In just one secret move, President Clinton did the following things:
Made a decision, critical militarily and politically, over the head of Congress and behind the back of the United Nations. Double-crossed America’s closest allies on a matter of the lives of their own troops. Strengthened the terrorist power of Iran, the country that Washington and foreign offices around the world believe is the principal sponsor of international terrorism. Cut straight across America’s own policy of trying to contain Iran - absolutely contrary to it. Damaged, perhaps beyond repair, U.S. efforts to get friendly nations to help the containment at economic cost to themselves.
These results came from Clinton’s secret decision in 1994 - surreptitious is more accurate - to give a silent nod that encouraged Croatia to become an open highway for shipments of Iranian arms and military trainers to the Muslim-led Bosnian government then at war with the Bosnian Serbs.
Now that the war is at least temporarily over, the longer-term and even more important results of the decision are becoming clear. But the major result has not sunk into the consciousness of Congress, press or public.
Clinton opened the way for Teheran to achieve the one thing it wanted most from the Bosnian war, the same thing that Europeans feared most: a militant-Islamic Iranian base in Europe. Iran quickly established a terrorist center and dispatch point - and a political haven in Europe, in the most unstable area on the Continent.
Now Iran and the Bosnian government are using in peacetime the Iranian power and presence that came with the weapons and the specialists accompanying them.
Iran is the major foreign political presence in Bosnia. Iranian soldiers barely disguised as volunteer guerrillas run training centers and carry out terrorist missions. Iranians have trained Bosnians in an Iranian speciality - death squads created to operate on foreign soil.
One target is Fikret Abdic, a Muslim now in exile in Croatia. He is an opponent of Islamic militancy, and in 1990 outpolled Alija Izetbegovic for the presidency but was squeezed out of the post. When the war started, Abdic led Bosnian Muslims who were in armed opposition to Izetbegovic. The Western press consistently and erroneously uses the Bosnian government’s propaganda epithet for Muslims who opposed Izetbegovic - renegade.
The specific Clinton decision was to tell Croatia that Washington had no policy about Iran’s request to send large shipments of weapons through Croatia to Bosnia. That is diplomatic code for “go ahead and do the dirty work.” Ever since The Los Angeles Times broke the story, Clinton has refused to disclose documents and told his aides to keep their mouths shut, tight.
We can assume what made the Clinton administration carry out this colossal deception of its own public, the United Nations and its allies. He not only broke the U.N. embargo, which he had said the United States must never do, but did it without getting the agreement of Britain, France and other countries. They had said they would pull their troops out of Bosnia if arms from anywhere, let alone terrorist Iran, flowed to the Muslims.
Clinton wanted to help the Bosnian Muslims in their war against the Bosnian Serbs, without committing American troops or openly sending arms. There was an honorable way to act - inform our allies and break the embargo publicly, over their objections. The administration’s choice was to do it with cowardice aforethought - go ahead, but keep us out of it. (A side result: He put his secret, and honor, in the hands of Iran and Croatia, which grow in mutual cooperation.)
Presidents have taken secret military actions before. But when Reagan, for instance, approved the arming of the Nicaraguan Contras, and Nixon the bombing of Cambodia, at least they thought they were helping causes they were fighting for. I cannot think of another case where a president made a secret deal that would so predictably damage his own cause as Clinton did to the containment of Iran.
Maybe the Clinton people thought they would never be found out. Maybe they thought that would make it all right. Many people talk themselves into that. Most of them are children, one way or another.