Iranian diplomats expelled from Bosnia over spying allegations
May 17, 2013 6 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In a move described as extremely rare, authorities in Bosnia have expelled two diplomats from Bosnian ally Iran over allegations that they are intelligence officers. However, the expulsion process took a while, which arguably reveals the complicated relationship between the two predominantly Muslim nations. The two diplomats were initially declared personae non grata in late April, when the Bosnian government ordered that they leave the country by April 30. According to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ministry of Security, the two envoys, Jadidi Sohrab and Hamzeh Dolab Ahmad, third and second secretaries respectively at the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Sarajevo, had engaged in activities that were “in violation of their diplomatic protocol”. Word has it that the Bosnian order was issued shortly after Israeli intelligence informed the Bosnians that the two Iranian diplomats were in fact employees of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MISIRI). The Israelis also said that one of the two men had been spotted in India, Georgia and Thailand, all of which were sites of a simultaneous bombing campaign in February of 2012 against Israeli interests —though there is no public evidence that he had an active role in the attacks. On May 9, however, Bosnian media reported that the two Iranian diplomats were still in Sarajevo, more than a week since the expiration of the deadline they had been given to leave the country. Why the delay? According to Dr. John Schindler, Iran watcher and professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, the move to expel the two Iranians had been “stymied by the establishment” in Bosnia, which remains decidedly pro-Iranian. The strong bilateral links between Iran and Bosnia were solidified in the early 1990s, when Tehran, along with —ironically enough— America and its allies, provided funding, weapons and training to Muslim paramilitaries fighting in the Bosnian War. Now, however, Israel, America and Britain are concerned that Iran is using its strong security ties with Bosnia in order to form a base of European operations in Sarajevo. Interestingly, after considerable media pressure, the Bosnian government announced on May 14 that the two Iranians had indeed left the country. Shortly afterwards, Bosnian newspaper Dnevni Avaz, posted a series of pictures allegedly showing the two Iranian diplomats at the airport leaving the country. This has yet to be confirmed with absolute certainty; however, if the two Iranians have indeed been expelled, it will mark a new chapter in the history of relations between Bosnia and its closest Middle Eastern ally.