Last month, Bosnia-Hercegovina worked up its courage and told two Iranian spies serving as “diplomats” at their embassy in Sarajevo to leave the country by the end of April. Given the worrying extent of Iranian subversion and espionage in Bosnia, including direct links to terrorism – these are not new, as readers of this blog are well aware – this was unquestionably a long overdue step in the right direction. Sarajevo had done nothing of substance to diminish Iranian espionage and support for terrorism in Bosnia since the mid-1990s, and even that consisted of half-measures.
Bosnia’s security minister Fahrudin Radoncic (a Muslim, in case you’re wondering) is the first person in that job to take Iran’s misdeeds seriously. He seems to have been pushed to action by revelations that Iranian “diplomats” in Sarajevo were making regular trips to known mujahidin camps in the country, bringing cash and best wishes. The Ministry of Security’s order, conveyed to Tehran through Foreign Ministry channels, stated that Hamzeh Dolab Ahmad and Jadidi Sohrab, the second and the third secretaries in the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Sarajevo, were to leave Bosnia by 30 April, or would be officially declared persona non grata and expelled. Ahmad and Sohrab had been identified as Iranian intelligence officers by Bosnian security officials beyond any reasonable doubt, with connections to known extremists in Bosnia.
However the 30 April deadline came and went, and as of this writing, the two “diplomats” are still in the country. The Banja Luka daily Glas Srpske explained on 3 May that the Bosnian Foreign Ministry, which had received no response from Iran to its directive, confirmed that Ahmad and Sohrab remain in Sarajevo. According to Glas Srpske, Mohamed Ebrahim Taherian, the first Iranian ambassador to Bosnia some 20 years ago, met with Husein ef. Kavazovic, the head of Bosnia’s Islamic Community, seeking his help in allowing the Iranian “diplomats” to remain in the country. Glas Srpske’s investigation also learned that Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Muslim member of the country’s joint Presidency, likewise interceded on the Iranians’ behalf. One day after the Bosnian Foreign Ministry sent its deportation request to the Iranian embassy, Taherian met with Izetbegovic, who is a personal friend, and conveyed his assurances that Radoncic’s spy accusations against the two Iranians were not true.
None of this exactly surprises, as longtime observers of Bosnia know well that Iran has a great deal of influence in the country’s Muslim clerical and political circles, some of whose members will cover up even overt Iranian support for terrorism and extremism – whether out of conviction or for a price is difficult to determine. Since Bakir Izetbegovic’s father Alija, Bosnia’s first president, invited Iranian spies and foreign mujahidin into the country over 20 years ago, the son merely seems to be carrying on a family tradition. Fahrudin Radoncic and all Bosnians who have warned for years and even decades about the malign influence of Iran in their country and all Southeastern Europe deserve the support of the West in this struggle, since it remains as clear as ever that Bosnia cannot save itself.