Crossfire War – Pristina – Tehran – Tirana Watch – Southeast Europe Theatre: Pristina – Tehran – Ankara – Tirana – Presevo Valley/(Brussels – Vienna – Warsaw)/Kosovska Mitrovica – Belgrade – Skopje – Athens – Sofia – Moscow; Trip Wire Europe – Serbian Police Exchange Gunfire With Masked Gunmen Wearing Black Uniforms in Presevo Valley – South Serbia – One Gunmen Killed
Night Watch: PRESEVO VALLEY – Reuters reports Serbian police, late Sunday, exchanged fire with a group of masked gunmen wearing black uniforms who had been stopping cars in Serbia’s Presevo Valley.
The valley is in south Serbia along the Kosovo border, the Serbian province whose ethnic Albanian majority have been demanding independence for ten years and until recently they believed the international community, led by the United Nations and the European Union headquarters in Brussels, was going to officially recognize it.
But the Serbian government in Belgrade has stated, for more than a year, any declaration of independence would mean war and not just against the Albanians but also against any military units from countries that supported the declaration. Since the NATO 78-day air campaign against Serbia in 1999, the divided alliance has maintained approximately 17,000 occupation troops in the province, but Belgrade, with massive assistance from Moscow-Tehran, has re-armed. [SWISSINFO]
Tehran signed a security agreement with Belgrade in January 2006, on the advice of Iran’s Expediency Council, a decision-making body directly connected with the Foreign Ministry, because at the time it seemed the UN-Brussels were ready to support the Albanians in Kosovo so Tehran assumed it would be Belgrade who would re-start the war. Iran does not care how fighting begins as long as it can be used to keep NATO and the West occupied on another front, besides attacking Iran directly through the Caucasus.
Tehran can also use a major war in Southeast Europe to not only silence Vienna ending the investigation into Iran’s nuclear weapons program by the UN agency based there, but Tehran can also use war in the Balkans to prepare its avenue of invasion into Europe. Tehran may also wish to see OPEC meetings in Baghdad instead of Vienna as an example of the Islamic world being the main voice in the energy market.
The Expediency Council knows everyone in the Balkans hates Vienna once again, perhaps even more than Tehran does. Vienna has been one of the main European Union capitals that was designated to orchestrate the crisis revolving around the divided Yugoslavia and now the next war, caused by negotiations over Kosovo, which will not be confined to Kosovo.
As the fighting began and spread south, since 1991, each new war threatened to expand the conflict beyond Yugoslavia. That is why when fighting erupted between the Albanian minority in Macedonia, against the government in Skopje ten years later, NATO and the EU used every diplomatic (economic) leverage they had at their disposal to end the war before it spread into Greece-Albania-Bulgaria. The ethnic-religious-political trip wires are just that volatile across the continent and they are all heavily armed.
It has even been reported Moscow may have plans to airlift a unit into the new fighting in support of Belgrade. Even more important, with support from Iran and other Islamic capitals, Ankara-Riyadh-Tripoli, weapons shipments can be increased substantially overnight to any warring party for the express purpose of letting Europe go up in smoke once again.
But on rare occasion a European official, in a moment of lucidity, makes an excellent warning. The last time was when war erupted in 2001 and the former leading British negotiator on the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Lord David-Owen, stated publicly NATO should leave the region – and he used to be eager to see NATO commit forces there. I suspect he realized a trap was being set and not by the groups doing the fighting but by governments outside the region arming them. Of course his warning was ignored and this is how world wars happen. Regular readers of crossfirewar.com know I believe No. 3 actually began in 1994 with the wars that were expanding that year and in this theatre with NATO’s bombing campaign against Bosnian Serbs. Students of history know this same area was the flashpoint for the First World War 1914-18, ending the first Belle Epoque. No. 3 ended the second one 1953-93.
What may not have received much publicity as Macedonia in 2001, was the fighting that began in south Serbia’s Presevo Valley that same year, started by a rebellion of Albanians against Serbian rule. Now here is this firefight late Sunday involving masked gunmen in black uniforms, the military uniform of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and perhaps also of the Albanian National Army (ANA). Neither unit is official but they both have a lot of contacts with official governments, especially the Albanian government in Tirana.
Even more significant, it was reported Tehran was increasing its relations with Tirana and no doubt it was on the advice of the Expediency Council who were aware, with the new delays in UN-EU recognition of Kosovo, it would probably mean the Albanians in Kosovo will be the ones who set off the next wave of war and one that will expand very quickly.
Serbia Interior Minister Dragan Jovic stated the Serbian police confronted a group of armed men robbing passing vehicles and the exchange of fire lasted 20 minutes with one of the gunmen being killed. They were armed with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades (RPG). “Their attack and defense was professional, conducted with almost military knowledge and experience.” The news reported recently veterans of the KLA, the unit that started the war with Serbia in 1997, which eventually led to Belgrade’s response and NATO’s air campaign, had regrouped.
Western diplomats in the region fear the war could spread from the valley south to Macedonia, along ethnic Albanian battlelines. Strangely enough the Macedonian government in Skopje supports Kosovo independence even though they also face security threats from the Albanian community. Perhaps Macedonia supports Kosovo as Skopje’s way of opposing Athens since Greece never liked Macedonia calling their country the same name as Greece’s Macedonia province, as if Skopje has designs on Greek territory. Such is the tangled, intricate, fragile situation throughout trip wire Europe.