Monday, July 04, 2005

Italian Perfidy

They knew.
    Before a CIA paramilitary team was deployed to snatch a radical Islamic cleric off the streets of Milan in February 2003, the CIA station chief in Rome briefed and sought approval from his counterpart in Italy, according to three CIA veterans with knowledge of the operation and a fourth who reviewed the matter after it took place.
As the Post points out, the accusation has increased anti-American feeling in Italy. Perhaps that was the whole point of this story?

Evidently, Italy not only knew about the operation, but there was mutual agreement beforehand that if it were to become public knowledge, the standard response is that neither side would confirm involvement.

But here’s what happened instead:

Warrants were issued in Milan by a local magistrate. Later they were upgraded into “European” warrants, meaning that any of the agents currently stationed in Europe could be arrested there.

The story stayed at that puzzling level until it became obvious that this had not been a national government move, but an action by a local magistrate in Milan. The question then arises whether or not the national administration knew ahead of time. Probably not. Another question to consider is whether the magistrate in Milan was cooperating with the national oppositon. Probably so.

Nonetheless, to save face, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summoned the American ambassador, Mel Sembler, and read him the riot act about Italian sovereignty. According to the statement released by the Prime Minister’s office,
     Sembler confirmed to Berlusconi that the U.S. government’s respect was “complete and total and won’t be neglected in the future.”
The Italian opposition was contemptuous of the meeting, dismissing it as a “waste of time”:
    “Berlusconi and Sembler could have spared us this farce,” said Pietro Folena of the center-left Olive Tree coalition. The United States, he said, “hide the truth about Calipari, kidnap presumed terrorists, and then give no explanations.”
The comment about the “truth about Calipari” refers to the death of the Italian agent in Iraq following the failure of Italy to inform the Americans or Iraqis of their work in Iraq:
    Italian agents likely withheld information from U.S. counterparts about a cash-for-freedom deal with gunmen holding an Italian hostage for fear that Americans might block the trade, Italian news reports said yesterday.
The decision by operatives of Italy’s SISMI military intelligence service to keep the CIA in the dark about the deal for the release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena, might have “short-circuited” communications with U.S. forces controlling the road from Baghdad to the city’s airport, the newspaper La Stampa said
Conclusion: the strange incident of the warrants issued by a magistrate in Milan for CIA agents dating back to a case in 2003, a situation Italian intelligence helped plan and execute, may have a simple explanation. That is, a reasonable person could assume the following motive for the opposition government in Italy: after the fact, this anti-American-to-the-core faction dreamed up a payback for the death of the unauthorized Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, on the road to the Baghdad airport. This payback was issued in the coin of betrayal of the thirteen CIA agents who removed a thorn from the side of the Italians -- this thorn being the very destablizing presence of the terrorist Imam in Milan.

Thanks, Italy. We needed that. It's good to know who you can count on.

See earlier post: Italy Seeks Revenge


Anonymous said...

It strikes me that if we as a country are to maintain any kind of principles in our foreign relations (yes, the concept comes close to being an oxy-moron) we will eventually have to be prepared to be a diplomatic island.

Everytime we are betrayed by our so-called allies or friends, we need to do something to forcefully express our displeasure. Right now it would seem to me our best allies are the former communist block countries that know what totalitarianism really was, not the effete Western Europe socialists that have no honor or courage.

Engineer-Poet said...

I think people are reading too much into this.

The Italian judiciary is likely the product of many years of socialist governments, no?  On the other hand, this little hand-off of a troublesome cleric was all but certainly the work of the Berlusconi administration.  The socialists want to do everything they can to discredit their opposition; this little kerfuffle appears to be the consequence of an internal battle, rather than the grand policy of the Italian government.

It does not follow that the Italians are not our friends, but it does follow that the socialists aren't.

Dymphna said...

Engineer Poet--

You are making the same connection that Bill and I are. You draw the finer point that the judiciary and opposition are socialists, which I hadn't thought to dilineate.

But I don't think ritual humiliation with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, is good for any of us. Calling the American ambassador on the carpet to read him the riot act didn't pacify the opposition, but it was meat for the mindless opposition here. The ones who say Bush has a "tin ear" for diplomacy, etc.

Thus I think what I read into is correct. Further, when we are betrayed by friends, for quick-and-dirty political reasons that don't work anyway, we ought to respond with integrity. As Bill says "we need to do something to forcefuly express our displeasure."

He also says that the "effete Western Europe socialits"..."have no honor or courage." I think I would amend that to say there does not seem to be a situation in which they believe there is a necessity to display honor or courage. Political correctness seems to suffice instead.

That's why people *aren't* reading too much into this. They're seeing it for what it is: betrayal. Printing the personal info on the CIA agents in the newspapers is, at best, graceless.

The "grand policy" of the Italian government set us up as the fall guys in that mess in Iraq. They didn't want to let us know they were paying ransom to the terrorists to get that nasty socialist journalist. Further, they didn't even let us know they were in country and arrogantly sped through the checkpoints on the way to the airport. In fact,they took an unauthorized short cut. And it was all our fault.

Joy of Knitting, in her post on this story when it first broke, reminded us of the Italian government's refusal to hand over the terrorist killers of Klinghoffer. They cynically allowed one to escape.

The Italians are not to be trusted.

Baron Bodissey said...

Actually, just a reminder: the ransomed Italian journalist isn't simply a Socialist, she is a Communist. An actual Communist, 15 years after the demise of the People's Paradise.

Communists, of course, have the same attitude towards the truth that the jihadis do: it's totally optional. The socialist version of taqiyya. That's why Sgrena's account of events should be taken with a shaker full of salt.

Dymphna said...


In Italy how does one tell the difference between a socialist and a communist?

And it wasn't salt that I was planning to put on Sgrena's accounts of anything. I only salt what I intend to eat. No, the shaker of s*** starts with an 's' and ends with a 't' just like salt does, but that's about all they have in common.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Your humble servant