The Macedonian Crisis - Terrorism, National Movement, or Struggle for Self - determination?
(Volume 2, Number 3-4, Autumn-Winter 2001.)
Macedonia epitomizes the unresolved national issue which the majority Macedonian and the minority Albanian people of the former Yugoslav republic faced after the disintegration of their common state. The Macedonian state occupies a geostrategical spot and is important to maintain the balance in the region.
The Macedonian majority shares the border with Albanians, who at the end of the 20th century have not attained their national goals. After the Serbian retreat from the Kosovo province, Kosovo Albanians, together with those in South Serbia and western Macedonia, demanded their historical and national rights.
This action threatened the very existence of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Fighting for their national interests, Albanian rebels did not forgo violence; by criminal and terrorist means, they essentially took the democratically elected Macedonian government hostage. They forced political negotiations to be held and assured the acceptance of their present demands. But the Albanian demands, the core of the new Prizren Declaration, are greater than those granted, so continuing violence in Macedonia is expected. If so, it is likely that foreign fighters with connections to the world terrorist network will take part.
The Historical Framework
The Agreement on borders1, to which FRY2 and FYROM3 agreed in the treaty signed by Koštunica4 and Trajkovski5 in Skopje in February 2001, triggered the clashes that began between the Macedonian police and Albanian rebels. The agreement essentially prevented the Macedonian Albanians from achieving their national demands. For Macedonians, the presence of four hundred KLA(6) (UCK-OVK) terrorists from Kosovo and Šara mountain range7 was the beginning of aggression and terrorism in the country.
Whichever date is assigned, February 2001 marked the end of the "virtual peace" in Macedonia, the end of the "make-believe national tolerance and co-existence" praised by the International Community (IC). (The International Community could then assert that conflicts in former Yugoslavia were caused by nationalist policies of its peoples.) The so-called peace lasted until the autumn of 1991, when FYROM proclaimed its independence. The "Ilirida"8 referendum, by which Macedonian Albanians wanted to achieve the western parts of Macedonia, precipitated fierce ethnic clashes that were later repressed. The Albanian demands were silently accepted by the Macedonian and Albanian political (nationalistic) elite. Unofficial Albanian autonomy was thus established, as was de facto local government in the areas of Albanian majority.
The fact is that Macedonian authority had been absent in western Macedonia for ten years. The Macedonians stood off from the invisible borders of Albanian territory, allowing it slowly to become a state within a state. In that area, gun running, drug trafficking, and people smuggling flourished.
After the Yugoslav army9 left Kosovo, Albanian interest in the common ethnic territory grew to include western Macedonia. Placing the FRY - FYROM demarcation line on the Šara mountain range, which is situated in the heart of Albanian territory, meant an Albanina declaration of war.
The greatest influences in the formation of the sovereign Macedonian republic were Slobodan Miloševia and Serbia10, and the US11. Macedonia, as Bosnia and Herzegovina12, fought to stay within Yugoslavia. But by late autumn of 1991 Macedonia's separation from Yugoslavia was accepted.
To Miloševia, Macedonia, traditionally close to Serbia, was more useful as an independent negotiator between him and whomever he was at war with. Macedonia also supplied free passage to the traditional allies of Serbia; i.e., Greece and through it to France and Great Britain. If Macedonia stayed in rump Yugoslavia, this could not be accomplished. Counting on its orthodox partnership, Miloševia agreed to Macedonia's independence. In that process, the US through UNPREDEP13 exerted its military presence, thus securing NATO's14 south wing and a strategically important corridor connecting Europe and Asia.
The Southeast Europe/Balkans15 region, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the new world order, was a laboratory in which the US, EU16 and NATO tried to secure a future for the former Yugoslav peoples (called "The Balkans question"17 in the last century). The Yugoslav crisis18 was contrary to the EU plan for European unity and the US vision of globalization. Thus the FYROM came to illustrate that the demands for ethnically pure states (which led to the denial of national, religious, and cultural freedoms) are nationalistic frenzy and a crime.
Coexistence and recognition of national rights in multi-ethnic Macedonia became an ideal to hold up to the warring states of former Yugoslavia. Using Macedonia as an example, IC19 has devised new ideas, and new solutions and proposals for the political and economic formation of the region.
After ten years, various state and political constitutions for SEE/Balkans were formulated in that laboratory: unitaristic, federal, confederal, independent national states, protectorates, regional unions, pacts, processes, and initiatives that recognize minorities as equal in government (the proposition of the German foreign ministry20 e.g.). IC is currently trying to impose a permanent solution to the SEE/Balkans crisis.
The Macedonian question
At the end of the 19th century, the Macedonian question and VMRO21 freedom fighters against the Turkish rule were vexing the Balkans and Europe. Serbia, led by its own interest, formed South Serbia - Macedonia, a plan realized in the First Balkans War22. Bulgarian aspirations towards Macedonia had, for a short period, been realized during World War I and World War II. Stalin helped communist rebels in northern Greece. Yugoslavia had always backed Macedonia's sovereignty; after that, US became its curator.
In the bloodbath of Yugoslavia's disintegration, it seemed that only the Macedonian question was resolved peacefully. But along with the Macedonian came the "Albanian question."23 Ideas of the First Prizren League24 and the Greater Albania25 - as proposed on Congress of Berlin26 in 1878 had their practical realization in the forming of Albania27 in 1913. The Albanian confrontation with Serbian hegemony continued throughout the 20th century.
Strong Serbia, a member of the winning coalitions formed after both World Wars and aided by France and Great Britain, thus governed over the majority of SEE/ Balkans territory, including the Albanian people. By the end of the 20th century, the conditions were present for the "Slovenian," "Croatian," "Bosnian," "Serbian," "Montenegrin," "Macedonian," and "Albanian question" to come to the fore.
Albania today is steeped in its own problems and, as publicly declared, not interested in Greater Albania, but only concerned with forming a democratic and legal state.
The war in former Yugoslavia began in Kosovo28, devastated Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then returned to its starting point, dividing Kosovo from Serbia. This created a new political situation. After Miloševia's fall, Serbia began democratization processes, and reassessed its national interests. The south, populated by Albanians, and Macedonia and Montenegro were of utmost interest. Its traditional ally, Russia, agreed. The West supported Serbia again after the fall of Milosevic and began to question its promise of Kosovo independence to the Albanians; it also opposed Montenegro's independence. The formation of small, independent states was passe, and the EU and US disagreed with secession from socialist Yugoslavia. The bywords were integration and globalization, regional co-operation and integration. Flora Lewis29, in the spring of 1995, said: "The only solution for Yugoslavia is - Yugoslavia." The West has instigated co-operation among the countries with the Agreement on borders signed by FYROM and the FRY. This provoked Macedonian Albanians and the Macedonians, but grounds for the crisis had been prepared much earlier. The NATO action "Essential Harvest"30, was the key phase for the FYROM peace process. The official FYROM government had early on characterized the Albanian rebellion as an terrorist act, an aggression from abroad; but its arguments, accepted by Russia and Orthodox neighbors, were rejected by the EU and NATO. The Albanian side offered little evidence to back its claim. After September 11th, however, there was a new perspective on events in Macedonia.
For Macedonia, the Albanian rebellion was an act of terrorism; therefore, it must be dealt with as the US is dealing with Afghanistan. The overseers of the crisis, EU and NATO, are opposed to such a reading. They call it "the Israeli syndrome"31; local ethnic clashes do not equal global terrorism.
Terrorism is the key factor to understanding the Macedonian crisis. The fight against communism/socialism in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo is a carbon copy of that which happened in Afghanistan. Afghan war veterans, urged by religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Egypt, and backed by Iranian money, have rushed to aid Bosnia's Muslims. They joined the mujahedeen generations that were raised in refugee camps or rose from poverty in Algiers, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. After the Dayton Peace Accord32, a number of them stayed in Bosnia and Herzegovina; others left for Albania, next door to Kosovo and FYROM.
The US aided Bosnia and Herzegovina indirectly, in accordance with the US policy of support for moderate Muslim secular states.Quoting Fouad Ayami33. Instead of fostering co-operation, the US aid led to Muslim religious and cultural self-awareness (hundreds of mosques have been erected in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and FYROM), a different way of life, and rejection of western values. After September the 11th, Muslim houses displayed slogans and graffiti supporting Osama bin Laden34 and opposing US actions. Threats to western diplomatic missions temporarily closed US and British embassies in Bosnia. Persons allegedly connected with Al Qa'ida35 were arrested.
The Macedonian and Serbian press reported covert terrorist networks in the former Yugoslav countries, foreign terrorist fighters in the recent Macedonian and earlier Kosovo clashes, training camps in Albania, and alleged Bin Laden financial funds. 40,000 fighters were said to be ready on Bin Laden's command to erupt in the Balkans and attack American interests.
As a result of press coverage, intelligence agencies have confirmed the mujahedeen presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the FYROM. Presently, SFOR36 is arresting terrorists in Bosnia and Herzegovina; KFOR is also conducting massive search operations in Kosovo.
In spite of the peace process led by the EU and NATO, no solution to the Macedonian crisis is in view. Winter will postpone guerrilla actions till spring. Macedonian political parties and public opinion should by then accept the imposed new constitution. Albanians will have achieved their short range aims. This could be one step to achieving Macedonia's federalization and the founding of Greater Albania or Greater Kosovo37. That Albanians reached their goals using terrorism is irrelevant. But to the world, marking the difference between one man's terrorist and another man's freedom fighter is apparently important.
Military and Strategic Situation of Macedonia in 2001
The capture at gunpoint and detention of a TV crew in Tanuševac38 (February 2001) confirmed the existence of organized Albanian guerrillas in Macedonia; they controlled the region stretching from Kumanovo39 on the north border with FRY to Lake Ohrid40 on the south border with Albania. Albanian guerrillas armed themselves without interception, built watchtowers and trenches; they prepared to defend "their own territory", and later to advance on other parts of Macedonia they considered theirs. Using guerrilla tactics, Albanians inflicted the first official Macedonian police and military losses. They cut the water supplies, ambushed, threatened, and expelled the non-Albanian population.
FYROM acted with military restraint, avoiding unnecessary civilian casualties. This restraint masked its inexperience, military incompetence, and inadequate military and police cooperation. The powerlessness of government forces meant lost control of Macedonian territory. Macedonian forces in early spring had expelled guerrilla fighters from above Kumanovo and Tetovo41, secured the road to the Šara mountain range peak, and the border crossing to Kosovo - Blace42. The danger that Albanians would close the highway connecting Beograd, Skopje, and Athens was averted, but not a dead or wounded guerrilla fighter was found. They just disappeared, melting into civilian populations, entering cities and villages, or going into Kosovo to commence a new, fiercer phase of combat.
Helped by their co-nationals from Kosovo and foreign volunteers, all experienced fighters and backed by logistics, money, and political support, the armed "ONA"43 combatants succeeded in ethnically cleansing the greater part of western Macedonia. They expelled the Macedonian police and army forces and occupied two thirds of Kosovo, thus securing a strong negotiating position. Doing this, the rebels used terrorist strategies: killing of civilians, taking hostages, and committing sabotage and war crimes. In return, the Macedonian side could not avoid excessive use of force against civilian targets. Macedonian soldiers could not be averted from vengeance; the ICTY in The Hague44 is investigating the war crimes committed by both sides. In the occupied villages, Macedonian police uncovered a mass grave containing the village missing.
Finally, under EU pressure, the Ohrid Agreement/Framework Agreement45 was signed in August 2001. The Albanians agreed to disarm and disband "ONA"; in return, they got greater minority rights in areas where they were the majority. The Macedonian population had difficulty accepting the concessions, but EU and US pressure and promises were hard to resist.
NATO implemented the military part of the agreement ("Essential Harvest" and the "Amber Fox"46. Soon the "ANA"47, a new armed Macedonian-Albanian group, surfaced. ANA asked Macedonia to honor the Ohrid Agreement that gave unconditional pardon to the Albanian rebels. ANA is considered to be the main source for the continuing armed assaults, bomb attacks, and the destruction of Macedonian churches and cultural monuments.
The ranks of ONA and ANA contain Albanians from Kosovo and American citizens of Albanian descent. The financial support for these organizations can be traced to the US. Other foreign volunteers are also involved in ONA and ANA. They took part in the Kosovo fighting and were active in the Macedonian conflict. Because of these activities, ANA from July 2001 has been put on the U.S. State Department's Black List.
Due to Albanian rebel pressure, and honoring the Ohrid Agreement (this time under EU and US pressure), Macedonian president Trajkovski has accepted the major part of the Sobranje agreement.48 Foreign and domestic "crisis controllers" may allow the use of force to achieve a final political accord. "Kaeaks"49 are skillful fighters. Come spring, they could again press their political demands by use of arms. The negotiators would be Albanian legal political parties sympathetic to the rebels. If negotiations stagnate, the rebels in the field will exert armed pressure.
The reasons for Macedonias' refusal and Albanians' pressure to accept the Ohrid Agreement can be traced to the First World Albanian League Congress'50 declaration: "All Albanians should unite - on all their ethnic territories: Montenegro, Kosovo, Eastern Kosovo (South Serbia), and northwestern Macedonia, even if force must be used." This stance will overshadow future political moves and the Macedonian armed conflict.
The Macedonian Crisis - its Political Foundation
The political crisis in Macedonia was reached during Rankovia's51 repression, the brutally rebuffed uprising in 1981, and resurfaced at the break-up of Yugoslavia ten years later. Tense and volatile situations in the areas where Albanians lived in former Yugoslavia infected neighboring areas, particularly west Macedonia.
The drive to achieve greater autonomy for Albanians, first supported by Tito and later revoked by Miloševia, was accompanied by a demand for the founding of an Albanian University in Debar52. When that was refused, Albanian demonstrations (1991) followed.
After these events, a never-written accord was reached concerning divided sovereignty, which held for ten years and ended when Serbia withdrew its troops from Kosovo. Albanians grasped the occasion to push for an Albanian state, Greater Albania, or Greater Kosovo. The political climate was more favorable in 2001. Miloševia was driven from power, and Serbia had started its own democratization process. Kosovo was a UN protectorate, and a step away from independence. Albanian centers of political power abroad (Germany and Switzerland) and other Albanian ethnic areas concluded that the US was in favor of Albanian independence. The right political moment to unite had come. However, ethnic demands were affected by Albanian criminal organizations, who by then were entrenched in international drug trafficking, arms running, and people smuggling. These organizations again offered financial help to Macedonian Albanians as they had in Kosovo.
The EU and the US considered the destabilization of this area a major concern, and immediately intervened in the crisis. The US openly supported the Macedonian government; Albanians were supported secretly. Albanians were US allies in the Kosovo crisis, keepers of the Straight of Otranto53, and opposed to Serbian nationalism adversaries.
The crisis had various stages, beginning with the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement and leading to the ONA disarmament in late September. It also had its extreme and violent form (Macedonian nationalist parties' war cries). NATO, EU, and the US intervened to reach a political solution to the crisis. EU was especially active: rewards/threats were offered and made to solve the problem; the US made certain that its global interests would not be jeopardized.
After Miloševia's fall, Serbia again entered the political scene. It had the support of the Russian Federation and its Orthodox neighbors, both of whom rejected Albanian nationalism. Putin54 and his minister Ivanov55 initiated the New Congress of Berlin in order to define borders, and thus stop formation of new states in the SEE/ Balkans area; i.e., Kosovo, Montenegro, or Greater Albania.
Rewarding Macedonia with the "Stabilization and Enlargement Agreement"56 membership, the EU got both the warring parties to sign the Ohrid Agreement. NATO helped disarming the Albanian rebels, and OESS57 implemented the Ohrid Treaty. The Albanians obtained local self-government, the right to use their language, and a proportional number of policemen. Macedonia accepted the divided state sovereignty, and the ethnic minority as designed in Brussels58 became equal to the majority.
Macedonia's political parties accepted the Ohrid Agreement, but Macedonian police returned to villages previously controlled by rebels. The West Macedonian Albanian population is one with its co-nationals in Kosovo. This goal, never spoken of openly, seems to be achieved: the future secession of western Macedonia, and its unification with Kosovo or Albania, a goal clearly written in the recent Prizren Declaration.
Terrorism and the Macedonian Crisis
"Terrorism's purpose is to seriously endanger civilian populations and force governments or international organizations to fulfill their demands; to destabilize or interrupt basic political, constitutional, economic, or social structures of a country or international organization."59
The terrorist actions of armed groups in the Middle East, Europe, or Afghanistan are identical to those perpetrated in western Macedonia. Armed Albanian groups threaten civilians and demand that the government fulfill demands ranging from autonomy, federalization, and even secession of Albanian-populated areas. Rebels have thus destabilized the state, taken hostages, and by other criminal means (drugs, arms, slavery) ethnically cleansed the non-Albanian population and threatened international organizations. These acts brand them as terrorists.
But Albanian rebels claim to be freedom fighters. They fight to use the Albanian language and for cultural and economic self-determination. Are there indications that Albanian guerrilla fighters are terrorists and that international terrorism influenced the Macedonian crisis? Macedonian majority opinion is convinced that such a connection exists. Europe wouldn't speculate even after September 11th.
The former Yugoslav Armed Conflicts and Terrorism
In order to understand the influence of terrorism on the SEE/Balkans region, one must start with the wars that marked the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Though Islamic humanitarian organizations offered support during the 1991/1992 war in Croatia, it was during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that Islamic fighters, war veterans, and various militant and terrorist organizations' members took part. Such were Algeria's GIA60, Egypt's JIHAD, Muslim Brotherhood and Gama el Islamia61 members, to mention a few, and a wide spectrum of Arab terrorist organizations (Hamas, Hezbollah)62. The secret services of Iran and other countries were drawn into the conflict, and so were money, arms, and equipment shipments from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Libya, and even the Sultanate of Brunei.
At first, the idea of helping the Islamic brothers wasn't conceived as fighting against the "infidels" and western values. Many mujahedeen, with the CIA's63 silent consent, crossed Croatia en route to Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight against communism, Serbian aggression, and to defend Bosnia's sovereignty. After the public mujahedeen cry for Islamic values, for an Islamic constitution of the future state, and a sovereign Islamic Bosnia and Herzegovina, the troubled future of Southeast Europe was clear.
After the Dayton Peace Accord, the mujahedeen threatened its tutors (Bosnian secret services and politicians)64, the CIA, and other western intelligence services. Mujahedeen were thus forced to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina. A few hundred had citizenship through marriage and remained, but they were not inactive. New terrorist camps appeared in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From them, their activities could be traced to France, Italy, Croatia (car bomb in Rijeka, the killing of returned Croat refugees in central Bosnia, car bomb in Mostar)65 and Arab countries. After thorough intelligence and police investigations before and after September 11th, Al Qa'ida "sleepers" were traced to Bosnia and Herzegovina; one terrorist directly involved in the September 11th attacks was also identified.
Also discovered were plans to hijack planes and attack the military base in Tuzla. Terrorists accused of bomb attacks in Rijeka and Mostar were arrested as well. Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina extradited (wanted terrorists in their countries of origin) Hasan al Sharif, Mahmud Shulah and Abdullah Esindar to Egypt, and sent Said Atamani and Zuhair Shulah to France. Hasan al Sharif, under the assumed name of Bensaiem Belkasem, was identified as a key Al Qa'ida figure in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many press said that Osama bin Laden got a Bosnian passport66 in 1993. But former president Izetbegovic quickly denied the report. In the NATO defense ministers' meeting (December 18th 2001), NATO's Secretary General, George Robertson, claimed that SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina had eradicated the Al Qa'ida network there; also, KFOR in Kosovo was investigating alleged terrorists there.
When the war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, political turmoil subsided, but the tension in Kosovo increased . Mujahedeen from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania's training camps were active in inciting the Kosovo conflict (1998/1999). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung67 cites dates when the first Islamic terrorist branches were established in Albania.
After the fall of communism, Salih Berisha (Washington Post, 1993) invites Muslim clerics from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Albania. Mohammed Zawahiri, Bin Laden's first lieutenant, comes to Albania as a functionary of an Islamic relief organization. Under that guise, he brings into Tirana more Egyptian radicals and establishes the first terrorist cell, thus coordinating from Albania the network of Islamic extremists in Arab countries, primarily Egypt.
Their activity soon attracts the SHIK68 and the CIA. Along with Zawahiri were Osman Saleh, passport forger and Al- Qa'ida military instructor, and Yasser al Serri, who had the sobriquet of "the electronic brain" of the organization. Ahmet Ibrahim el Naggara, an Egyptian married to an Albanian, was in charge of foreign affairs. In the spring of 1998, Attia and Saleh both disappeared from Tirana; very likely they were extradited through CIA channels to Egypt, where they were tried, found guilty of terrorism, and executed. But Zawahiri escaped abduction and extradition. He was recently arrested in London, and is currently awaiting court action.
The Greek and Macedonian press were quoting intelligence service data at the peak of the Macedonian crisis concerning the existence of Al Qa'ida training camps in Tropoja, Kukes, and Bajram Curiju in Albania's north. After training, Al Qa'ida combatants were sent to Kosovo, Macedonia, the Middle East, and Chechnya. Their activities were probably financed by Osama bin Laden during his brief stay in Albania in 1992 and 1993. According to the Greek Antenna TV69, Bin Laden was twice in Albania during Berisha's government. General Veyvakis70 claims that behind the façade of the Arab - Albanian bank in Tirana are Osama bin Laden's assets.
Kosovo was the next destination for foreign terrorists. After NATO's bombing campaign and Serbia's retreat from Kosovo, the ground was prepared for greater Albanian territorial claims. Muslim volunteers in Bosnia were estimated at a few thousand; those for Kosovo and Macedonia at a few hundred. After the Dayton Peace Accord, Miloševia's capitulation, and the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, fighting in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia subsided.
NATO enforced peace in these countries; however, foreign combatants turned some of the villages into Muslim spiritual and political centers. The west and the US worked to prevent an Islamic religious and political influence and to ensure the safety of its troops. Under strong IC pressure, all foreign combatants were forced to leave Southeast Europe. The majority were identified (their data are at the disposal of interested services and states). Many, because of their terrorist past, could not re-enter their countries of origin; they are on their way either to Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, or are re-inventing themselves in Afghanistan, the heart of present-day terrorism.
The Australian Taliban's story is an exemplary illustration of such a combatant's path. A young adventurer, David Hicks71, came to Kosovo to fight in KLA ranks. He inhaled Islamic teachings, went to Australia, and then to Pakistan. In Pakistan, he joined the terrorist organization Lashar-e-Taiba72 and fought for Kashmir's independence. In 1999 he underwent Al Qa'ida training in Afghanistan. He is captured in northern Afghanistan and handed over to American forces. If he is tried before an American military tribunal, he can face death. The media reports at least two more Australians who joined the Taliban and possibly Al Qa'ida. Also mentioned are one French and a larger group of British Muslim citizens.
The American John Walker's story got the greatest media coverage. After his capture, he said that he was not renouncing the Al Qa'ida cause. Hundreds of Arabian, Chechen, Albanian, Pakistani, Macedonian, Albanian, and Bosnian Muslim passports and other documents were found in the Al Qa'ida camps, evidence of the role of terrorists in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. For example, "Albanian daily news"73 reported that five Arab families were expelled from Albania. Mostly Egyptian, they were members of Islamic relief organizations, such as "World organization of Islamic aid," "Incarnation of Islamic heritage," "Al Haramein," and "Al Waffk". Pakistan's "The Frontier post"74 reported that border troops arrested 28 Al Qa'ida fighters escaping Afghanistan. They were Sudanese, Saudi, Turkish, and Albanian nationals. It appears that Albanians were successfully recruited. Whether Albanians went first to wage war in Afghanistan or were only training there to later return and fight in Kosovo, South Serbia, or Macedonia, is irrelevant.
A high possibility exists for renewed clashes in Macedonia. A Federal Yugoslav official warned that Albanian terrorists plan to renew the fighting soon in South Serbia, and commit terrorist attacks on Belgrade. Ibrahim Rugova75 infers that "Mohammad Hassan Mahmoud, head of Al Qa'ida's network, is somewhere between Kosovo and Albania and directing terrorist operations in the region." On December 9th 2001 Albanian terrorists leveled the 9th century Orthodox St. George's church, dating from the 9th century in Reeica near Tetovo. An assassination attempt in Skopje on the Macedonian Prime Minister Georgijevski76 in Skopje was prevented when two Albanians carrying explosives were captured. Boškovski77 also projects future Albanian terrorist acts in Kosovo, South Serbia, and FYROM.
Macedonian media reports the "quiet" ethnic cleansing of Macedonians who used to live in dominantly Albanian territories. The Kosovo model is also applied there: wealthy Albanian "guest-workers"78 are buying land from intimidated Macedonians. Intelligence services are warning of ANA armed actions after Ramadan79. Macedonian president Trajkovski asked NATO to prolong its "Purple Fox" mission for another three months. Russian sources predict a renewal of clashes in Macedonia if it suits the US, who "manipulates the crisis." The US admitted that American citizens of Albanian origin were fighting in the ranks of ONA and ANA; it then froze the assets collected in America to support the guerrillas and stopped issuing visas to any Albanians involved. The German press related, unreliably, that American advisors were in Macedonia, that secret helicopter reconnaissance flights over Macedonian territory occurred, and that military equipment had passed through the porous Macedonia - Kosovo border, which is under American control.
A certain, unnamed Macedonian diplomat is of the opinion that American intelligence played a role in the Albanian guerrilla presence in Macedonia. He claims that aggression against Macedonia began in Kosovo in February 2001, when "four hundred terrorists, KLA members, arrived and crossed the Šara mountain range in the American controlled sector in Kosovo. That act," said the diplomat, "was caused by Macedonia's weakness, and the concessions IC made to the new democratic Serbia / Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Federal Yugoslavia was right to identify its conflict with Albanians as a conflict with Islamic terrorism. By branding Albanians terrorists, Serbia will keep Kosovo within borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's borders."
Albanian demands, backed by armed struggle, grow more adamant. Albanian criminal organizations fund the struggle. Its ideological base is the Prizren Declaration. Their members are nationalistically intoxicated youth who are lavishly suppported by an international terrorist network. Official Macedonian circles opine that militant Kosovo forces (ex-OVK fighters) and the radical Albanian World Organization are enmeshed in the conflict.
A strong NATO resolve is to eradicate terrorism in this part of the world. SFOR and KFOR actively implement the UN Security Council 1373 Resolution dealing with world terrorism and the EU Resolution which defines it. Although NATO supports one instead of three separate international peace forces (one for Bosnia, one for Kosovo, and one for Macedonia), Macedonia opposes being linked with Kosovo and Bosnia.
FYROM in a year has lost the approval of EU and US. EU, in particular, is dissatisfied with Macedonia's "nationalist" interpretation of the crisis, and its appropriation of blame to the Albanians. Some EU politicians conclude that closer ties with Macedonia were premature, and that the Macedonian government is untrustworthy and not yet ready for compromise. Hence financial aid is postponed (Donors' Conference).80 It is claimed that Macedonia has not yet met European democratic and ethnic tolerance criteria. Recently, however, they were saying just the opposite. Again all the blame for IC's own misjudgments and failures is heaped on Macedonia's shoulders. Macedonia must concede that its constitution will be changed (it is now written that Macedonia is the Macedonian people's state), and accept the fact of Albanian autonomy - the division of sovereignty between the majority Macedonian and the minority Albanian people.
IC condemns the Macedonian Albanians' radical methods. It supports Albanian moderate politicians, hoping that they can negotiate peaceful coexistence in Macedonia. IC does not want a conflict in one of SEE/Balkans countries to again spill over the borders. The US has profited by the former Yugoslavia break-up by gaining strategic advantage in Southeastern Europe, especially Albania and Macedonia, a gain it assures by its military presence. In order to break nationalistic Serbia, the US used Islamic mujahedeen. The CIA and DIA81 brought mujahedeen terrorists into the SEE/Balkans; following along were Al Qa'ida, Islamic Jihad, and then GIA. As in Afghanistan, these organizations have broken away from the control of their mentors and become their enemies.
Serbia explains that the war, in fact, is a war between two historically opposed religions: Christianity and Islam. Serbian secret services first instigated Albanian rebellion and then suppressed it by state terror. That same refined game continued in South Serbia. Albanians fought with arms bought from Serbs, and Serbs negotiated with Albanian terrorists. When Eovia's82 plan was accepted, Serbia's South was muted. Then arms merchants sold weapons to western Macedonia's rebels. Serbia thus destabilized its Southern neighbor, while at the same time encouraging it to "recognize" Serbia as its "true orthodox and anti-Islamic ally." Serbs denounced Albanian rebels in Macedonia as terrorists from Kosovo; Kosovo Albanians were classified as Islamic fundamentalists, all done to keep Kosovo within Federal Yugoslavia's borders.
Serbia has also used the "Israeli syndrome" as a political ploy. Paul Williams83, an American international law expert, said that "Serbia is meddling into Bosnia and Herzegovina's international affairs, and is not quite innocent in the recent Macedonian crisis." Parts of the radical Macedonian political scene act similarly. A connection also exists between the Serbian and Macedonian secret services, particularly when overseeing and directing the Macedonian crisis. The hostile reception of Albanian refugees from Kosovo, and the hostility shown towards NATO in pro-Serbian demonstrations in Skopje during the Kosovo war are also signs of that cooperation.
Bulgaria and Greece are publicly opposed to Albanian nationalism. It is to be considered of global importance. The fear of a second terrorist front, opening in the Balkans, is a gross exaggeration, as is the number of 40,000 fanatical Islamic combatants. But the fact is indisputable that a war between two religions was waged in this region. Hidden arms exist, as do "sleeping" combatants. So any party interested in a "two-civilization conflict" should look at Europe's "soft underbelly," toward which "the Green Islamic Transverse"84 is pointed.
NATO's strong presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia, and the "traditional" Slav animosity towards Muslims abort such a plan. Even in countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia) where the Muslim population prevails, there are no prospects. These countries are presently defining their national and state identity and seeking European unification and globalization. Islamic radicalization of the area is at best a forlorn hope.
In Macedonia's crisis, the ties between terrorism and organized crime are close. The "war taxes" Albanian emigrants pay - drug trafficking and people smuggling - finance the Albanian armed rebellion.
Neighboring countries are vitally interested in this area. Russia wants to become a world power again. Existence of the "sleeper" terrorists' is a fact in Bosnia. Foreign terrorists fought in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The safest East-West illegal immigrant route passes through the area, but is used by terrorists also. The new SEE/ Balkans geopolitical map is not yet defined. Forming new national states is still an unfinished process.
Important is the fact that the political aims of Macedonian Albanians and terrorists are the same.
The Macedonian crisis is yet to be solved. However, it could happen if there were less pressure and fewer unreal peace proposals, mediation, foreign interference, nationalism, and pure hate. What is needed is more transparent dialogue, more compromise, and more economic help.
What next? The armed struggle for Kosovo's independence will continue, as will the Macedonian Albanians' struggle to retain their achieved rights. The danger lies in the ease by which legal demands for greater national rights can also be called terrorist demands; but from the other point of view, terrorist acts are also those of freedom fighters. Once that distinction is made, one embraces the terrorist (or freedom fighter) and condemns the freedom fighter (or terrorist). So the argument continues. James Pettifer85, a BBC journalist, states the international communities' doubt about the Macedonian crisis: "The international communities' dilemma about Macedonia's events is how to base the politics on such shaky and insecure foundations."