During the 1990s, Iran was a major influence in the Balkans, culturally and politically. During the Bosnian war in 1992-1995, Iran gave assistance to the Bosniaks including military equipment, trainers and intelligence support (source). Furthermore, after the conflict, Iran attempted to become more involved with the Muslim communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and established a number of Shi’a institutes and Islamic cultural centres such as the Ibn Sina Institute in Sarajevo. However, as many countries in the Balkans strengthen ties with the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU), Iran’s influence is diminishing. Furthermore, Iran’s relationship with Russia and the current war in Ukraine is likely to further impact Iran’s position in the Balkans.
Key Judgment 1: It is likely that Iran’s influence in many Balkans countries will continue to decrease over the next 24 months. In particular, BiH will continue turning to the US and the West for partnership.
Key Judgment 2: It is likely that Iran and Serbia will maintain diplomatic and economic ties over the next 24 months. This is because of their mutual ties to Russia and Serbia’s concern for peacekeepers in Lebanon.
Key Judgment 3: It is probable that Iranian-Albanian tensions will continue to increase in the next 24 months. Albania will face continued hostilities from Iran for their involvement in the sanctuary of MEK militants.