Cablegate: Iraq: Mod Martino Vows Italy Will Stay the Course

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Italian MOD Martino told parliament December
3 that Italy will keep its troops in Iraq, because pulling
out now would create a "dangerous vacuum." In stating
Italy's unrenounceable and firm commitment to combat
international terrorism, he remarked that the nature of the
mission remains unchanged (he stressed its humanitarian
aspect), the troops are now "fully legitimized" by the UN,
and the Government would seek parliament's approval to
extend funding through June 2004. He said Italy will not
nor was it asked to increase its military presence there.
He also called for more multilateral involvement in
managing the crisis and explicitly asked for an "EU stance"
on Iraq. End summary.

Italy won't pull out; the UN has legitimized its presence
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. MOD Martino appeared before the Chamber of Deputies
Defense Committee December 3 for one of his periodic,
scheduled briefings on Iraq also in view of a
parliamentary debate early next year to extend funding for
the Italian military mission beyond the December 31
deadline that was approved by parliament last July.
Martino said that, in spite of the deteriorating security
situation there, "it is impossible to pull out now,"
because it would mean "creating a lethal power vacuum and
handing the region over to extremism, fanaticism, and
destabilization." Responding to the center-left's growing
demands for UN involvement in Iraq and for a speedy
transition of powers back to the Iraqis, he said that, with
UNSCR 1511, the "international community in its entirety
recognizes that we are in Iraq with the UN's full
legitimation" and the UN, "in confirming the intervention's
humanitarian nature, indicates a path to return the
sovereignty of power to the people of Iraq as soon as
possible." He noted that Italy "recognizes itself fully in
this project."

Multilateral involvement is necessary: EU, NATO
--------------------------------------------- --

3. Even though Italy does not underestimate the
difficulties involved, Martino remarked, it will continue
to support and work for a "united and strong UN position"
on Iraq's institutional and material reconstruction and for
an "increasingly multilateral involvement" in managing the
crisis. In a press interview the day before, and before
the Committee, he stated the need for the EU to "make its
presence felt" and for "an EU stance" on Iraq, arguing that
the not-a-single-penny-and-not-a-single-soldier notion no
longer worked: terrorism is a problem not only for Iraq and
its neighbors, but also for Europe and is "becoming more
dangerous for Europe than for the United States." European
involvement should not be excluded, "if the EU will be
capable of carrying out military operations autonomously."

4. However, Martino does not think a special EU summit on
Iraq requested by the center-left would be appropriate.
"Summits are called when one is sure they will be
successful. If they are destined to fail, they would only
make the situation worse," he said. He noted, instead,
that FM Frattini would raise the issue in the appropriate
fora. Underscoring the point further, he pointed to
"complaints on more than one occasion" about "excessive
unilateralism" by the U.S., whereas both U.S. Republicans
and Democrats "are all calling for Europeans to be more
closely involved in the area of common security." Iraq
would be a starting point, he implied. NATO could also
possibly get involved, he added, "if a provisional
government in Baghdad were to call for its intervention."

Italian military mission remains unchanged

5. Regardless of possible future scenarios, the scope of
the Italian military mission is "to offer a better future
to the people of Iraq." "The military mission remains the
same" and the dramatic crescendo of attacks and alerts
"strengthens our commitment," albeit under enhanced
security conditions. "In conjunction with our allies,"
Italy remains to "create the conditions of security and
stability that are necessary for humanitarian assistance
and to rebuild the country." He reminded the
parliamentarians that the Italians were in Iraq to "carry

out missions of reconnaissance and surveillance, protection
and security, stabilization and assistance," as approved by
parliament on April 15 this year.

Saddam's militia and Al Qaida spread terror with local help
--------------------------------------------- --------------

6. Martino argued that the recent crescendo of
"indiscriminate attacks" against civilian and military
targets wants to increase "unease and uncertainty" among
the local population and create mistrust toward the
coalition. He said the "Feddayeen Saddam" militia was
mostly responsible for the attacks including the one
against the Italian Carabinieri headquarters in Nassiriya -
- with the help of non-Iraqi Al Qaeda elements and possibly
some local coverage. "Our men did not die in battle, but
were slaughtered by terrorist assassins. These terrorists,
who come mostly from outside Iraq, are the real enemies of
the people of Iraq. They don't want normal life to
resume," but want to destabilize the entire country. The
Italians were killed "because they are well regarded by the
local population, which considers the Italian contingent
for what it is: not an occupation force, but a force of
support and peace."

We will remain to do our job, we will defeat terror
--------------------------------------------- ------

7. According to Martino, "terrorists have turned Iraq into
a test case." For them, "losing the challenge in Iraq
probably means losing their global challenge." Their
intent in Iraq "is to undermine consensus within the
coalition countries and induce them to leave Iraq before
the consolidation of a new course, before creating an
alternative to anarchy and chaos. It is a trap into which
we must not fall. Our every attempt to withdraw from the
clash by giving in and making concessions would only
convince the enemy of our weakness and induce him to
increase his attack against the new Iraqi course and
foreign civilian and military interests... We will
therefore remain." Recalling Italy's struggle against
domestic terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s, "we will be
capable of defeating even this terrorism, this global
terrorism," he concluded.

CPA Bagdhad minimize considered.


2003ROME05475 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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