Cablegate: Secdef Meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio
PP RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHRO #0174/01 0431327
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 121327Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0584
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN PRIORITY 0482
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE PRIORITY 4039
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES PRIORITY 4267
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3273
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1071
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3081
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ROME 000174
OSD FOR USDP-ISA-EURNATO
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2020
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR NATO IT AF IR
SUBJECT: SECDEF MEETING WITH ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER SILVIO
BERLUSCONI, FEBRUARY 6, 201...
Classified By: Alexander Vershbow, ASD/ISA for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (SecDef)
met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during an
official visit to Rome on February 6, 2010. SecDef thanked
Berlusconi for Italy's pledge of more Italian troops for
operations in Afghanistan and assured him that the creation
of RC-SW will not intrude on Italian operations in RC-W.
Berlusconi pledged Italy's full support for sanctions efforts
against Iran, sharing SecDef's assessment of the dire
implications should Tehran successfully develop nuclear
weapons. Berlusconi provided Italian insights on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encouraging strong American
leadership. SecDef said the issue remains a high priority
for the Obama Administration. In relation to the Abu Omar
case, SecDef requested GOI's advocacy on recognizing U.S.
jurisdiction over Colonel Joseph Romano under the NATO SOFA.
Berlusconi expressed optimism that the matter will be
resolved favorably during the appeals process. END SUMMARY.
2. (S/NF) Prime Minister Berlusconi opened the discussion
with a lengthy discourse on the state of Italian national
politics, assessing that his government is on solid ground.
He asserted that ""Italy wants to be the best friend of the
United States."" SecDef explained that both Presidents Bush
and Obama believed this to be true. After briefly thanking
Berlusconi for Italy's efforts in Haiti, SecDef applauded
Italy's contributions to Afghanistan, noting that ISAF
nations must loosen caveats to allow effective partnering
with Afghan forces. SecDef explained that once the U.S.
completes its force increases, there will be nearly 60,000
troops in RC-South -- too great a number for one commander.
This was the reason for the proposal to split the command and
create an RC-SW in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. SecDef
promised that it would not intrude on Italian forces in
RC-West. Berlusconi said he was satisfied that it will not
be a problem.
3. (C) As a prelude to a detailed discussion on Iran, SecDef
briefly outlined the phased adaptive approach to European
Missile Defense, explaining that a revised threat assessment
and better technology had led to the new approach. SecDef
enlisted Italian support for a NATO commitment to missile
defense at November's Lisbon Summit. SecDef recognized there
were legitimate questions about cost and C2, and promised
that the U.S. would provide detailed answers soon.
4. (S/NF) SecDef recalled his long involvement in U.S.-Iran
relations, including his participation in the first U.S.
meeting with the new revolutionary government in 1979.
Noting that every American president since then has tried to
reach out to Iran, SecDef asserted that President Obama's
approach has been the most sincere, energetic and principled.
He outlined the multiple opportunities -- including the
Tehran Research Reactor proposal, the IAEA's inspection of
the Qom facility, and multiple private offers for dialogue --
that Iran has been given to reassure the international
community of its intentions. All of these approaches,
however, have been rejected by Iran.
5. (S/NF) SecDef expressed deep disappointment in Tehran's
lack of responsiveness, reminding Berlusconi that Italy's
role is vital and pointing out the opportunity for
leadership. SecDef explained that it was clearly time for a
new UNSC resolution, which would give nations and the EU a
legal basis for even harsher action. He recounted the dire
consequences of a nuclear Iran, including proliferation by
other countries in the Middle East, a military response by
Israel at some point, or both. Sanctions must be applied to
get Tehran to change course and agree to a negotiated
6. (S/NF) Berlusconi agreed and recounted recent
consultations with Israeli leaders, including military
commanders, during his recent visit to Tel Aviv. Recalling
the tragedy of the Holocaust, Berlusconi said he believes the
Israelis will not follow the path of some German Jews in the
1930s, who discounted Hitler's threats as political
demagoguery. Given Ahmadinejad's promises to eliminate the
Israeli state, Berlusconi speculated that Tel Aviv would
strike, possibly with nuclear weapons, against Iran if Tehran
were close to acquiring nuclear weapons itself. He added
that no one, including President Obama, could stop Israel if
it sensed an existential threat -- noting his belief that
Israel has operational plans on the shelf.
7. (S/NF) SecDef cited an Israeli military exercise that flew
842 kilometers to Greece, pointing out the distance between
Israeli air bases and Iran's nuclear reactor is 840
kilometers. Berlusconi took the point, and asked the U.S. to
exert strong leadership in pressuring Iran. He added that
Iranian actions against protesters were morally unacceptable
and he cautioned that sanctions should not target the general
population but instead aim to weaken the government. SecDef
explained the manifold business interests of the IRGC --
Ahmadinejad's ""storm troopers"" -- and his confidence that
sanctions could be targeted against them without
significantly harming the people.
8. (S/NF) Berlusconi noted that Italian businesses have had
interests in Iran for 50 years. He referred to a
particularly lucrative contract between the Italian energy
company ENI and Iran that must be fulfilled in light of
significant penalties for non-compliance. He asserted,
however, that ENI has chosen not to renew the contract
because of concerns about Tehran's actions. Berlusconi
recounted conversations with Russia, saying he had lobbied
them against missile production that can aid the Iranian
military. Berlusconi said he would soon attend an EU Summit
to address Iran, believing that a preemptive strike by
Israeli on Iran would be disastrous. SecDef appreciated
Berlusconi's sense of urgency, reminding him that history has
consistently shown that tyrants are clear about their
intentions and noting Ahmadinejad's promise to wipe Israel
from the map.
9. (S/NF) Berlusconi explained his efforts to get
Palestinians back to the negotiating table by offering to
host the negotiations and pay for all the costs. He detailed
an idea he had introduced in 1994 about a ""Marshall Plan"" for
the region, whereby he would entice the world's biggest
companies and hotels to invest in the West Bank and build an
airport there. He doubted Israel would allow investment to
happen given the current circumstances, but said the offer is
still on the table. SecDef agreed that we must work together
and stated that the Middle East Peace Process would be one of
President Obama's highest priorities in 2010. Berlusconi
argued that the issue has global implications. SecDef
concurred, noting that the global security environment is as
complex as ever. He noted that we keep adding new problems
like piracy to the list of challenges without solving the old
10. (C) In a brief exchange, Berlusconi noted his concern
about the Horn of Africa. Because of Italy's colonial
experience in Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, it had an acute
understanding of the depravity of the region that allows
problems like piracy to take root. SecDef commented that
much of Africa had looked to the Soviet model in the
post-colonial period -- an unfortunate choice that guaranteed
poverty, and an error from which most of Africa has not yet
11. (S/NF) Berlusconi recounted a recent trip to China by his
daughter, a recent U.S. college graduate, which left her
distraught. He explained that between urban migration and
university graduates, China is adding 24M workers to its
workforce each year. Italy has 23M workers in its entire
economy -- in other words, China annually increases it
workforce by the total size of Italy's. Berlusconi noted
that many Italian companies will withdraw tenders if
competing against a Chinese company, especially in Africa.
SecDef noted that China has two major challenges. First, in
Africa, natural resource extraction using imported Chinese
labor is causing significant resentment among African hosts.
Second, in order to add 20-30M jobs to its workforce yearly,
China must grow its GDP by 8-10 percent each year. SecDef
added that the source of internal stability in China is an
improving quality of life for its citizens, and that Chinese
leaders are ""scared to death"" that this is not sustainable.
12. (S/NF) In closing, SecDef asked Berlusconi for his
assistance in affirming U.S. jurisdiction over Colonel
Romano, one of the defendants in the Abu Omar case, under the
NATO SOFA. Berlusconi and Cabinet Advisor Letta assured
SecDef the GOI was working hard to resolve the situation.
Berlusconi gave an extended rant about the Italian judicial
system -- which frequently targets him since it is ""dominated
by leftists"" as the public prosecutor level. Berlusconi
predicted that the ""courts will come down in our favor"" upon
appeal, noting that higher-level appellate courts are
significantly less politicized than local courts.
13. (U) SecDef has cleared this cable. Drafted by OSD Staff.