(Author of the Book)
BOOK FORWARD by Loretta Napoleoni
The Balkans is the cultural and historical bridge between East and West. It is a region where the seeds of many civilizations have been sown, as well as a land that has witnessed endless wars fought to enhance different visions of history. It is the geographic divide between two worlds, which at times have merged, as during the Roman Empire, and at others have collided violently with each other, as during the Crusades. Historically and strategically, the Balkans are today as important for the future of Europe as they were a century ago, when an anarchic fanatic in Sarajevo offered the casus belli for World War I. This is the message encrypted in Christopher Deliso’s seminal work, in his detailed reconstruction of the genesis of Jihadist and fundamentalist movements in the region.
Right from the beginning the author shows how major political mistakes have boosted the spreading in the region of the most reactionary and backward interpretations of Islam, particularly Wahhabism. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former Yugoslavia has disintegrated, being replaced by several small states, all seeking independence from one another and all eager to compete with each other over territorial enclaves. To legitimate such claims, religion became synonymous with ethnicity and nationality. In a region where races and creeds had mixed for centuries, this phenomenon triggered new strife. Ethnic cleansing became the appalling weapon to clear the way to territorial conquest. Neighbors killed each other, and families were torn apart.
Deliso superbly and almost scientifically unveils the political mistakes and blindness that fostered the most recent Balkan wars. As early as the 1980s, the peculiar geography and history of Yugoslavia appealed to emerging Islamic powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran saw in the Balkans an ideal hub from where to challenge Europe. They targeted the region, which became part of a master plan to proselytize radical Islam in areas where Muslim minorities lived. Thus Wahhabi religious colonization was planned across a wide frontier stretching from Central Asia to the Balkans. As with the Caucasus during the Chechnya conflict, the Balkans became a region where the type of fighting that led to the victory of the Afghan-Arab jihad could be reproduced. The religious fervor that legitimized the vicious war against the Soviet “nonbelievers” was transplanted, after Afghanistan, to Chechnya, other Russian Caucasus republics, and the Balkans. For the jihadis, Russian and Serb nationalists became replicas of the Soviets, people without a God.
Paradoxically, President’s Clinton schizophrenic foreign policy facilitated such a process. Mujahedin who fought in the anti-Soviet Jihad flocked to the Balkans and ended up fighting on the same side as U.S. and European troops. This should not come as a surprise considering that a decade earlier the United States and Saudi Arabia had bankrolled the Mujahedin in Afghanistan in the first place. The key question that Christopher Deliso poses is this: “Did the West believe that another war by proxy could be fought along the Adriatic Sea, just a few miles from the coast of a founding member of the European Union?” Using language accessible to a general readership, and presenting a wealth of shocking recent examples, the author answers such an uncomfortable question. No, the West was simply dragged into the conflict, hence its schizophrenic behavior.
Today, new emerging powers are eager to promote the proliferation of conflicts in areas where Muslims live. The aim is simple: Religion is the ideological cloth that disguises wars of economic conquest. Deliso explains how, during the 1990s, Saudi charities bankrolled the jihad brigades that acted as the vanguards of the Wahhabi ideological colonization movement in the Balkans. Their task was to conquer new territories, wielding Arab money and religious ideals to do so. Funds flooded the region to build mosques and madrasahs where young Muslims especially could be indoctrinated. However, while until the 1990s such indoctrination was aimed at strengthening the jihadi fight in distant lands, such as Kashmir or Afghanistan, since 1998 the target has changed. With methodical vigor, Christopher Deliso reconstructs the links between Al Qaeda and the Balkans. He shows the importance that the region played prior to and leading up to the 9/11 plot, as well as in the tragic transition of Europe from just a financial hub of Al Qaeda to a main target in and of itself.
What next? This is the question that the author addresses at the end of the book. Having presented the background and revised the main strategies pursued by the West and the East on the Balkans chessboard, he attempts to outline the possible outcomes. Above all, the Balkans should not be ignored or erased from the world’s political agenda. Current media indifference projects the wrong conclusion; Western publics remain under the false impression that the region has been pacified. Far from it, it is instead brewing more violence. If Europe continues to turn away from and ignore this threat, fundamental movements, such as the Wahhabis and jihadist followers of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, will succeed in transforming the region into a hub for radical activity and even terrorist plots against Europe and the West. Their growing network has already forged key alliances with Italian organized crime, and has entered strategic joint ventures with local Balkan criminal organizations. It is only a matter of time until an attack on European soil will be launched from Balkan enclaves controlled by the foreign-directed fundamentalists, the author warns.
To back up this warning, Deliso lists in his book several plots, some of them major, while have been foiled since 9/11. He also cites whistle-blowers and other informed sources from within the Western security apparatus in the Balkans, who reveal an apparent lack of fortitude and even a lack of interest on the part of Western governments at really getting to the heart of the emerging Islamic extremist threat in the region. The final message to our leaders encrypted in this important book is simple: For once, let us be proactive and clean up the mess we have made in the Balkans.
Expert on Italian Terrorism and Organized Crime and Author of the book, “Terror Incorporated.”