, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 85
The Bosnian Thunder

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

by Milos Vasic

Those present at the 30th historic session of the Bosnian Serb Assembly put it nicely that they had not been sufficiently informed about the details of the Vance-Owen peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina, except from what they could find in "the newspapers." Had they read the papers more carefully, they would have most probably realized that they had stayed up till the crack of dawn and worried so much, all in vain. At first, the Americans said "finders-keepers": Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic signed on to the plan in Athens, so they will hold him to his word. Then, the United Nations made it clear that they do not believe that the acceptance of the Vance-Owen plan by the Bosnian Serbs depends on the ballot in their assembly. It is not difficult to assume how the idea of a referendum of the Bosnian Serbs will be accepted. Karadzic's diplomatic tongue is no longer successful in persuading anyone not even with the thousands of words, and let alone with only two: he is shooting himself in the foot, growing less consistent, and is contradicting himself in one single sentence, he is even speaking faster (the interview to Sky News, Thursday, May 6).

Belgrade, however, does not believe in tears: military aid was the first to dry up, following the Bijeljina ruling; the official reaction to the Jahorina even was immediate (financial and other aid, except food and medical supplies was cut off the same day) and flavored with a clear threatening allusion to "the luxurious life-style" the Pale leadership leads in Belgrade, while the people suffer. To translate this from the communist lingo into Serbian: we might as well open some dossiers. Belgrade got the message, which Pale did not - that it is beyond a joke - and tried to plant the signing of the capitulation of its own national program on the Jahorina Assembly. In a way, the Jahorina association of folklore bards has said a "historic NO" much more so to Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, than to Cyrus Vance and Lord David Owen; like the Biblical Samson, they have decided to destroy the temple and vanish with it. It goes without saying that this will neither help them nor us.

According to the London-based Times, Karadzic "has gone bankrupt...the time has come to dispatch the court sheriffs", and we would add, since the Belgrade endorsers of the grand national loan got away with it both neatly and cheaply by means of the Jahorina adventure. The court sheriffs will show up in form of a growing number of United Nations forces, naturally, within a framework of the Vance-Owen plan. After several months of contemplation, futile prayers to the merciless God to get the Bosnian crisis off their back and after the Russian referendum, the great powers (the U.S., Europe and Russia) have come to a conclusion that the Vance-Owen plan provides the framework for the use of military force.

Karadzic's signature was costlier, than it then seemed to the psychiatrist, who is becoming more nervous. All generally known shortcomings of the Vance-Owen plan (its only advantage being the fact that it is the one and only peace plan on the table) were immediately forgotten. Even the stories about great Serbian heroism and superior arms have stopped. Only this is a sign that the decision is about to be made, if it hasn't been decided already.

If the decision taken by the Jahorina Parliament is cool-headedly and rationally viewed from this new perspective, it may be described as a leap out of the frying pan into the fire. The choice was between the rejection of the plan with possible "fierce response" by the great powers to ensue immediately, and the acceptance of the plan, increasing influx of the U.N. troops over the upcoming months, which would lead to a qualitatively new situation, where the Serb forces in Bosnia would no longer have to deal with several thousand scattered and helpless troops of UNPROFOR, but with several divisions comprised of very serious professionals with the clear mandate to implement the Vance-Owen plan. By bluffing (we are Serb heroes ready to embrace death), the folklore bards association rejected the plan, and, simultaneously, tried to buy themselves out with the referendum, believing that even this time around they could cash in on insolence (taking their former leader Milosevic as a model). But, it turned out that not everybody is Milosevic, especially if they don't have Milosevic to back them. The stories that "the Serbs will be wiped off the face of the earth" have not touched anyone; if there is someone who knows something about epic heroic exaggeration, that it is certainly Milosevic and Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic. They also know how to bluff with a threat of an accomplished fact ("we all shall die, if necessary"). The performance of desperate fanaticism on Mount Jahorina and afterwards (the interviews by Karadzic, Bosnian Serb Army Commander, General Ratko Mladic and the rest) will only assure the great powers that diplomacy has done its share, and, unfortunately, that "the follow-up policy by other means" is what comes next. Bosnia has become an internal political issue of every country which thinks highly of itself.

All right, so you don't want the Vance-Owen plan, said the world. Fine, that we are imposing five safety zones: Sarajevo, Tuzla, Gorazde, Zepa and Cazinska Krajina, which is within our mandate; the Security Council unanimously adopted the decision. Methodology has already been worked out, scenarios have been "played out" in the military headquarters, the troops are available, and the Russians hold nothing against it. Last week the former British military attach� in Belgrade (1987-1990), Colonel Edward Cowen made a thorough analysis of the military engagement in Bosnia; the moves which are being made nowadays mostly follow its outlines.

According to the analysis, demilitarization of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the goal of action so that the Vance-Owen plan can be successfully implemented. The action is broken down into two phases: the deployment of troops and the activities on the already controlled terrain. Political framework was laid down by the resolution on safety zones and the Vance-Owen plan. The plan envision the total of 60 - 75,000 soldiers (5 - 6 divisions) to protect the cease-fire and secure the borders and corridors. The United States unwillingly expressed readiness to commit 25,000 men; the NATO forces for quick response in Central Europe, which are stationed in Germany, would provide the rest, and the Russians would also be involved (several airborne units). The British are counting on the 7,000 strong brigade within the NATO force for quick intervention and the infantry division from Bulford (tow mechanized infantry brigades, 7,000 strong each, and one 5,000 strong parachute brigade). About 12 brigades of armored infantry, tanks, artillery and airborne infantry with helicopters, along with necessary logistic and engineering support would be disposed in the first place.

Their first task would be to control and impose the cease-fire by force against anyone violating it. The Colonel expects that action outside the B-H borders may be likely to this effect. The second task would be the setting up of demilitarized zones, opening, reparation and patrolling of roads and railways, which would be open to all non-military traffic. Heavy weaponry would first be removed out of the effective range, and, then, destroyed, while troops of the warring sides would first be withdrawn to certain bases, and subsequently demobilized and disarmed. In the second phase all arms would be destroyed, except personal firearms for the future police. The future police force would at first comprise the U.N. personnel; a strong multinational police for enforcing the law and order, under U.N. control and supervision, would gradually be conscripted and trained.

International U.N. troops would remain in B-H (and reserves ready for action in Europe) to protect the territorial integrity in the future. All the rest would be left to political agreements.

It is clear that every single task of the U.N. troops, encompassed in the plan, would necessarily be interpreted as casus belli - according to the current ideology of Karadzic's extremists. For months now, threats, in this sense, have been incessantly coming from all over the place: from Mladic to Seselj and other heavenly Serbs. But, they do not seem to have hit home.

Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff, General Zivota Panic got his satisfaction from - in advance - declaring the Serbs "moral victors" in some future conflict in Bosnia. Nothing more than that. The Bosnian Serbs started complaining after the Bijeljina event, that they were running short of ammunition and spare parts; that was the first sign that Milosevic was not joking. The message was more than clear: you want a moral victory - here it is. If the embargo on aid to the Bosnian Serbs is really imposed, it threatens to cripple their armed forces soon and to completely dull their supremacy in heavy weaponry, which they had (professional help of the Yugoslav Army's elite troops needn't even be mentioned). The Bosnian Serbs do have some reserves at their disposal, but certainly much less than some are boasting about, especially when it comes to fuel. The morale of the Serb troops in Bosnia is also doubtful: so far they have fought the poorly armed Bosnians with artillery, mostly from a distance. Besides, nothing can cause greater damage to the morale of the troops than war crimes and ethnic cleansing. It is well known what has taken place there. The question is what will drunken, ill-disciplined and unshaved "defenders of their doorsteps" achieve once they are faced with a serious professional army. What is missing for a successful guerrilla war is primarily true motivation and support from their own community. A number of those Serbs in B-H who are fed up with their "Third World War" is on the rise. Should the world decide to arm the Bosnian side, it will be even worse for Karadzic's forces. Not even references to the Vietnamese scenario are of any avail: Milosevic refused to play the part of Ho Shi Min, Zivota Panic got rid of General Boskovic, who was heavily involved in the easternbosnian matters, and the sanctions are taking their toll. Milosevic can hardly help himself, let alone the bards from Pale who had discredited him before the whole world and Mitsotakis as well.

The upcoming weeks will show what's cooking. Zepa might play the role of Srebrenica (even worse than that since Karadzic has already been caught lying on several occasions, which is no longer tolerated). The world was offered an excuse to begin infiltrating the troops to protect the safe area. These troops are bound to, sooner or later, come into conflict with Mladic's troops, since such is the platform of Mount Jahorina. The real answer to the pleas, threats and pieces of advice by Milosevic, Cosic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, Greek Prime Minister Konstantin Mitsotakis and others, has come from Banja Luka, of course: the local Muslims were cruelly expelled (although they sat quietly, enduring everything), and then all mosques (including the two from 16th century) were blown up.

The masks have been doffed, everything is clear: the stories that "our Muslims live in safety" have proved to be a lie. The only thing left is the nationalist exclusion, as promoted by Cosic and Karadzic: we cannot live together with anybody else. There is no end to this ideology, as there will always be some neighbors and compatriots, who disagree with it; what has remained is "the constant fight" against the rest of the world which cannot be conquered and against the growing number of "domestic traitors", who have even found themselves a leader - Slobodan Milosevic.

Milos Vasic

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