Kosovo: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This War Torn Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Kosovo

Introduction Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century, but did not fully incorporate them into the Serbian realm until the early 13th century. The Serbian defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule, during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War (1912), and after World War II (1945) the government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia led by Josip TITO reorganized Kosovo as an autonomous province within the constituent republic of Serbia. Over the next four decades, Kosovo Albanians lobbied for greater autonomy and Kosovo was granted the status almost equal to that of a republic in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. Despite the legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s leading to nationalist riots and calls for Kosovo’s independence. Serbs in Kosovo complained of mistreatment and Serb nationalist leaders, such as Slobodan MILOSEVIC, exploited those charges to win support among Serbian voters, many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland. Under MILOSEVIC’s leadership, Serbia instituted a new constitution in 1989 that drastically curtailed Kosovo’s autonomy and Kosovo Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum that declared Kosovo independent from Serbia. The MILOSEVIC regime carried out repressive measures against the Albanians in the early 1990s as the unofficial government of Kosovo, led by Ibrahim RUGOVA, tried to use passive resistance to gain international assistance and recognition of its demands for independence. In 1995, Albanians dissatisfied with RUGOVA’s nonviolent strategy created the Kosovo Liberation Army and launched an insurgency. In 1998, MILOSEVIC authorized a counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians by Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces. The international community tried to resolve the conflict peacefully, but MILOSEVIC rejected the proposed international settlement – the Rambouillet Accords – leading to a three-month NATO bombing of Serbia beginning in March 1999, which forced Serbia to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo’s future status. Under the resolution, Serbia’s territorial integrity was protected, but it was UNMIK who assumed responsibility for governing Kosovo. In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a Constitutional Framework, which established Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and in succeeding years UNMIK increasingly devolved responsibilities to the PISG. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo’s future status. Negotiations held intermittently between 2006 and 2007 on issues related to decentralization, religious heritage, and minority rights failed to yield a resolution between Serbia’s willingness to grant a high degree of autonomy and the Albanians’ call for full independence for Kosovo. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared its independence from Serbia.
History The formation of the Republic of Kosovo is a result of the turmoils of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, particularly the Kosovo War of 1996 to 1999, but it is suffused with issues dating back to the rise of nationalism in the Balkans under Ottoman rule in the 19th century, Albanian vs. Serbian nationalisms in particular, the latter notably surrounding the Battle of Kosovo eponymous of the Kosovo region.

Early history

During the Neolithic period, the region of Kosovo lay within the extent of the Vinča-Turdaş culture. In the 4th to 3rd centuries BC, it was the territory of the Thraco-Illyrian tribe of the Dardani, forming part of the kingdom of Illyria. Illyria was conquered by Rome in the 160s BC, and made the Roman province of Illyricum in 59 BC. The Kosovo region became part of Moesia Superior in AD 87. The Slavic migrations reached the Balkans in the 6th to 7th century. The area was absorbed into the Bulgarian Empire in the 850s, where Christianity and Slavic culture was cemented in the region. It was re-taken by the Byzantines after 1018. As the center of Slavic resistance to Constantinople in the region, it often switched between Serbian and Bulgarian rule on one hand and Byzantine on the other until the Serb principality of Rascia conquered it by the end of the 11th century.

Fully absorbed into the Serbian Kingdom until the end of the 12th, it became the secular and spiritual center of the Serbian medieval state of the Nemanyiden dynasty in the 13th century, with the Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Peć, while Prizren was the secular center. The zenith was reached with the formation of a Serbian Empire in 1346, which after 1371 transformed from a centralized absolutist medieval monarchy to a feudal realm. Kosovo became the hereditary land of the House of Branković and Vučitrn and Pristina flourished.

In the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, Ottoman forces defeated a coalition led by Lazar Hrebeljanović. In 1402, a Serbian Despotate was raised and Kosovo became its richest territory, famous for mines. The local House of Branković came to prominence as the local lords of Kosovo, under Vuk Branković, with the temporary fall of the Serbian Despotate in 1439. During the first fall of Serbia, Novo Brdo and Kosovo offered last resistance to the invading Ottomans in 1441; in 1455, it was finally and fully conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

Ottoman Kosovo (1455 to 1912)

Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1455 to 1912, at first as part of the eyalet of Rumelia, and from 1864 as a separate province.

Kosovo was briefly taken by the Austrian forces during the Great War of 1683–1699 with help of 6,000 led by Pjetër Bogdani. In 1690, the Serbian Patriarch of Peć Arsenije III led 37,000 families out of Kosovo. Other migrations of Orthodox Christians from the Kosovo area continued throughout the 18th century. In 1766, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Peć and the position of Christians in Kosovo deteriorated, including full imposition of jizya (taxation of non-Muslims). The final result of four and a half centuries of Muslim rule was a marked decline in the previously dominant Slavic Christian demographic element in Kosovo. In contrast, many Albanian chiefs converted to Islam and gained prominent positions in the Turkish regimen[5]. On the whole, “Albanians had little cause of unrest” and “if anything, grew important in Ottoman internal affairs”[6], moving in to inhabit lands vacated by fleeing Christians.

In the 19th century, Kosovo along with the rest of the Balkans saw an “awakening” of ethnic nationalism, in the case of Kosovo ethnic Albanian nationalism, including Romantic notions of ancient Illyria.

In 1871, a Serbian meeting was held in Prizren at which the possible retaking and reintegration of Kosovo and the rest of “Old Serbia” was discussed, as the Principality of Serbia itself had already made plans for expansions towards Ottoman territory. In 1878, a Peace Accord was drawn that left the cities of Pristina and Kosovska Mitrovica under civil Serbian control, and outside Ottoman jurisdiction, while the rest of Kosovo remained under Ottoman control. As a response, ethnic Albanians formed the League of Prizren, pursuing political aspirations of unifying the Albanian people under the Ottoman umbrella. By the end of the 19th century the Albanians replaced the Serbs as the majority population people within what presently composes Kosovo and Metohija, though not the entire Ottoman Province.

20th century

Balkan Wars to World War I

The Young Turk movement supported a centralist rule and opposed any sort of autonomy desired by Kosovars, and particularly the Albanians. In 1910, an Albanian uprising spread from Pristina and lasted until the Ottoman Sultan’s visit to Kosovo in June of 1911. In 1912, during the Balkan Wars, most of Kosovo was captured by the Kingdom of Serbia, while the region of Metohija (Albanian: Dukagjini Valley) was taken by the Kingdom of Montenegro. An exodus of the local Albanian population occurred. This was described by Leon Trotsky, who was a reporter for the Pravda newspaper at the time. The Serbian authorities planned a recolonization of Kosovo.[7] Numerous colonist Serb families moved into Kosovo, equalizing the demographic balance between Albanians and Serbs. Kosovo’s status within Serbia was finalised the following year at the Treaty of London.

In the winter of 1915-1916, during World War I, Kosovo saw a large exodus of the Serbian army which became known as the Great Serbian Retreat, as Kosovo was occupied by Bulgarians and Austro-Hungarians. In 1918, the Serbian Army pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo. After World War I ended, the Monarchy was then transformed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians on 1 December 1918.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia and World War II

The 1918–1929 period of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians witnessed a rise of the Serbian population in the region. Kosovo was split into four counties, three being a part of Serbia (Zvečan, Kosovo and southern Metohija) and one of Montenegro (northern Metohija). However, the new administration system since 26 April 1922 split Kosovo among three Areas of the Kingdom: Kosovo, Rascia and Zeta. In 1929, the Kingdom was transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the territories of Kosovo were reorganised among the Banate of Zeta, the Banate of Morava and the Banate of Vardar. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia lasted until the World War II Axis invasion of 1941, when the greatest part of Kosovo became a part of Italian-controlled Albania, and smaller bits by the Tsardom of Bulgaria and German-occupied Military Administration of Serbia. After numerous uprisings of Partisans led by Fadil Hoxha, Kosovo was liberated after 1944 with the help of the Albanian partisans of the Comintern, and became a province of Serbia within the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.

Kosovo in Yugoslavia

The province was first formed in 1945 as the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohian Area to protect its regional Albanian majority within the People’s Republic of Serbia as a member of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under the leadership of the former Partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito. After Yugoslavia’s name change to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia’s to the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1953, Kosovo gained limited internal autonomy in the 1960s. In the 1974 constitution, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo’s government received more powers, including the highest governmental titles – President and Prime Minister and a seat in the Federal Presidency which made it a de facto Republic within the Federation, but remaining a Socialist Autonomous Province within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. (Similar rights were extended to Vojvodina). In Kosovo Serbo-Croatian, Albanian and Turkish were defined as official languages on the provincial level. The ethnic balance of Kosovo tilted as the number of Albanians tripled, rising from almost 75% to over 90%, but the number of Serbs barely increased, dropping from 15% to 8% of the total population. Even though Kosovo was the least developed area of the former Yugoslavia, the living and economic prospects and freedoms were far greater than under the totalitarian Hoxha regime in Albania. Beginning in March 1981, Kosovar Albanian students organized protests seeking that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia.[9] During the 1980s, ethnic tensions continued with frequent violent outbreaks against Serbs and Yugoslav state authorities resulting in increased emigration of Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups.[10][11] The Yugoslav leadership tried to suppress protests of Kosovo Serbs seeking protection from ethnic discrimination and violence.[12]

Disintegration of Yugoslavia and Kosovo War

Inter-ethnic tensions continued to worsen in Kosovo throughout the 1980s. The 1986 SANU Memorandum warned that Yugoslavia was suffering from ethnic strife and the disintegration of the Yugoslav economy into separate economic sectors and territories, which was transforming the federal state into a loose confederation.[13] On June 28, 1989, Milošević delivered a speech in front of a large number of Serb citizens at the main celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, held at Gazimestan. Many think that this speech helped Milošević consolidate his authority in Serbia.[14] In 1989, Milošević, employing a mix of intimidation and political maneuvering, drastically reduced Kosovo’s special autonomous status within Serbia. Soon thereafter, Kosovo Albanians organized a non-violent separatist movement, employing widespread civil disobedience, with the ultimate goal of achieving the independence of Kosovo. On July 2, 1990, an unconstitutional Kosovo parliament declared Kosovo an independent country, the Republic of Kosova. The Republic of Kosova was formally disbanded in 2000 when its institutions were replaced by the Joint Interim Administrative Structure established by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). During its lifetime, the Republic of Kosova was only recognized by Albania.

The Kosovo War was initially a conflict between Serbian and Yugoslav security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group identified by some as terrorist.[4], seeking secession from the former Yugoslavia. In 1998, Western interest had increased and the Serbian authorities were compelled to sign a unilateral cease-fire and partial retreat. Under an agreement devised by Richard Holbrooke, OSCE observers moved into Kosovo to monitor the ceasefire, while Yugoslav military forces partly pulled out of Kosovo. However, the ceasefire was systematically broken shortly thereafter by KLA forces, which again provoked harsh counterattacks by the Serbs.[citation needed]

The Serbs then began to escalate the conflict, using military and paramilitary forces in another ethnic cleansing campaign this time against the Kosovar Albanians. An estimated 300,000 refugees were displaced during the winter of 1998, many left without adequate food or shelter, precipitating a humanitarian crisis and calls for intervention by the international community.

NATO intervention between March 24 and June 10, 1999,[15] combined with continued skirmishes between Albanian guerrillas and Yugoslav forces resulted in a massive displacement of population in Kosovo.[16] During the conflict, roughly a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven from Kosovo. Altogether, more than 11,000 deaths have been reported to Carla Del Ponte by her prosecutors.[17] Some 3,000 people are still missing, of which 2,500 are Albanian, 400 Serbs and 100 Roma.

The UN administration period
Main articles: Kosovo (UNMIK) and Kosovo status process

After the war ended, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1244 that placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration (UNMIK) and authorized KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 also delivered that Kosovo will have autonomy within Federal Republic of Yugoslavia[19] (today legal successor of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is Republic of Serbia).

Some 200,000-280,000, representing the majority of the Serb population, left when the Serbian forces left. There was also some looting of Serb properties and even violence against some of those Serbs and Roma who remained.[20] The current number of internally displaced persons is disputed, with estimates ranging from 65,000[25] to 250,000. Many displaced Serbs are afraid to return to their homes, even with UNMIK protection. Around 120,000-150,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo, but are subject to ongoing harassment and discrimination. According to Amnesty International, the aftermath of the war resulted in an increase in the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.

In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a Constitutional Framework for Kosovo that established the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), including an elected Kosovo Assembly, Presidency and office of Prime Minister. Kosovo held its first free, Kosovo-wide elections in late 2001 (municipal elections had been held the previous year).

In March 2004, Kosovo experienced its worst inter-ethnic violence since the Kosovo War. The unrest in 2004 was sparked by a series of minor events that soon cascaded into large-scale riots.[32]

International negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo, as envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1244. The UN-backed talks, lead by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, began in February 2006. Whilst progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself.[33]

In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes ‘supervised independence’ for the province. A draft resolution, backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council, was presented and rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.[34] Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, had stated that it would not support any resolution which was not acceptable to both Belgrade and Kosovo Albanians.[35] Whilst most observers had, at the beginning of the talks, anticipated independence as the most likely outcome, others have suggested that a rapid resolution might not be preferable.

After many weeks of discussions at the UN, the United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council formally ‘discarded’ a draft resolution backing Ahtisaari’s proposal on 20 July 2007, having failed to secure Russian backing. Beginning in August, a “Troika” consisting of negotiators from the European Union (Wolfgang Ischinger), the United States (Frank Wisner) and Russia (Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko) launched a new effort to reach a status outcome acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina. Despite Russian disapproval, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and France appeared likely to recognize Kosovar independence. A declaration of independence by Kosovar Albanian leaders was postponed until the end of the Serbian presidential elections (4 February 2008). Most EU members and the US had feared that a premature declaration could boost support in Serbia for the ultra-nationalist candidate, Tomislav Nikolić.

2008 declaration of independence

The Kosovar Assembly approved a declaration of independence on 17 February 2008. Over the following days, several countries (the United States, Turkey, Albania, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Republic of China (Taiwan), Australia and others) announced their recognition, despite protests by Serbia in the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council remains divided on the question (as of 25 February 2008). Of the five members with veto power, USA, UK, and France recognized the declaration of independence, and Russia and the People’s Republic of China consider it illegal. As of 28 March 2008, no member-country of CIS, CSTO or SCO has recognized Kosovo as independent.

The European Union has no official position towards Kosovo’s status, but has decided to deploy the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo to ensure a continuation of international civil presence in Kosovo. As of today, most of member-countries of NATO, EU, WEU and OECD have recognized Kosovo as independent.[citation needed]

Of Kosovo’s immediate neighbour states (other than Serbia), only Albania recognizes the declaration of independence. Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary, all neighbours of Serbia, announced in a joint statement that they would also recognise the declaration.

Geography Location: Southeast Europe, between Serbia and Macedonia
Geographic coordinates: 42 35 N, 21 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 10,887 sq km
land: 10,887 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Delaware
Land boundaries: total: 702 km
border countries: Albania 112 km, Macedonia 159 km, Montenegro 79 km, Serbia 352 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: influenced by continental air masses resulting in relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns; Mediterranean and alpine influences create regional variation; maximum rainfall between October and December
Terrain: flat fluvial basin with an elevation of 400-700 m above sea level surrounded by several high mountain ranges with elevations of 2,000 to 2,500 m
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Drini i Bardhe/Beli Drim 297 m (located on the border with Albania)
highest point: Gjeravica/Deravica 2,565 m
Natural resources: nickel, lead, zinc, magnesium, lignite, kaolin, chrome, bauxite
Politics The largest political party in Kosovo, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), has its origins in the 1990s non-violent resistance movement to Miloševic’s rule. The party was led by Ibrahim Rugova until his death in 2006. The two next largest parties have their roots in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA): the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) led by former KLA leader Hashim Thaci and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) led by former KLA commander Ramush Haradinaj. Kosovo publisher Veton Surroi formed his own political party in 2004 named “Ora.” Kosovo Serbs formed the Serb List for Kosovo and Metohija (SLKM) in 2004, but have boycotted Kosovo’s institutions and never taken their seats in the Kosovo Assembly.

In November 2001, the OSCE supervised the first elections for the Kosovo Assembly.[citation needed] After that election, Kosovo’s political parties formed an all-party unity coalition and elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister. After Kosovo-wide elections in October 2004, the LDK and AAK formed a new governing coalition that did not include PDK and Ora. This coalition agreement resulted in Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) becoming Prime Minister, while Ibrahim Rugova retained the position of President. PDK and Ora were critical of the coalition agreement and have since frequently accused the current government of corruption.

Ramush Haradinaj resigned the post of Prime Minister after he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in March 2005. He was replaced by Bajram Kosumi (AAK).[citation needed] But in a political shake-up after the death of President Rugova in January 2006, Kosumi himself was replaced by former Kosovo Protection Corps commander Agim Ceku. Ceku has won recognition for his outreach to minorities, but Serbia has been critical of his wartime past as military leader of the KLA and claims he is still not doing enough for Kosovo Serbs. The Kosovo Assembly elected Fatmir Sejdiu, a former LDK parliamentarian, president after Rugova’s death. Slaviša Petkovic, Minister for Communities and Returns, was previously the only ethnic Serb in the government, but resigned in November 2006 amid allegations that he misused ministry funds. Today two of the total thirteen ministries in Kosovo’s Government have ministers from the minorities. Branislav Grbic, ethnic Serb, leads Minister of Returns and Sadik Idriz, ethnic Bosnjak, leads Ministry of Health

Parliamentary elections were held on 17 November 2007. After early results, Hashim Thaçi who was on course to gain 35 per cent of the vote, claimed victory for PDK, the Albanian Democratic Party, and stated his intention to declare independence. Thaci is likely to form a coalition with current President Fatmir Sejdiu’s Democratic League which was in second place with 22 percent of the vote. The turnout at the election was particularly low with most Serbs refusing to vote.

People Population: 2,126,708 (2007 est.)
Nationality: noun: Kosovar (Albanian), Kosovac (Serbian)
adjective: Kosovar (Albanian), Kosovski (Serbian)
note: Kosovan, a neutral term, is sometimes also used as a noun or adjective
Ethnic groups: Albanians 88%, Serbs 7%, other 5% (Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Turk, Ashkali, Egyptian)
Religions: Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic
Languages: Albanian (official), Serbian (official), Bosniak, Turkish, Roma

Serbia: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Serbia

Introduction The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929. Various paramilitary bands resisted Nazi Germany’s occupation and division of Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1945, but fought each other and ethnic opponents as much as the invaders. The military and political movement headed by Josip TITO (Partisans) took full control of Yugoslavia when German and Croatian separatist forces were defeated in 1945. Although Communist, TITO’s new government and his successors (he died in 1980) managed to steer their own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades. In 1989, Slobodan MILOSEVIC became president of the Serbian Republic and his ultranationalist calls for Serbian domination led to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines. In 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared independence, followed by Bosnia in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992 and under MILOSEVIC’s leadership, Serbia led various military campaigns to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a “Greater Serbia.” These actions led to Yugoslavia being ousted from the UN in 1992, but Serbia continued its – ultimately unsuccessful – campaign until signing the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. MILOSEVIC kept tight control over Serbia and eventually became president of the FRY in 1997. In 1998, an ethnic Albanian insurgency in the formerly autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo provoked a Serbian counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo. The MILOSEVIC government’s rejection of a proposed international settlement led to NATO’s bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999 and to the eventual withdrawal of Serbian military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999. UNSC Resolution 1244 in June 1999 authorized the stationing of a NATO-led force (KFOR) in Kosovo to provide a safe and secure environment for the region’s ethnic communities, created a UN interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to foster self-governing institutions, and reserved the issue of Kosovo’s final status for an unspecified date in the future. In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a constitutional framework that allowed Kosovo to establish institutions of self-government and led to Kosovo’s first parliamentary election. FRY elections in September 2000 led to the ouster of MILOSEVIC and installed Vojislav KOSTUNICA as president. A broad coalition of democratic reformist parties known as DOS (the Democratic Opposition of Serbia) was subsequently elected to parliament in December 2000 and took control of the government. DOS arrested MILOSEVIC in 2001 and allowed for him to be tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity. (MILOSEVIC died in March 2006 before the completion of his trial.) In 2001, the country’s suspension from the UN was lifted. In 2003, the FRY became Serbia and Montenegro, a loose federation of the two republics with a federal level parliament. Widespread violence predominantly targeting ethnic Serbs in Kosovo in March 2004 caused the international community to open negotiations on the future status of Kosovo in January 2006. In May 2006, Montenegro invoked its right to secede from the federation and – following a successful referendum – it declared itself an independent nation on 3 June 2006. Two days later, Serbia declared that it was the successor state to the union of Serbia and Montenegro. A new Serbian constitution was approved in October 2006 and adopted the following month. After 15 months of inconclusive negotiations mediated by the UN and four months of further inconclusive negotiations mediated by the US, EU, and Russia, on 17 February 2008, the UNMIK-administered province of Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia.
History Early history

Serbia’s strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples. Greeks have colonized its south in 4th century B.C.; the northernmost point of the empire of Alexander the Great being the town of Kale.Prehistoric capital of Europe, Belgrade alone is believed to have been torn by 140 wars since Roman times. The northern Serbian city of Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) was among the top 4 cities of the late Roman Empire, serving as its capital during the Tetrarchy. Contemporary Serbia comprises the classical regions of Moesia, Pannonia, parts of Dalmatia, Dacia and Macedonia. Around the 6th century, Slavs appeared on Byzantine borders in great numbers. Under nominal Serbian rule since the 7th century (having been allowed to settle in Byzantium by its emperor Heraclius after their victory over the Avars), through early history various parts of the territory of modern Serbia have been colonized, claimed or ruled by: the Greeks and Romans (conquered the indigenous Celts and Illyrians); the Western- and the Eastern Roman Empires (challenged by the incursions of the Huns, the Ostrogoths, the Sarmatians, the Avars, the Serbs, the Frankish Kingdom, the Great Moravia, the Bulgarians and finally, the Hungarians). No less than 17 Roman Emperors were born in the land that is now Serbia.

Medieval Serb kingdoms and the Serbian Empire

Following their settlement in the Balkans around 630 A.D. Serbs were ruled by the descendants of the Unknown Archont; its three related medieval dynasties follow a continuous bloodline all the way to the 1400s A.D.

At first heavily dependent on the Byzantine Empire as its vassal, under the Višeslav-Vlastimirović dynasty- Raška (Rascia)- gained independence by expulsion of the Byzantine troops and heavy defeat of the Bulgarian army (847-850). Official adoption of Christianity soon followed (under Prince Mutimir Vlastimirović). First dynasty died out in 960 A.D. with the death of Prince Časlav, who managed to unify all the Serb populated lands, centered between contemporary South Serbia and Montenegro, almost all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the coastal south of Croatia. The wars of succession for the Serb throne led to incorporation into the Byzantine Empire (971).

An uprising in Duklja around 1040 overthrew Byzantine rule and assumed domination over the Serbian lands between 11-12th centuries under the 2nd dynasty of Vojislavljević (descendants of the 1st dynasty). In 1077 A.D. Duklja became the first Serb Kingdom (under Michael I- ruler of Tribals and Serbs), following the establishment of the catholic Bisphoric of Bar. With the recuperation and rise of Raška from late 12th century onwards, however, the centre of the Serb world (Raska, Duklja, Travunia, Zahumlje, Pagania and Bosnia) has again moved northwards, further from the Adriatic coast. Although fully converted to Christianity as early as 865 AD, this relocation to the north and east also meant a shift towards the Eastern Orthodox rather than the Catholic faith (initially predominant in the south following the East-West Schism). By the beginning of the 14th century Serbs lived in four distinctly independent kingdoms- Dioclea, Rascia, Bosnia and Syrmia.

The House of Nemanjić, descendants of the kings of Duklja, have moved from Duklja to Raška, signaling this shift towards continental Serbia in the late 12th century. Direct result of this was the establishment of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1217, which rivalled the Catholic Bisphoric of Bar. The Serbian apogee in economy, law, military matters, and religion ensued; the Serbian Kingdom of Raška was proclaimed in 1219, joined later by the Kingdom of Syrmia, Banovina of Mačva and Bosnia; finally, the Serbian Empire under Stefan Dušan was formed in 1346. Under Dušan’s rule, Serbia reached its territorial peak, becoming one of the larger states in Europe, portraying itself as the heir of the run-down Byzantine Empire. The renowned Dušan’s Code, a universal system of laws, was enforced. The Serbian identity has been profoundly shaped by the rule of this dynasty and its accomplishments, with Serbian Orthodox Church assuming the role of the national spiritual guardian.

As a result of internal struggle between rival noble families, and heavy losses inflicted by the Ottomans in the epic Battle of Kosovo, the Serbian Empire had dissolved into many statelets by the beginning of the 15th century. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, constant struggles took place between various Serbian kingdoms on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The turning point was the fall of Constantinople and its last emperor (of Serbo-Greek ethnicity) Constantine Dragaš- Paleologus, to the Turks. The Serbian Despotate fell in 1459 following the siege of the “temporary” capital Smederevo, followed by Bosnia a few years later, and Herzegovina in 1482. Montenegro was overrun by 1499. Belgrade was the last major Balkan city to endure Ottoman onslaughts, when it joined the Catholic Kingdom of Hungary. Serbs, Hungarians and European crusaders heavily defeated the Turkish in the Siege of Belgrade of 1456. Several Serbian despots ruled in parts of Vojvodina as vassals of the Hungarian kings with the title of Hungarian barons. After repelling Ottoman attacks for over 70 years, Belgrade finally fell in 1521, along with the greater part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Forceful conversion to Islam became imminent, especially in the southwest (Raška, Kosovo and Bosnia). Republic of Venice grew stronger in importance, gradually taking over the coastal areas.

Ottoman and Austrian rule

The Early modern period saw the loss of Serbia’s independence to the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, interrupted briefly by the revolutionary state of the Emperor Jovan Nenad in the 16th century. Modern times witnessed the rise of the Habsburg Monarchy (known as the Austrian Empire, later Austria-Hungary), which fought many wars against the Ottoman Turks for supremacy over Serbia. Three Austrian invasions and numerous rebellions (such as the Banat Uprising) constantly challenged Ottoman rule. Vojvodina endured a century long Ottoman occupation before being ceded to the Habsburg Empire in the 17th-18th centuries under the terms of the Treaty of Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci). As the Great Serb Migrations depopulated most of Kosovo and Serbia proper, the Serbs sought refuge in more prosperous (and Christian) North and West were granted imperial rights by the Austrian crown (under measures such as the Statuta Wallachorum in 1630). The Ottoman persecutions ofChristians culminated in the abolition and plunder of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1766. As Ottoman rule in the South grew ever more brutal, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I formally granted the Serbs the right to their autonomous crown land, speeding up their migrations into Austria.

The Serbian Revolution and independence (Principality of Serbia)

The quest for independence of Serbia began during the Serbian national revolution (1804-1817), and it lasted for several decades. For the first time in Ottoman history an entire Christian population had risen up against the Sultan. The entrenchment of French troops in the western Balkans, the incessant political crises in the Ottoman Empire, the growing intensity of the Austro-Russian rivalry in the Balkans, the intermittent warfare which consumed the energies of French and Russian Empires and the outbreak of protracted hostilities between the Porte and Russia are but a few of the major international developments which directly or indirectly influenced the course of the Serbian revolt. During the First Serbian Uprising (first phase of the revolt) led by Karađorđe Petrović, Serbia was independent for almost a decade before the Ottoman army was able to reoccupy the country. Shortly after this, the Second Serbian Uprising began. Led by Miloš Obrenović, it ended in 1815 with a compromise between the Serbian revolutionary army and the Ottoman authorities. The famous German historian Leopold von Ranke published his book “The Serbian revolution” (1829). They were the easternmost bourgeois revolutions in the 19th-century world. Likewise, Principality of Serbia abolished feudalism- second in Europe after France.

The Convention of Ackerman (1828), the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) and finally, the Hatt-i Sharif of 1830, recognised the suzerainty of Serbia with Miloš Obrenović I as its hereditary Prince. The struggle for liberty, a more modern society and a nation-state in Serbia won a victory under first constitution in the Balkans on 15 February 1835. It was replaced by a more conservative Constitution in 1838.

In the two following decades (temporarily ruled by the Karadjordjevic dynasty) the Principality actively supported the neighboring Habsburg Serbs, especially during the 1848 revolutions. Interior minister Ilija Garašanin published The Draft (for South Slavic unification), which became the standpoint of Serbian foreign policy from the mid-19th century onwards. The government thus developed close ties with the Illyrian movement in Croatia-Slavonia (Austria-Hungary).

Following the clashes between the Ottoman army and civilians in Belgrade in 1862, and under pressure from the Great Powers, by 1867 the last Turkish soldiers left the Principality. By enacting a new constitution without consulting the Porte, Serbian diplomats confirmed the de facto independence of the country. In 1876, Montenegro and Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, proclaiming their unification with Bosnia. The formal independence of the country was internationally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which formally ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78; this treaty, however, prohibited Serbia from uniting with Principality of Montenegro, and placed Bosnia and Raška region under Austro-Hungarian occupation to prevent unification.

Kingdom of Serbia

From 1815 to 1903, Serbia was ruled by the House of Obrenović (except from 1842 to 1858, when it was led by Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević). In 1882, Serbia, ruled by King Milan, was proclaimed a Kingdom. In 1903, the House of Karađorđević, (descendants of the revolutionary leader Đorđe Petrović) assumed power. Serbia was the only country in the region that was allowed by the Great Powers to be ruled its own domestic dynasty. During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the Kingdom of Serbia tripled its territory by acquiring part of Macedonia, Kosovo, and parts of Serbia proper.

As for Vojvodina, during the 1848 revolution in Austria, Serbs of Vojvodina established an autonomous region known as Serbian Vojvodina. As of 1849, the region was transformed into a new Austrian crown land known as the Serbian Voivodship and Tamiš Banat. Although abolished in 1860, Habsburg emperors claimed the title Großwoiwode der Woiwodschaft Serbien until the end of the monarchy and the creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.

World War I and the birth of Yugoslavia

On 28 June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Gavrilo Princip (a Yugoslav unionist member of Young Bosnia) and an Austrian citizen, led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Kingdom of Serbia. In defense of its ally Serbia, Russia started to mobilize its troops, which resulted in Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany declaring war on Russia. The retaliation by Austria-Hungary against Serbia activated a series of military alliances that set off a chain reaction of war declarations across the continent, leading to the outbreak of World War I within a month.

The Serbian Army won several major victories against Austria-Hungary at the beginning of World War I, such as the Battle of Cer and Battle of Kolubara – marking the first Allied victories against the Central Powers in World War I. Despite initial success it was eventually overpowered by the joint forces of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria in 1915. Most of its army and some people went into exile to Greece and Corfu where they recovered, regrouped and returned to Macedonian front (World War I) to lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on 15 September 1918, freeing Serbia again and defeating Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria. Serbia (with its major campaign) was a major Balkan Entente Power which contributed significantly to the Allied victory in the Balkans in November 1918, especially by enforcing Bulgaria’s capitulation with the aid of France. The country was militarilly classified as a minor Entente power. Serbia was also among the main contributors to the capitulation of Austria-Hungary in Central Europe.

Casualties

Prior to the war, the Kingdom of Serbia had 4.5 million inhabitants. According to the New York Times, in 1915 alone 150,000 people are estimated to have died during the worst typhus epidemics in world history. With the aid of the American Red Cross and 44 foreign governments, the outbreak was brought under control by the end of the year. The number of civilian deaths is estimated by some sources at 650,000, primarily due to the typhus outbreak and famine, but also direct clashes with the occupiers. Serbia’s casualties accounted for 8% of the total Entente military deaths or 58% of the regular Serbian Army (420,000 strong) has perished during the conflict. The total number of casualties is placed around 1,000,000[54]-> 25% of Serbia’s prewar size, and an absolute majority (57%) of its overall male population. L.A.Times and N.Y.Times also cited over 1,000,000 victims in their respective articles.

The extent of the Serbian demographic disaster can be illustrated by the statement of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov: “Serbia ceased to exist” (New York Times, summer 1917). In July 1918 the US Secretary of State Robert Lansing urged the Americans of all religions to pray for Serbia in their respective churches.

World War II

Invasion of Yugoslavia

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was in a precarious position in World War II. Fearing an invasion by Nazi Germany, the Yugoslav Regent, Prince Paul, signed the Tripartite Pact with the Axis powers on 25 March 1941, triggering massive demonstrations in Belgrade. On 27 March, Prince Paul was overthrown by a military coup d’état (with British support) and replaced by the 17-year-old King Peter II. General Dušan Simović became Peter’s Prime Minister and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia withdrew its support for the Axis.

In response to this Adolf Hitler launched an invasion of Yugoslavia on 6 April. By 17 April, unconditional surrender was signed in Belgrade. After the invasion, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was dissolved and, with Yugoslavia partitioned, the remaining portion of Serbia became part of the Military Administration of Serbia, under a joint German-Serb government, with military power controlled by the German armed forces, while a Serb civil government led by Milan Nedić was permitted to try to draw Serbs away from their opposition to the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia.

Not all of what is present-day Serbia was included as part of the military administration. Some of the contemporary Republic of Serbia was occupied by the Independent State of Croatia, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, the Fascist Italy’s Balkan protectorates, the Albanian Kingdom and the Kingdom of Montenegro. In addition to being occupied by the (Wehrmacht), from 1941 to 1945, Serbia was the scene of a civil war between Royalist Chetniks commanded by Draža Mihailović and Communist Partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. Against these forces were arrayed Nedić’s units of the Serbian Volunteer Corps and Serbian State Guard.

Genocide of Serbs by the Ustaše regime in Croatia

Memorial to Serb, Jewish, and Roma victims of the genocide that took place at theJasenovac concentration camp in World War II in the Independent State of Croatia now modern-day Croatia . The events had a profound impact on Serbian society and relations between Croats and Serbs.

Serbia’s society was profoundly affected by the events that took place during World War II, especially in the neighboring Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), an Axis puppet state which controlled what is modern-day Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of modern-day Serbia. The regime selected to led the puppet state was the Croatian ultranationalist and fascist Ustaše movement. The Ustase promised to purge the state of Serbs, Jews, and Roma who were subject to large-scale persecution and genocide, most notoriously at the Jasenovac concentration camp. The Jewish Virtual Library estimates that between 45,000 and 52,000 Serbs were killed at Jasenovac and between 330,000 and 390,000 Serbs were victims of the entire genocide campaign. The estimated number of Serbian children who died is between 35,000 and 50,000. The Yad Vashem center reports that over 600,000 Serbs were killed overall in the NDH, with some 500,000 people of many nationalities and ethnicities murdered in one camp Jasenovac. After the war, official Yugoslav sources estimated over 700,000 victims, mostly Serbs. Misha Glenny suggests that the numbers of Serbs killed in the genocide was more than 400,000.

The atrocities that took place in Croatia against Serbs has led to a deep sense of antagonism by Serbs towards Croats, whose relations between each other had already been historically tense, but the war deeply aggravated this division. A number of governments have attempted to lessen. Reconciliation between the two peoples was attempted under Joseph Broz Tito’s policy of Brotherhood and Unity. To a degree this succeeded, as during the Tito-era, intermarriages between Serbs and Croats increased, but this effort was destroyed with the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s as rival Croat and Serb nationalism promoted xenophobia towards each other. The most recent attempt was made at the commemoration to the Serb casualties of the Jasenovic concentration camp in April 2003, when the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić apologized on behalf of Croatia to the victims of Jasenovac. In 2006, on the same occasion, he added that to every visitor to Jasenovac it must be clear that the “Holocaust, genocide and war crimes” took place there.

Socialist Yugoslavia (“Second Yugoslavia”)

On 29 November 1945, the constitutional assembly established by the Yugoslav Communist party proclaimed the abolition of the Serbian-led monarchy of Yugoslavia – and the royal family was banned from returning to the country. A communist regime was established under a dictatorship led by Yugoslavia’s Communist Party leader Joseph Broz Tito. Tito, who was of Croat- Slovene descent personally sought inter-ethnic unity in the aftermath of the violent division of the country in World War II through a policy called Brotherhood and Unity which sponsored cooperation between the peoples and promoted a united Yugoslav identity over existing ethnic or religious identities, repressed nationalists of any nationality, and forced the different peoples to work with each other to solve their differences. This would become highly controversial in Serbia in the latter years of Tito’s rule. Serbia was one of 6 federal units of the state, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija, or SFRJ). Over time Serbia’s influence began to wane as reforms demanded by the other republics demanded decentralization of power to allow them to have an equal say[citation needed] as they claimed that the centralized system had allowed Serb hegemony[citation needed]. This began with the creation of the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina which initially held modest powers. However reforms in 1974 made drastic changes, giving the autonomous provinces nearly equal powers to the republics, in which the Serbian parliament held no control over the political affairs of the two provinces, and technically only held power over Central Serbia. Many Serbs, including those in the Yugoslav Communist party, resented the powers held by the autonomous provinces. At the same time, a number of Kosovo ethnic Albanians in the 1980s began to demand that Kosovo be granted the right to be a republic within Yugoslavia, thus giving it the right to separate, a right which it did not have as an autonomous province. The ethnic tensions between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo would eventually have a major influence in the collapse of the SFRY.

Milošević era, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the Kosovo War

Slobodan Milošević rose to power in Serbia in 1989 in the League of Communists of Serbia through a serious of coups against incumbent governing members. Milošević promised reduction of powers for the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. This ignited tensions with the communist leadership of the other republics that eventually resulted in the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, and Slovenia from Yugoslavia.

A skyscraper building in Belgrade on fire after being bombed by NATO aircraft during the Kosovo War.

Multiparty democracy was introduced in Serbia in 1990, officially dismantling the former one-party communist system. Critics of the Milošević government claimed that the Serbian government continued to be authoritarian despite constitutional changes as Milošević maintained strong personal influence over Serbia’s state media. Milošević issued media blackouts of independent media stations’ coverage of protests against his government and restricted freedom of speech through reforms to the Serbian Penal Code which issued criminal sentences on anyone who “ridiculed” the government and its leaders, resulting in many people being arrested who opposed Milošević and his government.

The period of political turmoil and conflict marked a rise in ethnic tensions and between Serbs and other ethnicities of the former Communist Yugoslavia as territorial claims of the different ethnic factions often crossed into each others’ claimed territories Serbs who had criticized the nationalist atmosphere, the Serbian government, or the Serb political entities in Bosnia and Croatia were reported to be harassed, threatened, or killed by nationalist Serbs. Serbs in Serbia feared that the nationalist and separatist government of Croatia was led by Ustase sympathizers who would oppress Serbs living in Croatia. This view of the Croatian government was promoted by Milošević which also accused the separatist government of Bosnia and Herzegovina of being led by Islamic fundamentalists. The governments of Croatia and Bosnia in turn accused the Serbian government of attempting to create a Greater Serbia. These views led to a heightening of xenophobia between the peoples during the wars.

In 1992, the governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to the creation of a new Yugoslav federation called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which abandoned the predecessor SFRY’s official endorsement of communism, but instead endorsed democracy.

In response to accusations that the Yugoslav government was financially and militarily supporting the Serb military forces in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia, sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, during the 1990s, which led to political isolation, economic decline and hardship, and serious hyperinflation of currency in Yugoslavia.

Milošević represented the Bosnian Serbs at the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, signing the agreement which ended the Bosnian War that internally partitioned Bosnia & Herzegovina largely along ethnic lines into a Serb republic and a Bosniak-Croat federation.

When the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia refused to accept municipal election results in 1997 which resulted in defeat in municipal municipalties, Serbians engaged in large protests against the Serbian government, government forces held back the protesters.

Reports and accusations of war crimes being committed by Yugoslav and Serbian security forces led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launching “Operation Allied Force”, bombing Yugoslavia for 78 days in order to stop Yugoslav military operations in Kosovo. The bombing ends with the agreement which upheld Yugoslav (and later Serbian) sovereignty over Kosovo but replaced Serbian government of the province with a UN administration, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Fall of Milošević and post-Milošević political transition

In September 2000, opposition parties claimed that Milošević committed fraud in routine federal elections. Street protests and rallies throughout Serbia eventually forced Milošević to concede and hand over power to the recently formed Democratic Opposition of Serbia (Demokratska opozicija Srbije, or DOS). The DOS was a broad coalition of anti-Milošević parties. On 5 October, the fall of Milošević led to end of the international isolation Serbia suffered during the Milošević years. Milošević was sent to the International Criminal Court on accusations of sponsoring war crimes and crimes against humanity during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo which he was held on trial to until his death in 2006. With the fall of Milošević, Serbia’s new leaders announced that Serbia would seek to join the European Union (EU). In October 2005, the EU opened negotiations with Serbia for a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a preliminary step towards joining the EU.

Serbia’s political climate since the fall of Milošević has remained tense. In 2003, Zoran Đinđić was assassinated by a Serb ultranationalist. Nationalist and EU-oriented political forces in Serbia have remained sharply divided on the political course of Serbia in regards to its relations with the European Union and the west.

From 2003 to 2006, Serbia has been part of the “State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.” This union was the successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ). On 21 May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum to determine whether or not to end its union with Serbia. The next day, state-certified results showed 55.4% of voters in favor of independence. This was just above the 55% required by the referendum.

Republic of Serbia

On 5 June 2006, following the referendum in Montenegro, the National Assembly of Serbia declared the “Republic of Serbia” to be the legal successor to the “State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.” Serbia and Montenegro became separate nations. However, the possibility of a dual citizenship for the Serbs of Montenegro is a matter of the ongoing negotiations between the two governments. In April 2008 Serbia was invited to join the intensified dialogue programme with NATO despite the diplomatic rift with the Alliance over Kosovo.

Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, between Macedonia and Hungary
Geographic coordinates: 44 00 N, 21 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 77,474 sq km
land: 77,474 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 2,026 km
border countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina 302 km, Bulgaria 318 km, Croatia 241 km, Hungary 151 km, Kosovo 352 km, Macedonia 62 km, Montenegro 124 km, Romania 476 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: in the north, continental climate (cold winters and hot, humid summers with well distributed rainfall); in other parts, continental and Mediterranean climate (relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns)
Terrain: extremely varied; to the north, rich fertile plains; to the east, limestone ranges and basins; to the southeast, ancient mountains and hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: NA
highest point: Midzor 2,169 m
Natural resources: oil, gas, coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, antimony, chromite, gold, silver, magnesium, pyrite, limestone, marble, salt, arable land
Land use: arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
other: NA
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 208.5 cu km (note – includes Kosovo) (2003)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution around Belgrade and other industrial cities; water pollution from industrial wastes dumped into the Sava which flows into the Danube
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East
Politics On 4 February 2003 the parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia agreed to a weaker form of cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro within a confederal state called Serbia and Montenegro. The Union ceased to exist following Montenegrin and Serbian declarations of independence in June 2006.

After the ousting of Slobodan Milošević on 5 October 2000, the country was governed by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. Tensions gradually increased within the coalition until the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) left the government, leaving the Democratic Party (DS) in overall control.

Serbia held a two-day referendum on 28 October and 29 October 2006, that ratified a new constitution to replace the Milošević-era constitution.

Boris Tadić, President of Serbia

The current President of Serbia is Boris Tadić, leader of the center-left Democratic Party (DS). He was reelected with 50.5% of the vote in the second round of the Serbian presidential election held on 4 February 2008.

Serbia held parliamentary elections on 21 May 2008. The coalition For a European Serbia led by DS claimed victory, but significantly short of an absolute majority. Following the negotiations with the leftist coalition centered around Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and parties of national minorities (those of Hungarians, Bosniaks and Albanians) an agreement was reached to make-up a new government, headed by Mirko Cvetković.

Present-day Serbian politics are fractious and extremely divided between liberal and European Union advocating parties. As of 2008 all parties in Serbia are pro-European. The only exception are the Radicals who still advocate Greater Serbia but this party has collapsed in September 2008 following the expulsion of its deputy leader Tomislav Nikolic from the party. Other political issues include proposals to restore the Serbian monarchy whose family members have stated that they are interested in forming a constitutional monarchy in Serbia.

People Population: 10,159,046
note: all population data includes Kosovo (July 2008 est.)
Median age: total: 37.5 years
male: 36.1 years
female: 39 years (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.29 years
male: 72.7 years
female: 78.09 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.69 children born/woman (2008 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Serb(s)
adjective: Serbian
Ethnic groups: Serb 82.9%, Hungarian 3.9%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.4%, Yugoslavs 1.1%, Bosniaks 1.8%, Montenegrin 0.9%, other 8% (2002 census)
Religions: Serbian Orthodox 85%, Catholic 5.5%, Protestant 1.1%, Muslim 3.2%, unspecified 2.6%, other, unknown, or atheist 2.6% (2002 census)
Languages: Serbian 88.3% (official), Hungarian 3.8%, Bosniak 1.8%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.1%, other 4.1%, unknown 0.9% (2002 census)
note: Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Croatian all official in Vojvodina
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.4%
male: 98.9%
female: 94.1% (2003 census)
note: includes Montenegro
Education expenditures: NA

Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead outside office

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Leading Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic shot dead outside office

Oliver Ivanovic is pictured casting his ballot during local elections in 2013.

(CNN)A prominent Kosovo Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic, was shot dead outside his party offices Tuesday morning, halting talks between Kosovar and Serb delegates that had been set to resume that day.

Ivanovic was shot at least five times outside his office in the Serb-run Kosovar city of Mitrovica, doctors told Serbian State TV RTS.
Emergency services were notified of the attack at 8.17 a.m (2.17 a.m. ET). Ivanovic was transferred to hospital and resuscitated for 45 minutes before doctors confirmed him dead at 9.15 a.m (3.15 a.m. ET).
Mitrovica
Map data ©2018 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009), Google
Ivanovic, the 64-year-old head of the Kosovo Serb Freedom, Democracy, Justice party was due to attend EU-mediated talks between delegates from Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels. The talks are aimed at normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years after the bloody conflict between Serb forces and Kosovar-Albanian rebels. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent country.
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However after Ivanovic’s death, the Belgrade delegation left Brussels to return to Serbia, the Serbian government said in a statement.
Regional Chief of Police for Northern Kosovo, Zeljko Bojic, said in a statement that at 9:15 a.m. a burned out Opel Astra vehicle was found, with special units conducting an investigation of the site.

Serb President: ‘An act of terror’

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described the murder as “an act of terror” and vowed to find those responsible.
“Serbia will take all necessary measures, and I promised the same to Oliver Ivanovic’s wife, and we will find the killer or killers,” Vucic said in a statement following an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.
Vucic said that Serbia had made a request to EU and UN missions in Kosovo to participate in the investigation.

Major test for Kosovo’s rule of law

The Head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo, Jan Braathu, said the murder was “profoundly distressing” and a “major test for the rule of law in Kosovo.”
“He (Ivanovic) was among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives for almost two decades,” Braathu said. “He demonstrated relentless engagement for the benefit of his community and has been a valued interlocutor in Kosovo.”
“I have had the privilege of knowing him personally over the years and have always admired his intellect, composure, and commitment. To see that a politician can be murdered in cold blood in 2018 in Kosovo is a devastating thought.”
Ivanovic was facing a retrial for alleged war crimes against ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo war.
This story has been updated to clarify the details around Ivanovic’s death.

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

By Fatos Bytyci | PRISTINA

Kosovo prosecutors said on Wednesday they had charged nine Kosovar men with planning attacks at a World Cup soccer match in Albania against the visiting Israel team and its fans last November.

Last year, Kosovar police arrested 19 people – including the nine charged on Wednesday – on suspicion that they had links with the Islamic State militant group and were planning attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania.

At the time, fearing such attacks, Albanian authorities moved the Nov. 12 qualifier to a venue near the capital Tirana from a stadium in the northern town of Shkoder.

The state prosecutor said some of the nine men charged were in contact with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a prominent Islamic State member and the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq” from whom they received orders to attack. Police and family members told Reuters last week that Muhaxheri has been killed in Syria.

The group was also planning to launch attacks inside Kosovo against local and international institutions and buy weapons with money received from Muhaxheri, the prosecutor said.

NATO has around 4,500 soldiers in Kosovo helping to keep a fragile peace. The European Union and the United Nations also have security and diplomatic missions in Kosovo.

The prosecution said the defendants took orders from Muhaxheri and planned to attack and destabilize “the countries in the Balkans and then create their territory of the Islamic State”.

One of the defendants had kept in his basement 283 grams of self-made triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosives. The same explosive was used in attacks in Paris and Brussels and was found in a series of foiled bombings in Europe since 2007.

Another defendant had produced half a kilo of explosives at his house from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), it said.

Kosovo, with a majority ethnic Albanian Muslim population, has had no militant attacks on its home turf, but at least 200 people have been detained or investigated over offences related to Islamic State.

A total of 300 Kosovo nationals have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State and more than 50 have been killed there.

International and local security agencies in Kosovo, including at the NATO mission and the EU police mission, are worried that many of those returning home from combat zones could pose a security threat.

In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law introducing jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone found guilty of fighting in wars abroad.

(Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Louise Ireland)

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Opinion

Trump Was Right to Strike Syria

President Trump’s air strikes against Syria were of dubious legality. They were hypocritical. They may have had political motivations.

But most of all, they were right.

I’m deeply suspicious of Trump’s policies and competence, but this is a case where he is right and Barack Obama was wrong. Indeed, many of us believe that Obama’s worst foreign policy mistake was his passivity in Syria.

But Trump changed US policy 180 degrees after compelling photos emerged of children gassed in Syria. Should a president’s decisions about war really depend on the photos taken?

Here’s why I believe he was right.

Since the horrors of mustard gas during World War I a century ago, one of the world’s more successful international norms has been a taboo on the use of chemical weapons. We all have an interest in reinforcing that norm, so this is not just about Syria but also about deterring the next dictator from turning to sarin.

For an overstretched military, poison gas is a convenient way to terrify and subdue a population. That’s why Saddam Hussein used gas on Kurds in 1988, and why Bashar al-Assad has used gas against his own people in Syria. The best way for the world to change the calculus is to show that use of chemical weapons carries a special price — such as a military strike on an airbase.

Paradoxically, Assad may have used chemical weapons because he perceived a green light from the Trump administration. In recent days, Rex Tillerson, Sean Spicer and Nikki Haley all suggested that it was no longer American policy to push for the removal of Assad, and that may have emboldened him to open the chemical weapons toolbox. That mistake made it doubly important for Trump to show that neither Assad nor any leader can get away with using weapons of mass destruction.

Look, for a Syrian child, it doesn’t matter much whether death comes from a barrel bomb, a mortar shell, a bullet, or a nerve agent. I hope Trump will also show more interest in stopping all slaughter of Syrians — but it’s still important to defend the norm against chemical weapons (the United States undermined that norm after Saddam’s gas attack by falsely suggesting that Iran was to blame).

Critics note that Trump’s air strikes don’t have clear legal grounding. But Bill Clinton’s 1999 intervention to prevent genocide in Kosovo was also of uncertain legality, and thank God for it. Clinton has said that his greatest foreign policy mistake was not intervening in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide; any such intervention also would have been of unclear legality — and the right thing to do.

There are risks ahead, of Russia or Syria targeting American aircraft or of Iran seeking revenge against Americans in Iraq. War plans rarely survive the first shot, and military interventions are easier to begin than to end. But as long as we don’t seek to topple Assad militarily, everybody has an interest in avoiding an escalation.

Many of my fellow progressives viscerally oppose any use of force, but I think that’s a mistake. I was against the Iraq war, but some military interventions save lives. The no fly zone over northern Iraq in the 1990s is one example, and so are the British intervention in Sierra Leone and French intervention in Mali. It’s prudent to be suspicious of military interventions, but imprudent to reject any use of force categorically.

Want proof that military interventions in the Middle East can work? In 2014, Obama ordered air strikes near the Syria-Iraq border against ISIS as it was attacking members of the Yazidi minority. Those US strikes saved many thousands of Yazidi lives, although they came too late to save thousands more who were killed or kidnapped as slaves.

In Syria, the crucial question is what comes next.

There’s some bold talk among politicians about ousting Assad from Syria. Really? People have been counting on Assad’s fall for six years now, and he’s as entrenched as ever.

Moreover, if this was a one-time strike then the larger slaughter in Syria will continue indefinitely. But I’m hoping that the administration may use it as a tool to push for a ceasefire.

The New York Times

31 Yr Old Saudi Prince Shaking Up The Kingdom As He Climbs The Latter Of Success

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy. CreditFayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He has slashed the state budget, frozen government contracts and reduced the pay of civil employees, all part of drastic austerity measures as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices.

But last year, Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, saw a yacht he couldn’t resist.

While vacationing in the south of France, Prince bin Salman spotted a 440-foot yacht floating off the coast. He dispatched an aide to buy the ship, the Serene, which was owned by Yuri Shefler, a Russian vodka tycoon. The deal was done within hours, at a price of approximately 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today), according to an associate of Mr. Shefler and a Saudi close to the royal family. The Russian moved off the yacht the same day.

It is the paradox of the brash, 31-year-old Prince bin Salman: a man who is trying to overturn tradition, reinvent the economy and consolidate power — while holding tight to his royal privilege. In less than two years, he has emerged as the most dynamic royal in the Arab world’s wealthiest nation, setting up a potential rivalry for the throne.

He has a hand in nearly all elements of Saudi policy — from a war in Yemen that has cost the kingdom billions of dollars and led to international criticism over civilian deaths, to a push domestically to restrain Saudi Arabia’s free-spending habits and to break its “addiction” to oil. He has begun to loosen social restrictions that grate on young people.

The rise of Prince bin Salman has shattered decades of tradition in the royal family, where respect for seniority and power-sharing among branches are time-honored traditions. Never before in Saudi history has so much power been wielded by the deputy crown prince, who is second in line to the throne. That centralization of authority has angered many of his relatives.

His seemingly boundless ambitions have led many Saudis and foreign officials to suspect that his ultimate goal is not just to transform the kingdom, but also to shove aside the current crown prince, his 57-year-old cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, to become the next king. Such a move could further upset his relatives and — if successful — give the country what it has never seen: a young king who could rule the kingdom for many decades.

Crown Prince bin Nayef, the interior minister and longtime counterterrorism czar, has deep ties to Washington and the support of many of the older royals. Deciphering the dynamics of the family can be like trying to navigate a hall of mirrors, but many Saudi and American officials say Prince bin Salman has made moves aimed at reaching into Prince bin Nayef’s portfolios and weakening him.

This has left officials in Washington hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. The White House got an early sign of the ascent of the young prince in late 2015, when — breaking protocol — Prince bin Salman delivered a soliloquy about the failures of American foreign policy during a meeting between his father, King Salman, and President Obama.

Many young Saudis admire him as an energetic representative of their generation who has addressed some of the country’s problems with uncommon bluntness. The kingdom’s news media have built his image as a hardworking, businesslike leader less concerned than his predecessors with the trappings of royalty.

Others see him as a power-hungry upstart who is risking instability by changing too much, too fast.

Months of interviews with Saudi and American officials, members of the royal family and their associates, and diplomats focused on Saudi affairs reveal a portrait of a prince in a hurry to prove that he can transform Saudi Arabia. Prince bin Salman declined multiple interview requests for this article.

But the question many raise — and cannot yet answer — is whether the energetic leader will succeed in charting a new path for the kingdom, or whether his impulsiveness and inexperience will destabilize the Arab world’s largest economy at a time of turbulence in the Middle East.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia. Many Saudis and foreign officials believe Prince bin Salman’s goal is to become the next king.Credit Faye Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tension at the Top

Early this year, Crown Prince bin Nayef left the kingdom for his family’s villa in Algeria, a sprawling compound an hour’s drive north of Algiers. Although he has long taken annual hunting vacations there, many who know him said that this year was different. He stayed away for weeks, largely incommunicado and often refusing to respond to messages from Saudi officials and close associates in Washington. Even John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, whom he has known for decades, had difficulty reaching him.

The crown prince has diabetes, and suffers from the lingering effects of an assassination attempt in 2009 by a jihadist who detonated a bomb he had hidden in his rectum.

But his lengthy absence at a time of low oil prices, turmoil in the Middle East and a foundering Saudi-led war in Yemen led several American officials to conclude that the crown prince was fleeing frictions with his younger cousin and that the prince was worried his chance to ascend the throne was in jeopardy.

Since King Salman ascended to the throne in January 2015, new powers had been flowing to his son, some of them undermining the authority of the crown prince. King Salman collapsed the crown prince’s court into his own, giving Prince bin Salman control over access to the king. Prince bin Salman also hastily announced the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. Counterterrorism had long been the domain of Prince bin Nayef, but the new plan gave no role to him or his powerful Interior Ministry.

The exact personal relationship between the two men is unclear, fueling discussion in Saudi Arabia and in foreign capitals about who is ascendant. Obscuring the picture are the stark differences in the men’s public profiles. Prince bin Nayef has largely stayed in the shadows, although he did visit New York last month to address the United Nations General Assembly before heading to Turkey for a state visit.

His younger cousin, meanwhile, has worked to remain in the spotlight, touring world capitals, speaking with foreign journalists, being photographed with the Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg and presenting himself as a face of a new Saudi Arabia.

“There is no topic that is more important than succession matters, especially now,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, who has extensive contacts in the Saudi royal family. “This matters for monarchy, for the regional allies and for the kingdom’s international partners.”

Among the most concrete initiatives so far of Prince bin Salman, who serves as minister of defense, is the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which since it was begun last year has failed to dislodge the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies from the Yemeni capital. The war has driven much of Yemen toward famine and killed thousands of civilians while costing the Saudi government tens of billions of dollars.

Saudi troops along the country’s border with Yemen. The war in Yemen has cost the kingdom billions and led to international criticism. Credit Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times, via Getty Images

The prosecution of the war by a prince with no military experience has exacerbated tensions between him and his older cousins, according to American officials and members of the royal family. Three of Saudi Arabia’s main security services are run by princes. Although all agreed that the kingdom had to respond when the Houthis seized the Yemeni capital and forced the government into exile, Prince bin Salman took the lead, launching the war in March 2015 without full coordination across the security services.

The head of the National Guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, had not been informed and was out of the country when the first strikes were carried out, according to a senior National Guard officer.

The National Guard is now holding much of the Yemeni border.

American officials, too, were put off when, just as the Yemen campaign was escalating, Prince bin Salman took a vacation in the Maldives, the island archipelago off the coast of India. Several American officials said Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter had trouble reaching him for days during one part of the trip.

The prolonged war has also heightened tensions between Prince bin Salman and Prince bin Nayef, who won the respect of Saudis and American officials for dismantling Al Qaeda in the kingdom nearly a decade ago and now sees it taking advantage of chaos in Yemen, according to several American officials and analysts.

“If Mohammed bin Nayef wanted to be seen as a big supporter of this war, he’s had a year and a half to do it,” said Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East analyst at the C.I.A. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Near the start of the war, Prince bin Salman was a forceful public advocate for the campaign and was often photographed visiting troops and meeting with military leaders. But as the campaign has stalemated, such appearances have grown rare.

The war underlines the plans of Prince bin Salman for a brawny foreign policy for the kingdom, one less reliant on Western powers like the United States for its security. He has criticized the thawing of America’s relations with Iran and comments by Mr. Obama during an interview this year that Saudi Arabia must “share the neighborhood” with Iran.

This is part of what analysts say is Prince bin Salman’s attempt to foster a sense of Saudi national identity that has not existed since the kingdom’s founding in 1932.

“There has been a surge of Saudi nationalism since the campaign in Yemen began, with the sense that Saudi Arabia is taking independent collective action,” said Andrew Bowen, a Saudi expert at the Wilson Center in Washington.

Still, Mr. Bowen said support among younger Saudis could diminish the longer the conflict dragged on. Diplomats say the death toll for Saudi troops is higher than the government has publicly acknowledged, and a recent deadly airstrike on a funeral in the Yemeni capital has renewed calls by human rights groups and some American lawmakers to block or delay weapons sales to the kingdom.

People who have met Prince bin Salman said he insisted that Saudi Arabia must be more assertive in shaping events in the Middle East and confronting Iran’s influence in the region — whether in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.

Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington, who met the prince this year in Riyadh, said his agenda was clear.

“His main message is that Saudi Arabia is a force to be reckoned with,” Mr. Katulis said.

Prince bin Salman at a news conference in April for Vision 2030, his plan to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. Credit Fayex Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A Swift Ascent

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies, which means that Prince bin Salman was given all of his powers by a vote of one: his own father.

The prince’s rise began in early 2015, after King Abdullah died of lung cancer and King Salman ascended to the throne. In a series of royal decrees, the new king restructured the government and shook up the order of succession in the royal family in ways that invested tremendous power in his son.

He was named defense minister and head of a powerful new council to oversee the Saudi economy as well as put in charge of the governing body ofSaudi Aramco, the state oil company and the primary engine of the Saudi economy.

More important, the king decreed a new order of succession, overturning the wishes of King Abdullah and replacing his designated crown prince, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, with Prince bin Nayef.

While all previous Saudi kings and crown princes had been sons of the kingdom’s founder, Prince bin Nayef was the first of the founder’s grandsons to be put in line. Many hailed the move because of the prince’s success at fighting Al Qaeda and because he has only daughters, leading many to hope he would choose a successor based on merit rather than paternity.

The bigger surprise was that the king named Prince bin Salman deputy crown prince. He was 29 years old at the time and virtually unknown to the kingdom’s closest allies.

This effectively scrapped the political aspirations of his older relatives, many of whom had decades of experience in public life and in key sectors like defense and oil policy. Some are still angry — although only in private, out of deference to the 80-year-old king.

Since then, Prince bin Salman has moved quickly to build his public profile and market himself to other nations as the point man for the kingdom.

Domestically, his focus has been on an ambitious plan for the future of the kingdom, called Vision 2030. The plan, released in April, seeks to transform Saudi life by diversifying its economy away from oil, increasing Saudi employment and improving education, health and other government services. A National Transformation Plan, laying out targets for improving government ministries, came shortly after.

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Read in one way, the documents are an ambitious blueprint to change the Saudi way of life. Read in another, they are a scathing indictment of how poorly the kingdom has been run by Prince bin Salman’s elders.

Official government development plans going back decades have called for reducing the dependence on oil and increasing Saudi employment — to little effect. And in calling for transparency and accountability, the plan acknowledges that both have been in short supply. Diplomats and economists say much about the Saudi economy remains opaque, including the cost of generous perks and stipends for members of the royal family.

The need for change is greater now, with global oil prices less than half of what they were in 2014 and hundreds of thousands of young Saudis entering the job market yearly. Prince bin Salman has called for a new era of fiscal responsibility, and over the last year, fuel, water and electricity prices have gone up while the take-home pay of some public sector employees has been cut — squeezing the budgets of average Saudis. He has also said the government will sell shares of Saudi Aramco, believed to be the world’s most valuable company.

Many Saudis say his age and ambition are benefits at a time when old ways of thinking must be changed.

“He is speaking in the language of the youth,” said Hoda al-Helaissi, a member of the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council, which is appointed by the king. “The country for too long has been looking through the lenses of the older generation, and we need to look at who is going to carry the torch to the next generation.”

Some of his initiatives have appeared ham-handed. In December, he held his first news conference to announce the formation of a military alliance of Islamic countries to fight terrorism. But a number of countries that he said were involved soon responded that they knew nothing about it or were still waiting for information before deciding whether to join.

Others have been popular. After Prince bin Salman called for more entertainment options for families and young people, who often flee the country on their vacations, the cabinet passed regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. An Entertainment Authority he established has planned its first activities, which include comedy shows, pro wrestling events and monster truck rallies.

Photo

The Serene, a 440-foot yacht Prince Mohammed bin Salman spotted while vacationing last year. He dispatched an aide to buy it; the deal was done within hours, at a price of about 500 million euros (roughly $550 million today). CreditPhil Walter/Getty Images

The prince has kept his distance from the Council of Senior Scholars, the mostly elderly clerics who set official religious policy and often release religious opinions that young Saudis mock as being out of touch with modern life.

Instead, he has sought the favor of younger clerics who boast millions of followers on social media. After the release of Vision 2030, Prince bin Salman held a reception for Saudi journalists and academics that included a number of younger, tech-savvy clerics who have gone forth to praise the plan.

Prince bin Salman’s prominence today was difficult to predict during his early years, spent largely below the radar of Western officials who keep track of young Saudi royals who might one day rule the kingdom.

Several of King Salman’s other sons, who studied overseas to perfect foreign languages and earn advanced degrees, built impressive résumés. One became the first Arab astronaut, another a deputy oil minister, yet another the governor of Medina Province.

Prince bin Salman stayed in Saudi Arabia and does not speak fluent English, although he appears to understand it. After a private school education, he studied law at King Saud University in Riyadh, reportedly graduating fourth in his class. Another prince of the same generation said he had gotten to know him during high school, when one of their uncles hosted regular dinners for the younger princes at his palace. He recalled Prince bin Salman being one of the crowd, saying he liked to play bridge and admired Margaret Thatcher.

King Salman is said to see himself in his favorite son, the latest in the lineage of a family that has ruled most of the Arabian Peninsula for eight decades.

In 2007, when the United States ambassador dropped in on King Salman, then a prince and the governor of Riyadh Province, to say farewell at the end of his posting, the governor asked for help circumventing America’s stringent visa procedures. His wife could not get a visa to see her doctor, and although his other children were willing to submit to the visa hurdles, “his son, Prince Mohammed, refused to go to the U.S. Embassy to be fingerprinted ‘like some criminal,’” according to a State Department cable at the time.

Prince bin Salman graduated from the university that year and continued to work for his father, who was named defense minister in 2011, while dabbling in real estate and business.

Many members of the royal family remain wary of the young prince’s projects and ultimate ambitions. Some mock him as the “Prince of the Vision” and complain about his army of well-paid foreign consultants and image-makers.

Other are annoyed by the media cell he created inside the royal court to promote his initiatives, both foreign and domestic. Called the Center for Studies and Media Affairs, the group has focused on promoting a positive story about the Yemen war in Washington and has hired numerous Washington lobbying and public affairs firms to assist in the effort.

Inside the kingdom, the government has largely succeeded in keeping criticism — and even open discussion — of the prince and his projects out of the public sphere. His family holds sway over the parent company of many Saudi newspapers, which have breathlessly covered his initiatives, and prominent Saudi editors and journalists who have accompanied him on foreign trips have been given up to $100,000 in cash, according to two people who have traveled with the prince’s delegation.

Meanwhile, Saudi journalists deemed too critical have been quietly silenced through phone calls informing them that they are barred from publishing, and sometimes from traveling abroad.

In June, a Saudi journalist, Sultan al-Saad al-Qahtani, published an article in Arabic on his website, The Riyadh Post, in which he addressed the lack of discussion about Prince bin Salman’s rise.

“You can buy tens of newspapers and hundreds of journalists, but you can’t buy the history that will be written about you,” he wrote.

He said that the prince’s popularity among Saudis was based on a “sweeping desire for great change” and that they loved him based on the hope that he would “turn their dreams into reality.”

In that lay the risk, Mr. Qahtani wrote: “If you fail, this love withers quickly, as if it never existed, and is replaced by a deep feeling of frustration and hatred.”

The site was blocked the next day, Mr. Qahtani said, for the third time in 13 months. (It is now back up, at a new address.)

President Obama welcoming Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, center, and Prince bin Salman to the White House in May 2015. Officials in Washington have been hedging their bets by building relationships with both men, unsure who will end up on top. CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Future

As sweeping and long-term as Prince bin Salman’s initiatives are, they may hang by the tenuous thread of his link to his father, who has memory lapses, according to foreign officials who have met with him. Even the prince’s supporters acknowledge that they are not sure he will retain his current roles after his father dies.

In the meantime, he is racing against time to establish his reputation and cement his place in the kingdom’s power structure.

His fast ascent, and his well-publicized foreign trips to Washington, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, have led senior Obama administration officials to consider the prospect that he could step over Prince bin Nayef and become Saudi Arabia’s next king.

This has led to a balancing act for American officials who want to build a relationship with him while not being used as leverage in any rivalry with Prince bin Nayef. Obama administration officials say relations with Prince bin Salman have generally improved, but only after a rocky start when he would routinely lecture senior Americans — even the president.

In November, during a Group of 20 summit meeting at a luxury resort on the Turkish coast, Prince bin Salman gave what American officials described as a lengthy speech about what he saw as the failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East — from the Obama administration’s restraint in Syria to its efforts to improve relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy.

Personal relationships have long been the bedrock of American-Saudi relations, yet the Obama administration has struggled to find someone to develop a rapport with the prince. The job has largely fallen to Secretary of State John Kerry, who has hosted the prince several times at his home in Georgetown. In June, the two men shared an iftar dinner, breaking the Ramadan fast. In September 2015, dinner at Mr. Kerry’s house ended with Prince bin Salman playing Beethoven on the piano for the secretary of state and the other guests.

In May, the prince invited Mr. Kerry for a meeting on the Serene, the luxury yacht he bought from the Russian billionaire.

His desire to reimagine the Saudi state is reflected in his admiration — some even call it envy — for the kingdom’s more modern and progressive neighbor in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates.

He has influential supporters in this effort, particularly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who for more than a year has been promoting Prince bin Salman in the Middle East and in Washington.

Crown Prince bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ de facto ruler, is a favorite among Obama administration officials, who view him as a reliable ally and a respected voice in the Sunni world. But he also has a history of personal antipathy toward Prince bin Nayef, adding a particular urgency to his support for the chief rival of the Saudi crown prince.

In April of last year, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, led a small delegation of top White House officials to visit Prince bin Zayed at his home in McLean, Va. During the meeting, according to several officials who attended, the prince urged the Americans to develop a relationship with Prince bin Salman.

But all questions about Prince bin Salman’s future are likely to depend on how long his father lives, according to diplomats who track Saudi Arabia.

If he died soon, Prince bin Nayef would become king and could dismiss his younger cousin as a gesture to his fellow royals. In fact, it was King Salman who set the precedent for such moves by dismissing the crown prince named by his predecessor.

“If the king’s health starts to deteriorate, Mohammed bin Salman is very likely to try to get Mohammed bin Nayef out of the picture,” said Mr. Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst.

But the longer King Salman reigns, foreign officials said, the longer the young prince has to consolidate his power — or to convince Prince bin Nayef that he is worth keeping around if Prince bin Nayef becomes king.

Most Saudi watchers do not expect any struggles within the family to spill into the open, as all the royals understand how much they have to lose from such fissures becoming public or destabilizing their grip on the kingdom.

“I am persuaded as someone who focuses on this topic that the ruling family of Saudi Arabia above all else puts the interest of the family first and foremost,” said Mr. Kechichian, the analyst who knows many royals.

“Not a single member of the family will do anything to hurt the family.”

Kosovo Islamic Hacker Sends ISIS Kill list Of American Military People

(This article is courtesy of ‘Creeping Sharia News Magazine)

Muslim immigrant gets 20 years for sending ISIS a ‘kill list’ of US military members

Well-vetted. Source: Ardit Ferizi, hacker who aided Islamic State, sentenced for helping terror group with ‘kill list’ – Washington Times

A 20-year-old computer science student from Kosovo described by the Justice Department as “the first terrorist hacker convicted in the United States” was sentenced Friday to two decades in prison for providing the Islamic State with a “kill list” containing the personal information of roughly 1,300 U.S. military members and government employees.

Federal prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema to sentence Ardit Ferizi to 25 years in prison after the hacker pleaded guilty in June to two charges brought as a result of his role with the terror group.

Mr. Ferizi acknowledged hacking an Illinois-based company in June 2015 and illegally obtaining the personally identifiable information of tens of thousands of its customers. He then parsed those records for individuals with military and government email accounts before providing their details to a Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State recruiter who administered the group’s cyber operations and had previously published a similar “kill list” containing the names and addresses of 100 U.S. military personnel, according to court documents.

Mr. Hussain was ultimately killed by a U.S. drone strike in August 2015. Two weeks prior to his death, however, he  took Ferizi’s hacked data and released it online in the form of a new list containing the information of approximately 1,300 U.S. government and military targets.

“[W]e are extracting confidential data and passing on your personal information to the soldiers of the khilafah, who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!” reads an excerpt from a statement that accompanied the second kill list when it was tweeted by Hussain in mid August.

Federal investigators soon after identified Mr. Ferizi as the perpetrator of the Illinois hack and arranged to have him arrested in Sept. 2015 in Malaysia where he had been attending college. He was formally charged the following months and was subsequently extradited to the U.S. where he pleaded guilty earlier this year to providing material support to the Islamic State and accessing a protected computer without authorization and obtaining information in order to provide material support to the terror group.

In court Friday, Judge Brinkema said that “just having your name on a list, knowing that you’ve been identified by a terrorist group,” is a “terrorizing” experience, the Washington Post reported.

In a pre-sentencing memorandum, however, prosecutors said the hacker was well aware of the results his actions would have on the individuals whose names and sensitive information was widely shared among sympathizers of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, and agreed when Hussain told him that the data would help “hit them hard.”

“The threat to these 1,300 victims goes beyond the release of their private information,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

“They have now been marked as enemies of ISIL. Any ISIL member or sympathizer in the United States looking for a target now has the information belonging to 1,300 individuals who ISIL has specifically marked for attack. The victims have a permanent target on their backs. While the defendant may not have pulled a trigger, he told members of ISIL where to shoot.”

Mr. Ferizi will be deported to Kosovo upon completing his sentence and will be barred from reentering the United States.


More: Hacker Gets 20 Years for Sending US Hit List to ISIS

Prosecutors noted the psychological impact his actions had on those on the list. “This was a hit list,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack said. “The point was to find these individuals and hit them, to ‘strike at their necks’.”