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          A scandal with smuggling weapons and military equipment into Iraq is a mere logical consequence of everything that occured in the ex-Yugoslavia military industry since 1991. Hence we can say that it is a matter of the remains, the subsequent erosion after Milošević’s regime: Great Deregulator made this sphere chaotic, too. In a way, it is also a Milošević’s revenge, taken from his political grave, one of many we have already suffer and we are to suffer yet. Let me paraphrase Nebojša Čović - on October 5th, we did not arrest them, on October 6th, we did not take their money, on October 7th, we did not force them to leave their positions. Unfortunately, the affairs similar to this one are to happen again...

          Iraqi affair has three imortant aspects (and several less important): those related to foreign affairs and to Interior, and a military aspect, strictly speaking. The last one is the least important one, since anything produced in our country cannot enhance military capacities of "brother Saddam". Yugoslav military industry had been thoroughly devastated even before war in 1999, by dissolution of the state; its scientific and research personnel either went abroad or scattered to other former Yugoslav republics or - due to the sanctions and poverty - were knocked down and out of modern trends which is difficult to be made up; our position at the market has been taken by the competitors and only Iraq, Libia and the non-aligned poor are behind us, all of them under some kind of sanctions, as we can see. A few repaired jet planes and spare parts are insignificant because the Iraqi military aviation has no intention to take off, for the well-known reasons. Some other details are much more interesting: telecommunication, electronics for air defence systems, specific upgradings which were done at USSR systems by our experts, although this also is not so important any more. The story about cruise missiles can be dismissed immediately because our industry might possibly be able to make a prototype of a little engine for a unmanned airplane and it would take two or three light years to reach regular production.

          The aspect related to foreign affairs is pragmatically conditioned by the military aspect described above. State Department expressed their standpoint by few moderately horrified sounds and then let us know that we were forgiven if only we brought the matter in the proper condition and if we promised we will never trade with bad guys any more. Superpowers are aware of the problems post-Milošević administration is facing so they are not willing to make its position more difficult; the situation with Bosnian Serbs will be cleared up very efficiently through Dayton mechanisms. Despite these pragmatical approaches, we should be very anxious here in Yugoslavia: the very fact that some greedy businessmen unblinkingly pushed the state in such a scandal in the midst of US efforts to mobilise their unwilling allies to attack Iraq - is enough. That is the best illustration for the sad truth that for ten years we were governed by pseudo-patriot criminals, who were ready to sacrify cinically both the people and the state for some little profit. Let us be clear: there has always been some weapons trade and there will always be some; that is the fact of life. But in normal countries, the weapons trade is - first of all - the means of foreign policy and defence, with strategy and doctrine as functions of it, and that is why "who sells to whom" is being so cared for. Those who broke these rules used to be executed ... In our situation of inherited chaos, with strong tendency to continue Milošević’s policy, those free agents still can operate, pushing out the state institutions and the interest of the state.

          Here we come to the key point: to decline and fall of the company called Federal Head Office for Special Purpose Goods Trade (SDPR). Behind this shy communist euphemism, there has been hiding a company for weapons trade, as well as military industry is still stupidly defined by "special purpose", showing the "difference" with other industries which, supposingly, do not have "special purposes". It is not necessary to explain the importance of SDPR and ZINVOJ (Union of Weapons and Military Equipment Industry; a business union) for Yugoslav export, industry, scientific and technology progress, etc; those things are widely known. It is enough to say that military industry was an important vector of scientific and technology development in the former state. Huge weapon system, developed in 70s and 80s - airplanes, helicopters, tenks, missiles, etc. - provided employment and salaries for hundreds of thousands of people. The export, which was intelligently carried out and financed by loans, was a serious item in the total economy of SFRJ.

          Weapons smuggling on a large scale started in July 1991, with "the Bar cargo": 30.000 tons were imported on seven ships, loaded in Baltic (from the surplus of former Warsaw Pact) and in Lebanon (surpluses of Maronite militias and of Iran). We use the word "smuggling" because the state lied about this cargo. So, it started with illegal import; but once the smuggling channels and methodology have been worked out, it makes no difference which direction the goods will go. Embargo on import of weapons and military equipment was imposed on Iraq at the beginning of 1991, and on Yugoslavia in September 1991. Milošević’s regime has planned the war and expected the sanctions, so - organised by State Security - some obscure businessmen and adventurers, mercenaries and cheaters came to Belgrade in the spring of 1991. Those were the usual underground people, moving around wars and trying to make some profit. This team was offering what was needed: police overtapping electronics, tactic telecommunications, devices for night observing and sighting, protecting equipment etc, everything both expensive and of bad quality. European traders of higher calibre came soon: a channel was established, for example, between Konstanta in Romania and the Adriatics. The same channel was used for the weapons aimed for Croatia and Serbia, sold by the same trader; there were moments when both the ship for Bar and the one for Rijeka were loaded at the same time on the same dock in Konstanta Port. That was the first time when Serbian police became an important illegal customer, which was to stay until 2000.

          Since the country was under the sanctions, the usual channels of SDPR company were cut and it had to operate under cover of false private companies, registered in different places. Those mostly were companies for one use only, which had the standard way of operating: forged documents of final customer, forged bills of lading, reloading at the open sea, coming to Bar or Tivat "by the way", etc. Serbian police even managed to import two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters from Ukraina; if they had been able, they would have bought an atomic bomb. Smuggling is followed by corruption, especially when one pays by cash to the partners who prefer to stay unrevealed, when one has to bribe the customs officers in other countries etc. Who took his share and how large it was - can only be guessed, for still there is no political will to clear up this matter although there are clear clues about companies, persons involved and operations: you should only read carefully the records made by Yugoslav Parliament committees investigating murder of Pavle Bulatović; everything is explained there.

          And now: it’s the real show time with the export. First of all, they sold the Greeks some «Canadair» water bombers for a pocket money, doing that secretly through a certain Mickey Mouse company. Then they tried to send "brother Gaddafi" the spare parts for aircrafts G-2, using a certain Russian Mickey Mouse company, but Il-76 crashed near Surčin and burnt down (12 dead persons, a SDPR man included). Afterwards, through some false companies (JPL Systems), they were selling some components for a kind of a ballistic missile "brother Gaddafi" was making. Then they sold "brother Mobutu" the weapons, equipment, airplanes with pilots and merceneries, which did not help our "great friend" to stay the president. There were other jobs; the important thing is the way of behaviour, modus operandi. And this mode was made by gradual pushing out SDPR - with his consent to live together with different bamboozlers, for they found a mutual language - the language of corruption, taking shares and pseudo-patriotism. Technically, the method is well-known: the same persons are founding new companies, each of them to be used only once, they operate through "tax shelters" and a series of bank accounts, hoping to leave no traces. They bribe the corrupted diplomats from the poor Third World countries to issue forged documents on the end customers, they are covered by political friendship with Milošević’s regime, but they would use any if necessary. Jovan Čeković, the director of SDPR, took great care of his friendships with everybody; as a "good head of a houshold" and "one of Chetniks’ leaders", he found his way even after October 5 - until he fell asleep on his laurels and missed noticing what was going on in his company. Others are not much different. This Iraqi scandal - which we certainly did not need, no matter how small it is - is only one more consequence of the new authorities’ policy of continuity: they did not touch State Security, they did not touch the judiciary, they made only a scratch on police and "extra-profit makers" and they did not even remember the weapons traders, although they have been an eyesore from the very beginning.

          If there can be any positive result of this silly and unnecessary scandal, it will be the moment when the new authorities - let us hope and prey to God! - will understand that this issue must be strictly controlled by the state, which means to kick out "free agents" (after they have paid the taxes), arrest their protectors and partners under criminal charges and, in a word, get the things back where they had been in that rotten Yugoslavia in 1989.

        • Tags: Iraq, military equipment, Iraqi affair, weapons, Weapons smuggling, Special Purpose Goods Trade (SDPR), FRY
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