Italians Retake Base
Nasiriyah Library in Flames
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants out of Iraq with honor, according to Italian sources. He is down in the polls and keenly aware of what happened to rightwing Spanish PM Aznar. The Italian public is increasingly against an Italian presence in Iraq, and opposition politicians are calling loudly for withdrawal. Even Berlusconi’s own cabinet is drawing up withdrawal plans behind the scenes.
Bush may be pushing Europe to the Left. He may have already helped elect Gerhard Schroeder, who ran against the war before the fact, and PM Zapatero in Spain. Berlusconi could well fall victim to the same trend. There may yet be a Labor Party revolt against Tony Blair, similar to the one mounted by Michael Heseltine against Maggie Thatcher among the Tories over a decade ago, which indirectly led to her being dumped for John Major.
“In Nasiriyah, the occupation forces said that it killed about 20 resistance members during battles with elements of the Mehdi Army to the south of Nasiriyah, which is under the control of the Italian forces. A fighter airplane for the occupation forces bombed Tuesday morning five targets, five vehicles said to be unloading ammunition, killing 20 Iraqis in the process, according to an American military spokesman. Medical sources in Nasiriyah announced that 16 Iraqis were killed and 26 others injured Sunday night and early Monday morning in clashes between the Iraqis resistance and the Italian military men in the city. The Italian Ministry of Defense announced that an Italian soldier was killed in the battles of Nasiriyah, which is the first Italian soldier to be killed in battles in Iraq . . . The coalition forces withdrew, under heavy resistance, from one of its bases in Nasiriyah, but it was taken back when the resistance withdrew after negotiation between the Italian officers and the local heads of clans.
A reader writes from Italy, quoting from Italian wire services:
(ANSA) – ROMA, 17 MAG – 2004-05-17 – 16:55:00
The base called “Libeccio” (trans: southwest wind; ndt: where they lost the young soldier), abandoned yesterday evening by the Italian military, was retaken today. There was no fighting. The militia has in fact left the city, according to Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, head of Defense (something like joint chiefs of staff).
News media yesterday made a big deal out of the fact that the Italians were NOT
returning fire since a great deal of the shooting was coming from a hospital.
Corriere della Sera noted that a library in Nassiriyah containing some 4,000 volumes was set on fire by unknown persons. They reported on some six hours of fighting (“bombing”)
in Nassiriyah with help from “other coalition forces” since the Italians are equipped with fairly light weapons and only armored cars, no tanks and no helicopters. No information is available about the nature of the counterattack (secret).