Granic, Susak and Greguric saved
NACIONAL Issue 304
In recent days, former American Ambassador to Croatia, Petar Galbraith, has again become an active participant in the Croatian political scene after appearing as a witness to the events in Operation Storm.
When the American Congress launched an investigation in 1996 into United States involvement in the illegal transport of arms from Iran to BiH via Croatia, three of the highest ranking Croatian officials, Franjo Greguric, Mate Granic and Gojko Susak, declined the invitation to testify before the investigative body of Congress. Nacional has learned from reliable diplomatic sources that in so doing, they protected Petar Galbraith, former American Ambassador to Croatia, from taking personal responsibility for the affair. These three high ranking officials, in refusing to testify, contributed to the end result of the investigation, that the direct involvement in the affair by Galbraith; Charles Redman, special advisor for the Balkans; Bill Clinton; Anthony Lake, Clinton’s advisor for national security and Strobe Talbot and Richard Holbrook, deputies to the Secretary of State was not proven. Sources close to Mate Granic’s closest colleagues confirmed for Nacional that Granic was invited to testify before the investigative body of Congress while he was Foreign Minister. Granic rejected the invitation at the time, stating that as Foreign Minister, he did not want to get involved in the American political scene in the midst of an election campaign, as well as due to the fact that the affair surrounding the Iranian arms in Croatia was handled by the military line of command, something which the foreign minister had very little information about.
Covering Up the Affair
Susak, as Defense Minister, was invited to testify due to his very clear military and political involvement in the entire operation, while Franjo Greguric was selected allegedly due to his appointment by Franjo Tudjman to be his special delegate for Federation BiH affairs. Due to a lack of evidence, the entire affair was later covered up.
The cooperation between Croatia and the United States is connected to the transfer of Iranian arms, which was confirmed for Nacional by sources in the Croatian intelligence community. The deal was reached without the knowledge of Franjo Greguric, and was directly implemented by Defense Minister Gojko Susak. Well-informed sources close to intelligence circles told Nacional’s reporters that the most recent discussions concerning the cooperation between Croatia and the US in preparing the military operation Storm are way off. The cooperation was, in fact, of a low level intensity, and the main goal and concern of American policy was focused on Bosnia Herzegovina. Croatia and the US established a much stronger cooperation in the secret operation surrounding the arms transport from Iran. The price of the cooperation was quickly agreed to – 30% of the collected arms would go to the HVO units, while the remaining 70% would go to the Army BiH. According to CIA reports, in the two years that the shipments were being received, 867 shipments of 14,000 tons of weapons worth $200 million dollars passed through Croatia on its way to BiH. In addition, intelligence sources confirmed for Nacional that Croatia had assisted both the US and NATO with information on when and where to attack Yugoslavia.
The American administration was faced with a big problem in 1994 – how to establish even forces in BiH, or rather how to help arms the Bosnians. The US officially welcomed the UN arms embargo for all of the nations of the former Yugoslavia. On April 27, 1994, Bill Clinton and his national security advisor Anthony Lake were in the presidential airplane Air Force One returning from the funeral of the former American president Richard Nixon.
Secret American Plan
Anthony Lake first proposed his plan to Clinton on that day – that arms shipments from Iran should not be stopped, rather they should be permitted unhindered passage. Clinton at first did not approve of the secret operation, especially since the CIA reports had outlined that such an operation could prove to be very risky. “There is a great danger that the operation could be quickly uncovered, which could create large problems in relations with our European allies,” stated the CIA report. Therefore, Clinton decided on a different strategy. The arms shipments would be organized and transported, and the US would not hinder their passage in either Croatia or BiH. Due to the poor business relations between the White House and the CIA, and due to the personal animosity between President Clinton and CIA director James Woosley, Clinton decided after Nixon’s funeral that the CIA would not be informed of that decision. Such that from the very beginning of the operation, the CIA was left out of the loop. In Bosnia, the Iranian connection from AID did its job. The identity of CIA’s head person for Bosnia had become revealed in Iran, such that for some time Bosnia was without CIA monitoring. However, prior to the entry into BiH, the United States had to have a partner which would assist in getting the shipments across the borders, and that partner was Croatia. Clinton’s delegates quickly got into contact with the Defense Ministry and with Minister Gojko Susak, and a deal was quickly reached.
Weapons Received in Small Harbours
When the arms crossed the border into BiH, the Croatian forces had the right to take 30% of the shipments. Only a few days after Clinton gave the “green light” for the Iranian weapons, an Iranian Boeing 747 landed in Zagreb. In Croatia, the operation was controlled by the Defense Ministry. The Americans wanted to avoid using any large ports which would attract attention. According to information from certain European intelligence agencies, the majority of arms entered Croatia through small harbours, such as the ones at Krk and Omisalj. After arriving, the shipment would be reloaded into small boats which would sail to the coast, and then the weapons would be transported on to BiH by trucks. “I don’t know exactly who organized the transport, but I do know that we knew about every border crossing by radio connection. We took our part as agreed, and therefore, there were no complaints,” stated one former Croatian intelligence officer.
In the political sense, things became complicated with the American side realized that Franjo Tudjman had received some information concerning the arms transport. He decided to contact Petar Galbraith. “I have information that arms from Iran are being transported to Bosnia. What should I do?” “I don’t know, I’ll ask Washington,” was the quick response from Galbraith. And, in fact, Galbraith really did forward a diplomatic message to Washington. He received an answer very quickly.
Tell Tudjman that there are no instructions, came the response. Tudjman, however, did not understand the message, so he told Galbraith that he would then ask Charles Redman who was coming to Zagreb. Redman gave Tudjman the same message that Galbraith had given him – there are no instructions. As those who participated in those conversations told us, Tudjman did not manage well with diplomatic language, and so he called Galbraith again. When he again repeated the phrase that when translated meant that the US would let all the arms slip into BiH, and Tudjman once again asked him what was going on, Galbraith already annoyed responded, “Next time, pay attention to what I’m not telling you.”
Galbraith’s implementation of Clinton’s policies completely confused the head of the CIA in Zagreb who had begun in panic to send coded messages to his headquarters in Langly that he had information that Ambassador Galbraith was involved in arms smuggling from Iran. For two years, Petar Galbraith had no idea about the vast documentation that the CIA was sending back to Washington regarding him. During the hearing before the American Congress, it took ten hours to read all the supersecret messages about his activities in Croatia. The CIA in Zagreb had completely concentrated on spying on the American Ambassador. Two people who had until recently cooperated have become greatest enemies. The head of the CIA had no idea about Galbraith’s duty to carry out the operation, and in the end, Galbraith had to tell him what was actually going on.
The United States will not stop these shipments, send that message to your Croatian contacts, Galbraith told him. “It was very obvious that Galbraith was the one running the operation. At one set of negotiations, he turned to a high-ranking Croatian diplomat, winked, smiled and said, ‘We don’t know anything about Iranian arms, do we?’”
The CIA’s revenge came quickly. According to the
claims of an American official, the head of the CIA was the one to tell some of
the details of the story to an American newspaper. After the story was released
in American papers, a thorough investigation was launched. After many hearings
and testimonies by Charles Redman and Petar Galbraith before the senate
committee for intelligence issues, it was concluded that there was insufficient
evidence for the claims that the American administration together with President
Bill Clinton had broken the law. The evidence was lacking for the case, so in
1996, they came to Croatia to look for witnesses. They selected some of the
highest ranking Croatian officials and testify about those events. “They called
me and asked me to speak to them, and that I might have to travel to Washington
if it became necessary. I refused to talk to them and they never called me
again,” confirmed a high-ranking Croatian official for Nacional’s reporter. Due
to a lack of evidence, as well as the obvious covering up of the entire scandal,
a further investigation was not sought, and the Croatian officials had protected
Petar Galbraith and the Clinton administration. “Tudjman and Susak were not
personally pleased that a great number of arms were going into the hands of the
Bosnians, however the Croats also received a good share. At that time, the
American secret actions were completely clear, and suited us, even though this
went against the UN arms embargo. The Americans were playing on both sides, but
that did not bother us that time,” commented one of the protagonists of those
However, problems arose soon afterwards when the CIA panic-stricken informed Washington that armed extremist Islamic groups were becoming stronger. According to the information of the Croatian intelligence agencies, in BiH at that time, there were about 2000 Mujahedini units. Considering that the fear in the State Department was increasing that Islam fundamentalism would grow in BiH, the Clinton administration began a new action of neutralizing the Iranian component in BiH. Very quickly, with strong pressures on the BiH government, the Mujahedini units had to be disbanded, and the AID intelligence agents who were in contact with Iran had to be fired by Alija Izetbegovic.
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