The Iranian reach in Bosnia

The Iranian reach in Bosnia

The Balkan terrain, especially Bosnia in the past decade, were used as a regional hub for a plethora of intelligence services and organizations across the planet, all vying for establishing bases and extracting local support. The reason being was the importance of the region as a staging point for infiltration into Western Europe or the Eurasian states. The role of the Iranian intelligence & security services was significant up until the late ’90’s. Presently they have been outnumbered by radical Sunnis that are supported from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states

Author: Ioannis Michaletos

Date of publishing: 9 December 2008

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Wednesday 10 December 2008, by Emanuele G. – 103 letture

The Balkan terrain, especially Bosnia in the past decade, were used as a regional hub for a plethora of intelligence services and organizations across the planet, all vying for establishing bases and extracting local support. The reason being was the importance of the region as a staging point for infiltration into Western Europe or the Eurasian states. The role of the Iranian intelligence & security services was significant up until the late ’90’s. Presently they have been outnumbered by radical Sunnis that are supported from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

The presence of the Iranian intelligence services, more exactly Ministry of Intelligence Affairs and Security (MOIS) and “Revolutionary Guard” in the area of former Yugoslavia dates back to the late seventies and early eighties, following the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran. Stronger penetration of this service into BIH was registered in early nineties, especially after the war had started in 1992. With the introduction of the arms embargo, many wealthy Arabic and Asian countries started to send humanitarian and military aid to the Muslims in BIH, and to establish humanitarian organizations, first in the Republic of Croatia and then in BIH. Chiefs of these humanitarian organizations, firms and news agencies were actually intelligence agents whose primary task was to establish and manage intelligence network in the area of BIH.

While many Arabic countries that were political and religious opponents of Shia Iran were engaged through humanitarian organizations and arms smuggling, Iran went straight ahead, occupying positions within the Government and secret services. So, Iranian Intelligence Service managed to access a group of officials of Republic of BIH Government and Security Service, who were inclined to Iran, such as Hasan Cengic, Bakir Alispahic, Irfan Ljevakovic etc. who were receiving money for personal accumulation of wealth from Iran, along with instructions for intelligence work. This group’s work was facilitated by introduction of arms embargo, when Western countries consciously enabled Iran to arm Army of BIH, which was cunningly exploited by the Iranian intelligence services that had installed their intelligence sites and strongly penetrated into BIH, together with consignments of weapons and equipment.

When the Sunni Arabic countries (Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan, Egypt etc.) realized that Iranians are on their way to “take over Bosnia”, some kind of cooperation was created between Arabic intelligence services and Iranian Intelligence Service, in order to enhance the influence of Islamic countries in BIH, disregarding whether it was Sunni or Shi’a Islam. Later on, mujahedins used humanitarian organizations for money laundering, in order to fund various terrorist organizations, mainly Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden. Both Arabic and Iranian intelligence services that operated in BIH had strongholds in the former executive authority of BIH, which granted citizenships to a great number of individuals that arrived to BIH from these countries, in which the following were involved: Bakir Alispahic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Enver Mujezinovic, and chiefs of certain FBIH Police directorates & Military Security of Army of BIH.

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Serajevo Iranian Cultural Center

Following the conclusion of the Dayton Agreement, the USA and other Western countries requested from BIH to expel all mujahedins from BIH, but it failed to do so, enabling them to continue their criminal and terrorist activities till September 11, 2001, when under the pressure of the International community, the fight against terrorism was continued more intensively, along with cleansing BIH from the influence of many terrorist organizations supported by the international terrorist centers.

Iranian Intelligence Service didn’t left BIH after the conclusion of the Dayton Agreement but in a certain way it changed tactics and methods of its operations in these areas. That was reflected, inter alias, in the desertion of the offensive approach of that time which included elements of terrorist operation and transition to more subtle methods of operation through work of diplomatic-consular offices, cultural, scientific, educational, humanitarian and other organizations that serve only as a mask for intelligence activity. Iranian Intelligence Service wanted to keep the position acquired by that time through education of certain people and by sending them to Iran, where they have been working for some time in different organizations and institutions such as RTB IRIB, IRNA etc., and after that whey were sent back to BIH. Majority of those persons who spent time in Iran made contact with Iranian Intelligence Service on different basis, and some of them were engaged in some form of cooperation.

Operation and activities of Iranian Intelligence Service after the war in BIH are shown in the area of entire BIH, especially in FBIH, more exactly in Sarajevo, Konjic, Mostar, Zenica, Bihac and Tuzla. Intelligence centers have been established in these areas. The two strongest centers in the area of FBIH are in Sarajevo and both have direct links to Iranian Intelligence Service.

Iranian Intelligence Service is very interested in continuation of its activities in BIH, especially because of the presence of the International community in this area being a one of the key regions where very important decisions are made significantly affecting other processes in the world (NATO expansion toward the East, establishment of American bases etc.). The area of BIH also serves as a test range for intelligence where secret war between Western and Eastern intelligence services is taking place, the war in which Iranian intelligence services have significant role.

The first objective for the creation of an Iranian intelligence network following its activation in BIH in 1992 was to engage Muslims who had close links with the police and security services, and eminent political, military and religious workers. The first contact was made in Istanbul, Turkey, followed by a meeting of the military delegation of BIH, led by Sefer Halilovic with part of the delegation led by Hasan Cengic. After the meeting, Hasan Cengic became the main link between these two services and military establishment of BIH. Shortly after that, Hasan Cengic formed a parallel secret service MOS. This is integrating and operating through the intelligence service whose formal chief is Sakib Mahmuljin. In this way, Iranians very soon succeeded to “cover Army of BIH”, and through it, to achieve their goals such as “Islamisation of the military and military leadership”. First and the most important objective of Iran in BIH was to put Army of BIH under control, and to make military leadership its collaborator, all in order so as “For the military leadership of the Army of BIH to take control over the state following the Iranian guidelines and in an Iranian way”.

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Wahabbies burning Israely and Danish flags

Presence of Jaser, chief of “ Revolutionary Guard Special units” was also registered, who ha stayed in BIH 1992 and who was chief instructor in Lazaric camp, then the presence of Saleh Pour who was some time instructor in Pogorelica camp, and even the presence of Hasan Rou, Chief of Iranian Intelligence Service, probably in connection with planning of new activities in addition to the activities related to the system for protection of objects and manpower in BIH, under the patronage of the Islamic Republic of Iran (decoding codes, regular manpower shifts, new ways of realization of planned activities etc.).

In 1994, chief of “Revolutionary Guard” in BIH was certain Hadzali, followed by Hasan Roua Jawala, and then before the signing of the Dayton Agreement, chief was Said Sadat Tabati. After him, chief was Hadzi Husein Ahmeti, and in 1999 duty was taken over by Ahmed Ganji.

Gathering of information, more exactly intelligence activity of Iranian services was organizationally based in such a way that chief of humanitarian organization “Obnova” was, according to his systematization, in charge of all activities, even those related to the activities aimed at officers of Army of BIH, while chief of Iranian Intelligence Service was solely in charge of the work of Iranian Diplomatic-Consular office in Sarajevo, and all field operations were carried out by “the executive chief”.

Duties of the mentioned chiefs amounted to planning and organization of all activities of services they were in charge of, with specialization on the establishment of good cooperative network in all structures, where special attention was given to the selection of collaborators from category of younger “formed” officers of Army of BIH, in addition to selective work and approach to persons who are highly rated in political, cultural, military and economical life of BIH.

During the war in BIH, Iranian intelligence services and Revolutionary Guard had organized training camps for Army of BIH members. The camps were situated in the area of Tarcin, Pazaric, Visoko, Mostar and Unsko-sanski Canton, next to several camps in the area of Central Bosnia, where the most famous one is Pogorelica camp. In the mentioned camp, training was carried out by 5-6 highly ranked Iranian instructors (generals), including generals Mehdi Talati, Ali Sadat and Berzegera who were official members of humanitarian organization “Obnova”.

Special role in the work with members of military structures of Army of BIH belongs to already mentioned “QODS” that comes with direct recommendation of general Mustafa and Ayatollah Hamnei. Following the arrival in BIH, initial contacts were made and continuous cooperation in the field of collection of all intelligence and security interesting findings was established with persons they selected as sources (informants/collaborators). The task of the persons selected in such a way is to “takeover the country” if necessary, but with previous guidelines and concrete instructions from Iran. They didn’t receive large amounts of money for their engagement, but they were awarded in different ways through donations, opening business offices and private companies, travels abroad for them and their relatives etc.

Knowing the high infiltration of Iranian Intelligence Service into Army of BIH, following the signing of the Dayton Agreement, Americans conditioned the BIH leadership at that time to shift certain people, first of Hasan Cengic and Bakir Alispahic in purpose of the realization of program “Equip and Train”. Under the US pressure, following the several ultimatum requests, Alija Izetbegovic removed Hasan Cengic from his position due to his collaboration with Iranian Intelligence Service, but Iranian influence on military structures remained strong.

During the IFOR raid into Pogorelica camp, large amount of arms, military equipment, bombs, explosives and explosive devices has been found, along with materials used in venoms production. Additionally, certain documents have been found which contained orders and detailed plans of attacks on UNPROFOR, orders for kidnapping UNPROFOR’s officer for liaison with Serb forces, documents on offensive training by Bakir Alispahic (written in Serbian and Farsi language (Iranian), and partially in Arabic) etc. Discovered documents and manuals were related to the manner in which would be conducted attacks on some building, objects, automobiles, then how to conduct kidnapping, how to make explosive etc. Six professionally made models have been found, including the US Embassy building in Sarajevo and building where the Headquarter of IFOR was situated.

During the raid in Pogorelica camp, the following have been found: at least 10 snipers with silencers, 30 automatic rifles, RPGs, 2000m of fuse, 50 electronic detonators in stage of complete or partial manufacture, several bombs that were manufactured in such a way to be placed into toys for children or small radios, in powder pack plates, plastic ice-cream cornets, and jars.

Military expert and member of American armed forces Colonel David Hunt, who took part in IFOR’s attack on Pogorelica camp, stated the following during the recent testifying in front of investigative judge from Supreme court of FBIH: “Based on all that have been found, based on the look of the camp, how it was planned, and on the basis of type, quantity and nature of found arms, then based on explosives, venoms and written materials related to the training, photo equipment, everything that was used as cover up accessories, doubtlessly this is a camp where training has been carried out in terms of offensive, more exactly attacks, terrorist actions.”. At the end, Hunt concludes: “Between 70 and 80% of total arms and items that were found – arms that had offensive character, along with items used in terrorist purposes, were made in Iran”.

Spy-terrorist training in Iran (in Pogorelica as well) experienced practical realization in preparation of assaults on high political and state bodies of BIH Government, more exactly FBIH. Activities of Iranian intelligence network were also aimed at representatives of international organizations, and special targets were institutions and citizens of the USA. Among other tasks, one of the tasks of this service was to eliminate persons opposing to Iranian interests in Bosnia.

During 1994, in the period of its strongest penetration, Iranian Intelligence Service has already had good estimates on future organization of BIH, therefore it moved from Sarajevo to Teheran, through “Mahan Airlines” , 20000 kg of different documents made by intelligence work done till that time.

On July 12, 1996, nearby Sarajevo, female officer of the US Embassy in Sarajevo had been wounded, while she was driving with her husband on the road between Kiseljak and Sarajevo. This event was officially described as “attempt of car hijacking”. In the same way, two days before signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, on November 19, 1995, the US citizen who was working in UNPROFOR in Tuzla was murdered.

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Is she capable of recognizing the faults and fictions of the 90s politics in Bosnia, a question that the whole region ponders since her appointment as the Head of the American diplomacy?

Representatives of the international community marked this activity as a direct threat to the Dayton agreement, hence diplomatic pressure was exerted from the Presidency of BIH, to remove Alispahic from his position of Director of AID, what has been done on March 15, 1996. The international community insisted on implementation of comprehensive investigation of this illegality and prosecution of responsible persons, what has been prevented for years by Bakir Alispahic and other organizers of this training. Consequences of the illegality were demonstrated in different ways. So, one of the organizers of the training in Iran and in Pogorelica camp, Nedzad Ugljen was killed under unclear circumstances, while is assumed that he was killed by members of Iranian Intelligence Service that allegedly had data indicating that Ugljen revealed his training in Iran and the existence of Pogorelica camp. The fact is that in 1996, 1997 and 1998 in BIH, several dozens terrorist acts took place that resulted in death and injury of large number of people, causing unforeseeable damage to cultural and political life of BIH.

Since the Army of BIH was covered, and significant intrusion was made into the intelligence and police structures of BIH, Iranian Intelligence Service attempted to find collaborators amongst the cultural, educational and scientific institutions and associations in which they were especially interested, with a differentiated large number of contacts and cooperation with Iranian Intelligence Service by citizens of BIH from these institutions.

Revolutionary Guard implemented its activities in BIH through previously formed sites and existence of the “Ibn Sina” institute, RTV “Irib”, press agency “IRNA” , “Persian-Bosnian college” in Ljesevo, “Iranian Cultural Center”, “Iranian Center for Reconstruction and Development-IRCA ”, kindergartens etc., since on all executive positions in these institutions were filled by senior officials of Revolutionary Guard.

Currently it can be assessed, that in most respects the Iranian influence has decreased considerably due to a variety of reasons, such as Western-NATO opposition and great infiltration of the Bosnian society by radical Sunni elements, known as Wahhabis. It is of historical use and of future social research to look into the reasons for Tehran’s involvement in the center of the Balkans that will surely reveal to a great extent of the intermediaries used and the existence of „dark networks“ and logistical bases, most probably in Western European soil.

Finally the role of the local radical Islamists should not be confused with that of Iranian security officials, since the latter tend to think and act under a pragmatic mentality, whilst the former are categorized more of a fanatic group with little understanding of the complexities of local political balances.


New Surge in European Islamist Terrorism – ISSA Special Report

European Muslim Network: Profile of Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Wide Open Playing Field for the ’Great Game – New York Times, MIKE O’CONNOR

Intelligence Services in BiH – Center for Strategic Studies

Development of Events in Bosnia and Herzegovina Following the 11/9 Human Security Organization


Iran/Bosnia Arms-House International Relations Committee-30 May 1996 Federation of American Scientists

NOTE: The composition of certain data was produces by reliable local sources and it has been verified through esteemed journalists in Bosnia and elsewhere.

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