Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=MOSCOW – BELGRADE – TEHRAN WATCH – Southeast Europe Theatre: Moscow – Tehran – Athens – Sofia – Bucharest – Banja Luka – Skopje – Belgrade – Kosovska Mitrovica/Pristina – Tirana – Brussels – Vienna – Ankara – Sarajevo – Warsaw; Russia Amb to NATO Suggests Moscow Could Use “Brute Force” Over Serbia – Russia Supports Independence for Kosovo Serbs – Russia Warns NATO – U. S. – UK Green Zone in Baghdad Hit by Mortar – Rocket Barrage Day After Ceasefire
Night Watch: KOSOVSKA MITROVICA – The very real dispute between Russia and the West over Kosovo is rapidly showing signs of going beyond mere diplomatic verbal fencing. This is not an arranged, staged crisis of which there were so many during the Cold War, which both sides knew was conducted to provide the military excuses to research and develop the latest in weaponry. This current war of words is on the brink of becoming a shooting war over Serbian sovereignty as Russia increasingly distances itself from any international cooperation with NATO or the European Union (EU) both of them headquarted in Brussels. Moscow’s hostile position is currently being expressed by their Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin since NATO has been increasing its KFOR units on the Kosovo/Serbia border where they have been confronting Serbian demonstrators and veterans. “If the EU adopts a unified position and NATO oversteps its mandate in Kosovo, that will challenge the UN, so we will then start with the premise that force, brute force, known as armed force, needs to be used, in order for us to be respected.” [B92]
Russia did commit some units to cooperate with Brussels from 1991-99 but withdrew after NATO’s 78 day bombing campaign in 1999 against Serbia. Since then Russia has helped re-arm Serbia and has closely monitored the latest developments and remains seriously opposed to any further war against Belgrade though Moscow is probably aware some NATO-EU nations are eager for another one. Last year it was mentioned Moscow did have a contingency plan where it would position some units in Serbia as a show of support and based on the statements from Ambassador Rogozin Russia is prepared to do just that.
B92 reports Russian officials are stating, through ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow supports the “Kosovo Serbs drive for independence” in what they are calling the Kosovska Mitrovica region. “We will support the Serbs in Kosovo who do not wish to live in an independent province.” Rogozin stated Moscow actually regards the Albanian part of the province as nothing more than a center for drug trafficking with the government in Pristina controlled by drug lords.
In a parallel development Russia Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, has “strongly warned” the West several times not to use repressive measures when the Serbs in the north of Kosovo, which borders Serbia, refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Albanian government in Pristina. The flashpoint of northern Kosovo is about to become a battleground. The governments in the West that have led the recognition, Washington-London-Berlin-Paris-Rome are proud of the repressive measures and of “showing the Serbs” their authority. In addition to military support, including troops from Russia, Serbia signed two defense agreements in 2006 with Greece-Iran. Tehran has increased its relations with Belgrade since Kosovo declared independence. Iran welcomes any war that will keep the West busy and can be used to silence Vienna in order to end the investigation into Iran’s nuclear weapons program by the UN agency based there. Neither NATO nor the EU will survive the war. There is no unity in either organization and can only manage a piecemeal commitment when the shooting gets started.
Belgrade – B92 reports Serbia Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has already had a telephone conversation with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the latest developments and Moscow has confirmed its support for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Lavrov is scheduled to visit Belgrade soon. [B92]
Green Zone – The day after Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army, announced a six month extension of his ceasefire with the U. S., the Green Zone in Baghdad was hit by a rocket-mortar barrage. Asharq al-Awsat/AP report the U. S. military command blames “special groups” controlled by Tehran. Some of them could be splinter groups from the Mahdi Army but I suspect they are one of the many units armed and controlled by Tehran as al-Sadr concentrates mostly on establishing himself politically and becoming one of the main power brokers in the post-occupation Iraq. It was the fourth time this week U. S. outposts have been targeted in Baghdad by rocket-mortar fire. Iran does not confine itself to supporting only Shia units. Tehran also works with Sunni resistance forces and former Iraqi veterans who served under Saddam Hussein. [ASHARQALAWSAT]
U. S. Embassy – The Green Zone is a six square mile (10 sq km) area of Baghdad to the left of the Tigris river and houses not only Washington’s Embassy but also London’s. Al Jazeera quoted U. S. Embassy spokeswoman, Mirembe Nantongo, “To maintain operational security we do not comment on indirect fire into the international zone.” The fire was so intense sirens went off to alert people to take cover. This is why I do not believe, no matter how much dialogue the lost alliance of London-Washington have with Tehran that the occupational forces will be allowed to evacuate Iraq peacefully. Iran does not want to seem them in other regional theatres. [ALJAZEERA]