Implications of Islamic Geopolitical Designs in the Balkans
Srdja Trifkovic


1. Definition 1

2. Reality and Ideology 2

3. The Setting 4

4. Turkish Conquest 5

5. The Ottoman Legacy 6

6. Demography 7

7. The Role of Modern Turkey 8

8. Bulgaria 9

9. FYR Macedonia 10

10. Kosovo 11

11. Sanjak 13

12. Bosnia 15

13. The Green Corridor and the War on Terror 17

14. Conclusion 18

Chicago, January 2009
1. Definition – The Green Transverse or “Green Corridor” (in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian:
Zelena transverzala ) is a geopolitical concept that has been used in three distinct, albeit
interconnected meanings:

1. To define the long-term goal of Islamist ideologues, both in the Balkans and in the
wider Muslim world, to create a geographically contiguous chain of majority-Muslim or
Muslim-dominated polities that will extend from Turkey in the southeast to the
northwestern-most point of Bosnia in the area of Cazin (cca 50 miles from Slovenia, 120
miles from Austria), as a means of attaining wider geo-strategic objectives. In a 2001
report by the Italian security services, it is defined as “the project of Islamic colonization
of the Balkans that aims at the gradual establishment of a green corridor to include all
regions in which predominantly Muslim ethnic groups prevail.”

2. To denote the ongoing process of increasing ethno-religious self-assertiveness among
major traditionally Muslim communities in the Balkans, which has had a fourfold effect:
(a) Expanding the geographic area of their demographic dominance;
(b) Establishing and/or expanding various entities under Muslim political control with
actual or potential claim to sovereign statehood;
(c) Enhancing the dominant community’s Islamic character and identity within those
entities, with the parallel decrease of presence and power of non-Muslim groups; and
(d) Prompting Muslim communities’ ambitions for ever bolder designs in the future, even
at the risk of conflict with their non-Muslim neighbors.

3. To refer to the policy of the United States that has had the effect, by design or default,
to favor the aspirations of various supposedly pro-Western Muslim communities in the
Balkans along the geographic line extending from Turkey north-westwards towards
Central Europe.

The purpose of this study is to give some clarity to this concept. Such clarity is essential
to a comprehensive understanding of the motives, actions, and emerging expectations of
different actors in the Yugoslav wars of 1991-1999 and their aftermath. It is especially
relevant to the events in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metohija of the past two
decades, and to the tensions in other parts of the Balkans. It is an area divided by many
frontiers, but inhabited by peoples whose goals and ambitions transcend those frontiers.
They remain defined chiefly by their blood and faith, rather than by political units they
inhabit or universal principles.

2. Reality and Ideology – Many Western academic experts, political analysts and media
commentators accept the existence of a long-term geopolitical design to dominate parts of
the Balkans by the Serbs – so much so that the existence of a “Greater Serbian” ideology
and program of action is treated as a given fact. Having been elevated to the status of
incontrovertible motivating force behind the “Joint Criminal Enterprise” that supposedly
guided Serbian leaders and their subordinates throughout the conflict in the former
Yugoslavia, it is now the keystone of numerous indictments at Yugoslav war crimes
tribunal in The Hague (ICTY).
On the other hand, some of those same experts, analysts and media commentators
(notably in the English-speaking world) have shown curious tendency to be a priori
dismissive of any suggestion that a similar geopolitical design exists, let alone that it is
being systematically pursued, by other key players in the region. Accordingly it has been
alleged, without proof or due analysis, that the notion of the Green Corridor was a
product of Serbian nationalist paranoia or based on “Islamophobic” assumptions. In
reality, its most authoritative proponents in recent years have been institutions and
experts (British, Italian, Israeli, etc.) with no ethnic or personal axe to grind in the Balkan

Political, cultural, religious and demographic trends among Muslim communities in the
Balkans strongly suggest that the Green Corridor is taking shape either deliberately or
spontaneously. The reality and the implications of the “Transverse,” as an idea and as an
ongoing project, are well understood by an increasing number of experts around the

The Bosnian war was still raging when Sir Alfred Sherman, former advisor to Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher and co-founder of the Centre for Policy Studies, warned that
the Muslims’ objective was “to create a ‘Green Corridor’ from Bosnia through the Sanjak
to Kosovo” that would separate Serbia from Montenegro and facilitate Albanian
pressures on Montenegro and Macedonia. Western powers are “in effect fostering this
Islamistan,” Sherman warned, and developing “close working relations with Iran, whose
rulers are keen to establish a European base for their politico-religious activities.” In
addition, “Washington is keen on involving its NATO ally Turkey, which has been
moving away from Ataturk’s secularist and Western stance back to a more Ottomanist,
pan-Muslim orientation, and is actively helping the Muslim forces.”

Sherman’s diagnosis proved to be prescient. More than a decade later it was confirmed
by Col. Shaul Shay, an expert on Islam at BESA (Begin-Sadat) Center at Bar-Ilan
University. He notes that “the Balkans serve as a forefront on European soil for Islamic
terror organizations, which exploit this area to promote their activities in Western Europe,
and other focal points worldwide.” His conclusions regarding the Green Corridor are

[T]he establishment of an independent Islamic territory including Bosnia, Kosovo and
Albania along the Adriatic Coast, is one of the most prominent achievements of Islam
since the siege of Vienna in 1683. Islamic penetration into Europe through the Balkans is
one of the main achievements of Islam in the twentieth century.

Shay’s account shows how the Bosnian war provided the historical opportunity for
radical Islam to penetrate the Balkans at a time when the Muslim world – headed by Iran
and the various Islamic terror organizations, including al-Qaeda – came to the aid of the
Muslims. The Jihadist operational and organizational infrastructures were thus
John R. Schindler, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and former
National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, concurs: in his view the
Balkans provide the missing piece in the puzzle of al-Qa’ida’s transformation from an
isolated fighting force into a lethal global threat. Radical Islam played a key role in the
post-Yugoslav conflict, Schindler says: like Afghanistan in the 1980s, Bosnia in the
1990s became a training ground for the mujahidin, leading to blowback of epic

The Green Corridor theory is implicitly based on Samuel Huntington’s Clash of
Civilizations, which used the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a paradigmatic case of
the so called “fault-line wars” between the Christians and the Muslims. Many years
before the first shots were fired in Bosnia in 1992, that paradigm was confirmed by the
late Bosnian-Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic. In his Islamic Declaration Izetbegovic
denied any chance of “peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic
societies and political institutions”:

“Islam contains the principle of ummet, the tendency to unite all Muslims into a single
community – a spiritual, cultural and political community… It is a natural function of the
Islamic order to gather all Muslims and Muslim communities throughout the world into

When Yugoslavia started unraveling, the Green Corridor was not stated by Izetbegovic as
an objective of his struggle, just as there is no mention of his plans for Bosnia as such in
his Islamic Declaration. Both followed clearly enough from his broad strategic blueprint,
however, his grand design for the world. In addition, by the early 1990s he needed the
“multicultural” image to be presented to the West.

Izetbegovic’s followers understood; the fruits of their labor – and that of their
coreligionists in another half-dozen Balkan countries – are clearly visible along a
thousand miles’ trail through the middle of today’s Balkans.

3. The Setting – The Balkan peninsula is traditionally defined as the area of Europe south
of the line extending from Istria in the northwest along the Kupa, Sava and Danube rivers
in the north, to the Danube Delta/the Black Sea in the northeast. Unlike other European
peninsular regions (Iberia, Italy), the northern boundary of the Balkans is not marked by
mountain ranges that sharply separate the peninsula from the heartland of Europe. On the
contrary, that boundary is long and wide open, marked by easily fordable rivers, and
criss-crossed by several key transit corridors essential to European commerce. They
provide road, rail and waterway connection between Central and Western Europe with
the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean.

On the whole poor in energy and natural resources and devoid of large tracts of fertile
soil, the region is inherently significant mainly because of its location as the hub of
several pan-European transport corridors. That location has been the bane of its history,
too, inviting invaders and turning the region for most of the modern era into a mere
object of competing designs and interests of the great powers.
The pan-European “Corridor Ten,” from Austria to Greece via Zagreb, Belgrade, Nis
(with a branch to Sofia) and Skopje, is regarded as a particularly important route. It has
been deemed worthy of investment in blood and treasure from the times of Roman
legions to both world wars, and on to our own time.

The Balkan peninsula has gained additional importance over the last decade as a result of
competing gas and oil pipeline projects that aim to bring energy from the Caspian basin
to Europe. Some of those projects are clearly designed to bypass and even marginalize
Russia (Nabucco, AMBO), while others are actually sponsored by Russia as a counter-
measure (e.g. South Stream).

Competing pipeline projects merely serve to increase the already considerable strategic
importance of the Balkans – an area that remains the most historically unstable and
politically volatile region in Europe.

4. Turkish Conquest – The initial onslaught of Islamic conquerors on Europe started
twelve centuries ago across the Straits of Gibraltar: Spain was the first European
Christian country to be invaded by the Arab Islamic armies, which were finally stopped
at Tours by Charles Martel (732 AD). The second attack of Islam on Europe came at the
southeastern fringe of the Old Continent, starting in 1354, when Ottoman Turks crossed
the Dardanelles from Asia Minor and established a foothold on the northern shore.

The subsequent spread of Islam in the Balkans was “by the sword”: it was contingent
upon the extent of Ottoman rule and the establishment of political and social institutions
based on the teaching of Kuran and the previous seven centuries of Islamic legal and
political practice.

The line of the attack went from Thrace via Macedonia to Kosovo; through Rascia
(“Sanjak”) into Bosnia all the way to the Una river, was finally stopped at the Habsburgs’
Military Frontier created in the 16th century.

It is noteworthy that the geographic thrust of the Ottoman attack and later colonization of
Muslims from other parts of the Empire in the Balkans coincided exactly with the “Green
Corridor.” This is not to suggest that Ottoman strategists had devised an elaborate plan of
conquest along those lines, but – rather – that the Green Corridor has a geopolitical logic
that influences political and military decision-making either consciously or
spontaneously. The historical record further indicates that Ottoman efforts at Islamization
of the local population were more determined, and far more successful, along the
“Transverse” axis (Thrace-Macedonia-Kosovo-Sanjak-Bosnia) than in other conquered
Christian lands (e.g. in mainland Greece, central Serbia, northern Bulgaria, or Wallachia).

The Ottoman conquest destroyed the materially and culturally rich Christian civilization
of Byzantium and its dynamic and creative Slavic offspring in Serbia and Bulgaria. The
conquered populations became second-class citizens (“dhimmis”), whose physical
security was predicated upon their abject obedience to the Muslim masters. They were
heavily taxed (jizya, or poll tax, and kharaj) and subjected to the practice of devshirme:
the annual “blood levy” (introduced in the 1350s) of a fifth of all Christian boys in the
conquered lands to be converted to Islam and trained as janissaries. In the collective
memory of Balkan Christian nations, five centuries of Turkish conquest and overlordship
– with all their consequences, social and political – are carved as an unmitigated disaster.

5. The Ottoman Legacy – The Turkish occupation did not mean the same thing for all
Balkan nationalities. Under the new masters the Greeks, key players in the Byzantine
world, provided a degree continuity in commerce, administration, and in understanding
the affairs of the Balkan mosaic, as well as spiritual leadership for the Christian raya.
Most other Orthodox Christians, by contrast, were deprived not only of statehood and
liberty (that was the common destiny for all) but also of an educated elite capable of
transmitting cultural identity.

Conversions to Islam, a phenomenon more strongly pronounced along the Green Route
than in the central regions of the Empire, contributed to a new stratification of the society
under Ottoman rule and a new power balance. That balance shifted in favor of those
individuals and communities that embraced the conquerors’ faith. They soon assumed the
role of officials and tax collectors, holding power over and oppressing their neighbors,
former co-religionists. People of the same ethno-linguistic community, sharing the same
ancestors, thus often evolved into members of two fundamentally opposed social and
political groups.

The Ottoman variety of the old divide-et-impera policy had an additional characteristic.
When setting up areas brought under their rule into vilayets (districts), the Turks
purposely drew the dividing lines in such a way so as to encompass several nationalities
in each district, instead of separating them. While the rationale for such a policy was not
explicitly stated, it kept rivalry alive and prevented a common front against the Turks.

The Ottoman zenith was reached under Suleyman the Magnificent in the first half of the
16th century. As that decline gathered pace after the defeat at Vienna (1683), the
provincial Ottoman governors and local warlords in the Balkans grew stronger and
disobedient of the Sultan. They were often local converts to Islam, eager to assert their
power over their former co-religionists, Christian gaiurs. This resulted in far harsher
treatment of their Christian subjects than was mandated from the Porte, and helped ignite
uprisings in Serbia (1804) and Greece (1821). The 19th century witnessed a more
thorough oppression of the Christian communities under Ottoman rule than at any prior

At the same time, some great powers (Great Britain in particular) supported the continued
Turkish subjugation of Balkan Christians on the grounds that the Ottoman Empire was a
“stabilizing force” and a counterweight against Russia. The Western powers’ alliance
with Turkey against Russia in the Crimean War (1853-1856) reflected a frame of mind
and a strategic calculus – the desire to score points in the Muslim world vis-à-vis another
non-Muslim power – that has manifested itself in recent years in the overt or covert
support by those same powers for the Muslim side in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and
It is remarkable that in this age of great sensitivity to victimology, the persecution of
Balkan Christians by Ottoman Muslims has been largely ignored by Western historians.
Centuries of arbitrary violence based on institutionalized religious discrimination,
causing suffering and death of millions, have been covered by the myth of Ottoman
“tolerance” that is as hurtful to the descendants of the victims as it is useless as a means
of appeasing latter-day jihadists.
6. Demography – The most enduring, and politically and culturally relevant consequence
of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans is the presence of large indigenous Muslim
communities. The Balkan Peninsula is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse
regions in the world, all the more so considering its relatively small area (just over
200,000 square miles) and population (around 55 million). Of that number, Eastern
Orthodox Christians – mainly Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs and Slavic Macedonians – have the
slim majority of around 53 percent; Sunni Muslims (11 million Turks in European
Turkey and a similar number of Albanians, Slavic Muslims and ethnic Turks elsewhere)
make up just over 40 percent; and Roman Catholics (mainly Croats) are at around 5

Those communities do not live in multicultural harmony. Their mutual lack of trust that
occasionally spills into violence is a lasting product of the Ottoman legacy. Four salient
features of the Ottoman state were:
(a) Institutionalized, religiously justified discrimination of non-Muslims;
(b) Personal insecurity of all subjects (Muslims included), but more keenly felt by
(c) A tenuous coexistence without intermixing of its many ethnicities and creeds; and
(d) The absence of unifying state ideology or supra-denominational source of loyalty.
It was a largely Hobbesian world, and it bred a befitting mindset: the zero-sum-game
approach to politics, in which one side’s gain is perceived as another’s loss. That mindset
has not changed although almost a century has elapsed since the disintegration of the

Most Balkan Muslims live in continuous swathes of territory along the Green Corridor,
from Istanbul in the southeast to Cazin in the northwest. There are but two major gaps in
the chain. One is in northeastern Macedonia, where 80 miles divides easternmost
Albanian villages near Kumanovo from the westernmost Bulgarian-Muslim (i.e. Pomak)
villages in the country of Blagoevgrad. The other is in the region of Raska (northern
Sanjak to Muslims) in southwestern Serbia, along the main road and railway from
Belgrade to the Montenegrin port of Bar.

The Christian communities all over the Balkans are in a steep, long-term demographic
decline. Fertility rate is below replacement level in every majority-Christian country in
the region. The Muslims, by contrast, have the highest birth rates in Europe, with the
Albanians topping the chart. On current form it is likely that Muslims will reach a simple
majority in the Balkans within a generation.
7. The Role of Modern Turkey – Turkey’s European foothold on the Straits and in
Eastern Thrace is populous (over 11 million) and overwhelmingly mono-ethnic (Turkish)
and mono-religious (Muslim): after the final Greek exodus of 1955, the Christian
remnant is negligible. It is also the most densely populated part of the Balkans, thanks to
the exponential growth of the city of Istanbul. But more significant than the numbers are
those people’s attitudes and the policies of their political leaders. A nation-state of 72
million, the Turkish Republic is based on a blend of European-style nationalism and an
underlying Islamic ethos that breeds a sense of intense kinship with the Muslim
communities further west in the Balkans.

The father of the modern Turkish nation Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” hoped to impose a
strictly secular concept of nationhood. Political Islam has reasserted itself, however, and
its upholders are now in power. The Kemalist dream of Western-style secularism has
never penetrated beyond the military and a narrow stratum of urban elite. For decades
described as the key to U.S. strategy in eastern Mediterranean, in the Middle East, and—
more recently—in the oil-rich Caspian region and the sensitive ex-Soviet Central Asia,
the country is ruled by the ever-more-openly Islamist Justice and Development Party
(AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The majority of Turks support Erdogan,
validating the late Samuel Huntington's verdict that modern Turkey is a "torn country."
The Islamism practiced by the AKP, according to a Turkish scholar living in Germany,
“is an ideology of cultural divide, tension, and conflict, despite all of the pro-Europe
rhetoric in which Islamists in Turkey engage in their pursuit to exploit the European
Union for their agenda of Islamization.” That agenda of Islamization is no longer
confined to the borders of the Turkish state.

To the discomfort of its small Westernized secular elite, the country stubbornly remains
Asian and Muslim, not only in the bulk of its land mass but more importantly in its
common people's culture, religion, way of life, and a rekindled sense of kinship with their
Balkan co-religionists. That kinship is what connects Turks with other Balkan Muslims.
It is essential to the revival of Islamic fervor and ethnic self-assertiveness all along the
Green Corridor:

The [Yugoslav] wars of the 90s opened whole areas where [Muslims] were in the
majority: While the regional realities modified, so did geopolitics between those who
remained in the their traditional homes in the Balkans and the ever expanding Islam over
Europe itself. … [with] pan-European Islamic clusters from the West southward into the
Balkans . Of the utmost importance to Muslims in Western Europe, but especially the
Balkans, is the admission of Turkey into the EU, for Ankara will be a voice for all
Muslims inside the E.U. itself.

Without a strong, solidly supportive anchor at its southeastern end, no Muslim revival in
former Ottoman lands along the Green Corridor would be possible. The magnitude of that
support, already manifested during the war in Bosnia, became fully visible during
NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia, in which Turkey was one of the most
active and enthusiastic participants. It also provided facilities for KLA training camps,
with some officers privately conceding that it was payback time for Turkey’s defeat in
the First Balkan War (1912). The mix of nationalism and Islamism in Turkey aims not
only at reversing the process of modernization of the past 85 years; it also aims at
reversing the outcome of the preceding period of Ottoman decline. Under the Islamist
AKP government it is becoming increasingly revisionist, potentially irridentist, and
detrimental to stability in the Balkans.
8. Bulgaria – Of the country’s 8 million inhabitants, ethnic Turks account for just under
ten percent (750,000). Their numbers were reduced through forced emigration under the
Zhivkov regime in the 1980s, but many have returned following Bulgaria’s entry into the
EU. Southern Bulgaria is also home to several hundred thousand Pomaks, Islamized
Slavic speakers. Their number is unknown as they are not recognized as a distinct ethnic
group: officially they are “Muslim Bulgarians.” They have been subjected to failed
attempts at state-sponsored assimilation, including the change of their Muslim names to
ethnic Bulgarian ones.

Most Pomaks and Turks live in six counties that are situated between Turkey and FRY
Macedonia: Haskovo, Kardjali, Smolian, Blagoevgrad, and southern parts of Pazardzhik
and Plovdiv. The Pomaks are experiencing an intense Islamic religious revival, mainly
financed from the Arab world. Hundreds of new mosques have been built in recent years,
many of them financed by the Wahhabi pseudocharity Al-Waqf Al-Islami. Similar
Middle Eastern groups are establishing Kuranic schools, paying for trips to the Hajj, and
offering scholarships to young Pomaks to study Islam in Saudi Arabia. In February 2007
the authorities closed two websites for posting Jihadist propaganda in Bulgarian and
agitating for Pomak autonomy, and arrested Ali Khairradin, the former mufti of Sofia. In
the second half of 2008 the government banned two Pomak organizations accused of
spreading Islam under the guise of being secular NGOs. Since religion defines their
identity, “these poor, pastoralist Slavic Muslims have become prime targets for Arab
proselytizers seeking to make inroads in Bulgaria, the EU country with the largest
indigenous Muslim population.”

In addition to the religious revival, the Pomaks are establishing a new form of ethnic
identityand demand the recognition of their separate nationality. Some Pomak activists
assert that, far from being “Islamized Bulgarians,” they are descended from ancient
Thracians. Others assert Arab descent and an Islamic identity that antedates Turkish
conquest, supported by the claim that Pomaks practice a “purer” form or Islam than
Bulgarian Turks. Some Bulgarians see the assertion of a separate ethnic identity as the
first step in a future call for the establishment of a Pomak state – Islamic in character – in
the Rhodope region. Others, like the nationalist Ataka Party, sees Pomaks as participants
in the ongoing effort by Turkey and the Arab countries to re-Islamicize southern Bulgaria
as the key link to the Western Balkans. In a recent statement the party warned of
“unprecedented aggression based on religious and ethnic grounds” and accused Muslim
activists of “contempt for the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria.” Even pro-Western
sources in Sofia concede that “it is stretching credibility to imagine” that Bulgaria is not a
target of radical Islam.
9. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – FYROM is widely considered the weakest
state in the Balkans. It has a large and restive Albanian population, 98 percent Muslim.
According to the internationally supervized 2002 census results, Macedonian Slavs
account for 66 percent (1.3 million) and Albanians for 25 percent (500,000) of the
republic’s two million people. Some Albanians say that they’ve been undercounted and
claim that their share of population exceeds 30 percent. Either way, they have had a
remarkable rate of growth since 1961 when they accounted for 13 percent of the total.

Macedonia’s Albanians have other reasons to feel upbeat. Their birthrate is more than
twice that of Slavs. Their communities now extend far into northeastern and central
regions of the republic, including areas with no prior record of Albanian settlement.
Following the signing of the Ohrid Agreement that ended the 2001 Albanian armed
rebellion by the “NLA” (a KLA subsidiary), the state itself is effectively becoming bi-
national and bilingual. Albanians are de facto the second “constituent nation” in
FYROM. They are guaranteed proportional share of government power and ethnically-
based police force.

Skopje’s surrender to Albanian demands came under intense U.S. pressure. As Jan Oberg
of the Transnational Institute in Sweden pointed out at that time, the United States arms
and trains both sides in Macedonia: ten years of Western policies “combined with the
NATO bombing and the failure of the … mission in Kosovo have destabilized the region
beyond repair.”

Having secured their dominance in the western part of the country, along the borders of
Albania and Kosovo, the current main thrust of the Albanian ethno-religious enroachment
has the country’s capital city as its primary objective. It is a little-known fact that today’s
Skopje is effectively as divided as Nicosia, or Jerusalem, or Mostar.

Once a city quarter becomes majority-Albanian, it is quickly emptied of non-Albanian
(i.e. Slavic-Macedonian, non-Muslim) population. The time-tested technique is to
construct a mosque in a mixed area, to broadcast prayer calls at full blast from the
minaret five times a day, to create the visible and audible impression of their dominance
that intimidates non-Muslims (“sonic cleansing”). In those mosques a Wahhabi-
connected imam or administrative worker is invariably present to keep an eye on the rest.
The Wahhabis, led by Skopje’s former chief mufti Zenun Berisha, lost control of the IVZ
(Islamic Religious Community) in 2006, but through their links with Arab donors they
can influence the payment of salaries to imams and administrative staff.
During the 2001 Albanian rebellion the NLA was largely financed by the smuggling of
narcotics from Turkey and Afghanistan, but in addition to drug money, “the NLA also
has another prominent venture capitalist: Osama bin Laden.” French terrorism expert
Claude Moniquet of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security
Center estimated in 2006 that up to a hundred fundamentalists, “dangerous and linked to
terrorist organizations,” were active or dormant but ready in sleeper-cells in Macedonia.
New recruits are offered stipends to study Islam in Saudi Arabia, and they are given
regular salaries and free housing to spread the Wahhabi word on their return to

Both demographically and politically, the Republic of Macedonia has a precarious
present and an uncertain future. In the long term its stability and sustainability is open to
10. Kosovo – Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton warned a year
ago that “Kosovo will be a weak state susceptible to radical Islamist influence from
outside the region… a potential gate for radicalism to enter Europe,” a stepping stone
toward an anti-Christian, anti-American “Eurabia.” His was a rare voice in Washington to
warn of the ongoing merger of aggressive greater-Albanian nationalism and transnational

Bolton’s verdict is shared by former UN commander in Bosnia, Canadian Gen. Lewis
McKenzie. In 1999 the West intervened “on the side of an extremist, militant Kosovo-
Albanian independence movement,” he says. “The fact that the KLA was universally
designated a terrorist organization supported by al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored.”

Both assessments have been confirmed by events. Over the past decade, since the 1999
US-led NATO intervention, Kosovo has been cleansed of most of its Serbs. It became the
crime capital of Europe. A dozen organized crime families (see map on the left),
supported by private networks of KLA veterans, are in charge of Kosovo’s political
institutions, as well as lucrative illegal transactions.

Crime is the province’s main economic activity: hard drugs (primarily heroin), followed
by human trafficking, associated sex trade, and arms smuggling. With the UDI in
February 2008, the crime bosses were given formal state authority, in addition to the
substantive power they have had for years.

No less significant, from the vantage point of the Green Corridor, has been the symbiosis
that has developed between Kosovo’s Albanian crime families and the Jihadist networks
abroad. As a result, according to a 252-page report compiled by U.S. intelligence
agencies in April 2006, Islamic militants with ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist
organizations have been crisscrossing the Balkans for more than 15 years: “extremists,
financed in part with cash from narcotics smuggling operations, were trying to infiltrate
Western Europe from Afghanistan and points farther east via a corridor through Turkey,
Kosovo and Albania.”

This process started well before the 1999 NATO intervention. In the late 1990s, while an
intricate Islamic terror network was maturing in Bosnia, Osama bin Laden found fresh
Balkan opportunities in Kosovo, but the Clinton Administration ignored the warnings.
Iran also supported the Albanian insurgency in Kosovo, hoping “to turn the region into
their main base for Islamic armed activity in Europe.” In 1999 the KLA earned its spurs
in the eyes of its Islamist partners by blowing up Christian churches. The relationship
was cemented by the zeal of KLA veterans who joined Bin Laden’s network in
Afghanistan. By the end of 1998, with Bin Laden’s network firmly established in
Albania, the U.S. drug officials (DEA) complained that the transformation of the KLA
from terrorists into freedom fighters hampered their ability to stem the flow of Albanian-
peddled heroin into America. By that time the NATO bombing of Serbia was in full
swing, however, and the mujaheddin were, once again, American “allies.”
A decade later Kosovo is run by those “allies.” It is the worst administered and most
corrupt spot in Europe, a mono-ethnic hotbed of criminality and intollerance, a major
source of irridentism and regional instability – and a key pillar of the Green Corridor.

11. Sanjak – The region known to Muslims as Sandžak (“administrative district” in
Turkish) is one of the most critical geopolitical pressure points in the Balkans. It covers
some 8,500 square kilometers along the border between Serbia and Montenegro, linking
Kosovo to the southeast with Bosnia to the northwest. Serbs refer to it as Raška (Rascia)
or the Raška Oblast (region). It derives its name from the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, an
Ottoman district that existed until the Balkan Wars of 1912.

The demographic picture of the region is exceptionally complex. According to the census
in Serbia (2002) and Montenegro (2003), the population of Sandžak was 420,259. Of that
number 235,567 lived in Serbia and 184,692 in Montenegro. Bosniaks and Muslims-by-
nationality accounted for 52 percent while Serbs and Montenegrins had 43 percent, with
other smaller groups making up the balance. Most Orthodox Slavs in six municipalities in
Montenegro declared themselves as Serbs in 2003, reducing the number of
Montenegrins-by-nationality in the region to under seven percent. Most Muslims are now
“Bosniaks” but a minority still declare themselves “Muslim” by nationality.

The crucial demographic gap in the Green Corridor still exists in the northwestern half of
Sanjak, comprising three municipalities in Serbia (Priboj, Nova Varos and Prijepolje) and
Pljevlja in Montenegro (yellow on the map). In addition there are two municipalities in
Montenegro, Bijelo Polje and Berane, without a simple majority but with a Serb plurality
(blue on the map). If there is to be a fresh crisis in the Balkans over the next decade, it is
to be feared that this will be its location.

The likely pattern of escalation has been tested in the 1990s. The Muslim separatist
movement in Sanjak first emerged in 1990, when the Bosnian Party of Democratic
Action (SDA), led by Alija Izetbegovic, appointed Sulejman Ugljanin as president of its
Sandzak branch. In March 1991 he announced that the SDA would declare “autonomy”
of Sandzak if any Yugoslav republic seceded from the Federation – an event that was at
that time imminent in view of Slovenia’s stated intentions.
Two months later a “Muslim National Council” was established, with Ugljanin at its head
(renamed “Bosniak National Council” in 1993). In October 1991, after the Muslim-Croat
alliance in the Bosnian Assembly illegally adopted a declaration on Bosnia’s sovereignty
and independence, the Sandzak SDA organised a bogus referendum on autonomy. On
that dubious basis, in January 1992 the Muslim National Council demanded “special
status” for the region from the international community. The Sanjak SDA was acting in
accordance with instructions from Sarajevo, and at both ends the strategic objective was
complete separation from Serbia and Montenegro and – eventually – unification with
Izetbegovic’s independent Bosnia. The October referendum accordingly proposed “full
political and territorial autonomy with the right to join one of the other republics” (i.e.
Bosnia), and the January demand for ‘special status’ corresponded to the one the EU was
proposing for Kosovo.
A major problem for the SDA project was the principle of inviolability of internal
Yugoslav frontiers, however, announced by the EU in late 1991. Nevertheless, by 1993
both Izetbegovic Ugljanin asserted that “Sandzak must join Bosnia”. Just like his partners
in Sarajevo, Ugljanin's branch of the SDA played the Islamic card. The SDA displayed
religious flags at their rallies (as well as Turkish ones). According to Adil Zulfikarpasic, a
founder of the SDA who later split from Izetbegovic over the latter’s Islamism, a 1990
rally in the city of Novi Pazar – the unofficial Muslim capital of Sandzak – was
conducted in a “fascist” way, with hundreds of religious flags and SDA guards

Today both Ugljanin and his arch-rival Rasim Ljajic, who split from him a decade ago,
have been ostensibly “tamed” in that they take part in Serbia’s political process, occupy
cabinet posts in the ruling coalition, and refrain from the kind of rhetoric that marked
their rise in the 1990s.

The mantle of ethno-religious activism has passed to Muamer Zukorlic, an Arab-educated
imam with pan-Islamic credentials. Zukorlic is in dispute with the leadership of the
Islamic Religious Community of Serbia (IVZ), the authority of which he refuses to
accept. The leaders of the IVZ, reis-ul-ulema Adem Zilkic and his predecessor Hamdija
Jusufspahic, are powerless to bring Zukorlic to heel because he is supported by the
Muslim leadership in Sarajevo and well-endowed from foreign (mainly Arab) sources.
While both sides in the dispute claim to be opposed to Wahhabi infiltration, Zukorlic’s
position on this issue is ambivalent. He is widely believed to be sympathetic to the
radicals. Even after a secret Wahhabi training camp stocked with weapons and explosives
was discovered 20 miles from Novi Pazar he said that the problem was “blown out of

Many Muslims continue to regard Sanjak as more than a geographic term, however,
insisting that its historic and geographic “reality” should be reflected in an autonomous
political status. That goal seems less attainable than before after Montenegro proclaimed
independence following the referendum in May 2006, as it would entail an unlikely
agreement of both Belgrade and Podgorica to allow an entity to be set up that would
straddle both sides of the Serbian-Montenegrin border. The demand for autonomy – this
time in the guise of “regionalization” – is still present in Novi Pazar, however. It is now
focused on the six municipalities on the northern side of the border, in Serbia. Such an
entity would have a 58% overall Muslim majority.

More importantly, even in the reduced format it would still provide the all-critical land
bridge between Kosovo and Bosnia.

12. Bosnia – Alija Izetbegovic’s memorable assertion in his Islamic Declaration that
“there can be no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic societies
and political institutions,” and that his goal is “a great Islamic federation spreading from
Morocco to Indonesia,” was neither unusual nor unorthodox for a sincere Islamist.
Nevertheless, many Western politicians and media commentators preferred to believe
that the Bosnian-Muslim leadership wanted to establish a multiethnic, democratic society.
The U.S. military experts saw the situation more clearly than the politicians, assessing
that such ideals may appeal to a few members of Bosnia’s ruling circles, “but President
Izethbegovic and his cabal appear to harbor much different private intentions and goals.”

It is obvious, 17 years later, that Izetbegovic meant business. President Clinton was still
in the White House when a classified State Department report warned that the Muslim-
controlled parts of Bosnia were a safe haven for Islamic terrorism. It warned that
hundreds of foreign mujaheddin, who had become Bosnian citizens and remained there
after fighting in the war, presented a major terrorist threat to Europe and the United
States. Among them were hard-core terrorists, some with ties to bin Laden, protected by
the Muslim government. A confirmation came in November 2001 when two Bosnian
passports were found in a house vacated in Kabul by the fleeing Taliban. The findings
were summarized by a former State Department official: Bosnia was “a staging area and
safe haven” for Islamic terrorists.

The core of Bin Laden’s Balkan network are the veterans of El Moujahed brigade of the
Bosnian-Muslim army. It was established in 1992 and included volunteers from all over
the Islamic world . The unit was distinguished by its spectacular cruelty to Christians,
including decapitation of prisoners to the chants of Allahu-akbar. El Moujahed was the
nursery from which an international terrorist network spread to Europe and North
America. After the end of the Bosnian war, many Muslim volunteers remained. The
Bosnian-Muslim government circumvented the Dayton rules by granting Bosnian
citizenship to several hundred Arab and other Islamist volunteers. Less than a year after
the war’s end they were well established, having taken over Serbian-owned properties
and married local women, sometimes by force. They and other Bosnian veterans went on
to perpetrate murder and mayhem in many countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle
East, Asia, and the U.S.

An early sign came in March 1996, when on the eve of a G-7 summit in Lille the French
police discovered a plot to attack the Western leaders by a group of Muslims at nearby
Roubaix who had fought in the Balkans. All of their weapons and explosives were
smuggled from Bosnia. The French thus uncovered what they called “the Bosnian
Connection.” They also established that Osama Bin Laden’s links to the Bosnian
Muslims were known to the Clinton Administration, and quietly tolerated by
The following year, the Bosnian Connection resurfaced following the bombing of the Al
Khobar building in Riyadh: several suspects had served with the Bosnian Muslim forces
and were linked to Osama Bin Laden. Abdelkader Mokhtari, an Algerian but a Bosnian
citizen, tried to help smuggle C-4 plastic explosives and blasting caps to a group plotting
to destroy U.S. military installations in Germany. Even 9/11 itself had a Bosnian

Khalid Sheikh Muhammad – the infamous KSM, the senior al-Qaida operative who
planned the 9/11 attacks – was a seasoned veteran of the Bosnian jihad, as were two of
the hijackers. It should be noted that the Millennium Plot at the end of December 1999,
the narrowly averted al-Qaida attempt to blow up Los Angeles International Airport, was
planned by a cell of mujahedeen operating in Montreal, most of them veterans of the
Bosnian war, and the operation was controlled out of central Bosnia.

Iran had already obtained a foothold of its own in Bosnia when the Clinton
Administration got Teheran’s help in supplying the Muslim army with weapons. This
was done in violation of the UN arms embargo initially demanded by the U.S. and behind
the back of its European allies. The CIA and the Departments of State and Defense were
not told at first. Iranian intelligence operatives came with the weapons. The result is a
symbiotic relationship between the ruling Muslim establishment in Sarajevo and the
Tehran regime. While meeting Sarajevo’s representatives in 2003, Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani said that “the Jihad of the the Bosnian and Palestinian nations is praiseworthy
and a source of honor for Muslims” and that “the resistance and faith of these nations will
be registered in the history of Islam.” Rafsanjani said Iran attaches great importance to
Bosnia’s geographic position in the Balkans. The meaning of this and many similar
encounters is
(1) that the “Bosnian nation” is equated exclusively with its Muslims (“Bosniaks”),
whereas other constituent nations (Serbs, Croats) are by implication aliens and enemies;
(2) that Bosnian Muslim officials are perceived and treated in Teheran as allies in a jihad;
(3) that Iranian Islamists see Bosnia as no less important than Palestine to their strategic
design ( evident in the reference to Bosnia’s “geographic position in the Balkans.”

Last but not least, Bosnia remains a staging post for thousands of illegal Muslim
immigrants from the Middle East making their way into Western Europe. International
officials fear that many terrorist operatives and their potential recruits are slipping in:
“There should be a sign on the tarmac saying ‘Welcome to Bosnia—the open backdoor to
Fortress Europe’.” Izetbegovic stepped down in 2000, but the hard-liners who have
internalized his teaching and his vision remain active at all levels of Bosnia’s Muslim
nomenklatura. As Jane’s Intelligence Review concluded in 2006, “The current threat of
terrorism in Bosnia and Herzegovina comes from a younger, post-war generation of
militant Islamists, radicalized by US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
13. The Green Corridor and the War on Terror – Terrorism, understood as unpredictable
violence against non-combatants used in pursuit of ideological, religious and political
objectives, is as old as humanity, and it has manifestations in many parts on the world.
Only Islamic terrorism, however – that used by Muslims in pursuit of political objectives
inspired by Islamic teaching, tradition, and historical practice – is a global phenomenon,
and it is the only variety that threatens Western countries as such. It is also the only
variety that properly falls under the category “global terrorism.” This war belongs to
fourth-generation warfare in which it is inherently hard to target the enemy and to
evaluate results.

In the Balkans, a phenomenon initially based on local groups is morphing into an integral
part of a global network of autonomous cells with local reach but with a global
cumulative potential. Al-Qaeda and its loosely linked Balkan offshoots, or self-starting
independent cells merely inspired by it, are capable of fielding operatives who are
European in appearance and seemingly integrated into the Western society, the “white al-
Qa’eda.” The process was summarized by Magnus Ranstorp, a specialist at the Swedish
National Defense College who testified before the 9-11 Commission. He warned that the
presence of Islamic militants in the Balkans makes it an attractive gateway into Europe
for terrorists, as well as “the embryo of what became al-Qaida in Europe”: “the Balkans
have become the crossroads where we see the merger of Islamic extremist groups who
reach out to organized crime groups.” Ranstorp stresses the link between organized and
terrorism: both “move in the same circles and need the same things. If you want to tackle
terrorists, you have to tackle the supporting environment, the organized crime rings and
the human trafficking rings.”

Indeed, a hidden alliance between terror networks and organized crime gangs that control
smuggling routes in the Balkans, is making it easier for terrorists to infiltrate Western
Europe. Western law-enforcement officials quietly concede that the region has become “a
paradise for al-Qaida.” By contrast, Western politicians and diplomats are typically
evasive. They do not deny the existence of the problem, but as a rule relativize it by
adding that it is unlikely to disturb the political and security balance in the region, or to
damage Western interests. As a former diplomat from the region notes, “Then usually
follows the reassuring mantra about the pro-European orientation of secularized Balkan
Muslims with the optimistic conclusion that the accelerated process of the Euro-
integration of the whole region would narrow the space for radical Islamism until such
tendencies will finally disappear.”

The problem with such optimistic assessment is not that it is totally wrong but that it
becomes less right with each passing day. A major fault of the Western approach is its
naïve faith in the attractive powers of secularisation. This growing gap between the
reality of Islam in the Balkans and Western mainstream narrative about the moderate and
tolerant “Balkan Islam” is too obvious to remain unchallenged. The problem of the Green
Corridor and its implications – not only for the Balkans but for Europe as a whole and the
rest of the world – will not be resolved without critical reexamination of Western policies
as well as Western illusions. Appeasing global jihad, in the Balkans or anywhere else, is
not only morally unsupportable. It is also completely counterproductive in countering the
existential threat of global terrorism.
14. Conclusion – The “Green Corridor” is not an invention, even less a conspiracy
theory. Over the past two decades it has morphed into a transformed demographic, social
and political Islamic reality. It is a vibrant geopolitical project whose fruits are visible,
tangible, and undeniable. A leading Israeli authority on Islam has summarized the
problem succinctly:

In Bosnia it was the revivalist Islamic ideology of Izetbegovic … was aided by Iran and
other Muslim countries, happy to see Islamic politics back in Central Europe. Then came
the Albanian uprising in Kosovo, which duplicated the same situation and drove the re-
Islamization of that land under the support of the West. The result is that while the
Muslims have established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central
Europe, the West is looking with indifference at that evolving situation which they hope
will create a docile Turkish-like Islam. But in view of the trouble Turkey itself is
suffering from Muslim fundamentalists, it is doubtful whether these hopes will be
Effectively helping “the establishment of a continuity which drives a wedge” in the heart
of Europe has been a key theme of American policy-making in the region since 1992.
The involvement of successive U.S. administrations in the Balkans illustrates the failed
expectation that satisfying Muslim ambitions in a secondary theater will improve the U.S.
standing in the Muslim world as a whole. The policy has never yielded any dividends, but
repeated failure only prompts its advocates to redouble their efforts. Former U.S. Under-
Secretary of State Nicholas Burns thus declared on February 18, 2008, a day after
Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence:

Kosovo is going to be a vastly majority Muslim state, given the fact that 92 to 94 percent
of their population is Muslim. And we think it is a very positive step that this Muslim
state, Muslim majority state, has been created today. It’s a stable – we think it’s going to
be a stable state.

If it is intrinsically “a very positive step” for the United States that a “vastly Muslim
state” is created on European soil that had been previously ethnically cleansed of non-
Muslims, on the smouldering ruins of a hundred-plus Christian churches and monasteries,
then it should be expected that Washington will be equally supportive of an independent
Sanjak that would connect Kosovo with Bosnia, of a centralized, i.e. Muslim-controlled
Bosnia that will abolish the legacy of Dayton, or of any other putative Islamistan in the
region – from yet-to-be federalized Macedonia to a revived Eastern Rumelia in southern
Bulgaria. It is worthy of note that the Organization of the Islamic Conference statement,
to which the State Department referred so approvingly, announced that the Islamic
Umma wishes its borthers and sisters in Kosovo success: “There is no doubt that the
independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the
joint Islamic action.”

“There is no doubt,” indeed. Far from providing a model of pro-Western “moderate
Islam,” Kosovo, Muslim Bosnia, Sanjak, western Macedonia, and southern Bulgaria are
already the breeding ground for thousands of young hard-line Islamists. Their dedication
is honed in thousands of newly-built, mostly foreign-financed mosques and Islamic

All along the Green Corridor, the Balkan Peninsula is visibly morphing from part of
Europe into an area more reminiscent of the Middle East. The rising ambitions of the
region’s Muslims mean that, if the process is allowed to proceed unabated, the Balkan
Peninsula is also likely to be as stable and peaceful as the Middle East.

The ambition was clearly stated by the head of the Islamic establishment in Sarajevo.
“The small jihad is now finished … The Bosnian state is intact. But now we have to fight
a bigger, second jihad,” Mustafa Ceric, the Reis-ul-Ulema in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
declared over a decade ago. This statement reflects the inherent dynamism of political
Islam: a truce with Dar al-Harb is allowed, sometimes even mandate, but a permanent
peace is impossible for as long as there is a single infidel entity refusing to submit to Dar
An honest confrontation with similar statements of intent – and more generally, with the
phenomenon of the Green Corridor and the problem it poses for non-Muslims in the
Balkans and for the rest of Europe – is long overdue. Confronting the issue does not
imply any antagonism towards Islam as such, or its adherents. On the other hand,
continuous refusal to deal with this problem may be indicative of a deeply engrained
prejudice against those who find themselves at its receiving end. Of course it would be
preferable to have a reformed Islam as a neighbor, rather than those models that currently
prevail in Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere; but Islam’s ability
to reform itself can only be undermined by the appeasement of Islamism that continues in
the Balkans.

If Western and especially U.S. policy in the Balkans was not meant to facilitate the Green
Corridor, the issue is not why but how its effects paradoxically coincided with the
regional objectives of those same Islamists who confront America in other parts of the

Far from enhancing peace and regional stability, Western policies in the Balkans continue
to encourage seven distinct but interconnected trends centered on the Green Corridor:
(a) Pan-Islamic agitation for the completion of an uninterrupted Transverse by linking its
as yet unconnected segments.
(b) Destabilization of Bosnia resulting from constant Muslim demands for the erosion of
all constitutional prerogatives leading to the abolition of the Republika Srpska.
(c) Growing separatism among Muslims in the Raska region of Serbia, manifest in the
demand for the establishment of an “autonomous” Sanjak region.
(d) Continuing intensification of greater-Albanian aspirations against Macedonia,
Montenegro, Greece, and rump-Serbia.
(e) Further religious radicalization and ethnic redefinition of Muslims in Bulgaria,
leading to demands for territorial autonomy in the Rhodope region.
(f) Ongoing spread of Islamic agitation, mainly foreign-financed, through a growing
network of mosques, Islamic centers, NGOs and “charities” all along the Route.
(g) Escalation of Turkey’s regional ambitions and Ankara’s quiet encouragement of all of
the above trends and phenomena.

In all cases the immediate bill will be paid by the people of the Balkans, but many long-
term costs of the Green Corridor will come to haunt the Western policy-makers. As the
late Sir Alfred Sherman has said, “What they are doing in the Balkans today, they are
doing to themselves tomorrow.”