Italy may very well be joining the US anti-Daesh operation in Libya, having offered Washington the use of Sigonella air base in Sicily for USAF raids into the North African country. Sputnik spoke to Italian military journalist Mirko Molteni about why Italy has once again allowed itself to become involved in a NATO air war over Libya.
Last week, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti confirmed that Rome was prepared to allow the US to use Italian military facilities to support US airstrikes against Daesh in Libya. “The government is ready to positively evaluate the issue of the use of Italian bases and airspace,” Pinotti said, speaking before the country’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday.Asked to comment on Rome’s decision, Mirko Molteni, a respected military journalist and contributor to Analisi Difesa magazine and the Milan-based daily newspaper Libero, told Sputnik Italia that it would undoubtedly increase the danger of terrorist attacks against Italy.
Molteni started off by noting that the decision to participate has put the country close to a state of war. “The problem is that Daesh has already threatened attacks on Italian territory for some time, especially against Rome, the capital of the Catholic world. The fact that Italy is making its bases available to the coalition greatly increases the threat of such attacks.”
Effectively, the analyst warned that “all this may permanently destroy the illusion that Italy is safe from the terrorists.”
At the same time, Molteni noted that unfortunately, the Italian government really does not have much of a say in the US-led initiative, “its tendency to tag along with the great powers becoming a typical trend in recent decades. Even in 2011, the Berlusconi government failed to oppose the airstrikes against the Gaddafi government initiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Italy was made to tag along with Paris and Washington in this historical mistake which created the current instability in Libya.”
As to the current thirty-day air campaign, the analyst said that he believes it to carry “more political than military” significance. In his view, the Tripoli-based government of Fayez al-Sarraj is looking to establish itself as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan state, “even though there is also General Khalifa Haftar’s government in Tobruk, which is also actively fighting Daesh in the Benghazi area.”
Unfortunately, the expert noted, Italy’s political and military servility toward the United States is rooted in nearly 70 years of history, which followed Italy’s entry into the NATO alliance.
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, there was no longer any danger from the east; in fact, today’s Russia is our ally against terrorism. But the political class in Italy has retained its habit of delegating the defense of Italy’s national interests to the United States, and it will be many years before they learn to take care of our national interests themselves,” the commentator said.
On the plus side, Molteni said that he believes that as far as Moscow is concerned, Rome’s participation in these airstrikes is unlikely to threaten Russian-Italian relations. “This decision will not directly affect Italian-Russian relations, because Moscow understands that Italy is in some sense obliged” to follow US orders. “However, these bombings will lead to resurgence in the rivalry between the two governments in Libya.”Ultimately, the analyst emphasized that if the United States and Russia really wanted to cooperate against Daesh, they might consider coordinated strikes on the terrorist group’s stronghold in Sirte. However, these strikes would require more effective coordination than in Syria, where US aviation factually only serves to create additional problems for the Russian mission there.