Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Italy, Prodi Resigns

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema succeeded in bringing down the Prodi government today by drawing a line in the sand and challenging Italy's Left. D'Alema never seemed to me to be exceptionally astute, confirmed by his breach of the rule that you cannot be inflexibly arrogant in dealing with your coalition when you command a razor-thin majority. Foolishly, D'Alema went where no wise politician would have gone: he declared that the Government would resign if the vote of confidence failed (they're calling it the "Kabul or Bust" gamble.)

Today's vote in on Prodi's foreign policy lost in the Senate by two votes over troop presence in Afghanistan and extension of the US bases at Vicenza and Sigonella. Truth be told, until now the Left had swallowed the entire package of deregulation/liberalization measures, at odds with its historic positions, but was not prepared to surrender on war. The recent US action in Somalia, a former Italian colonial possession, probably did much in convincing Italy's Left to entrench in opposing Italy's cooperation with further US military undertakings. Already simmering because of Italy's participation in the war in Iraq, the Left and the Greens were pushed to the wall with the announcement of the NATO Spring Offensive in Afghanistan and saber rattling by Washington at Tehran.

Prodi tried to save the bacon by calling a hasty "summit" with Spain's Zapatero on the of Ibiza to placate the Left. It was something of a simple-minded pantomime, like Bush bussing the Saudi Crown Prince: "See, Zapatero is okay with keeping his contingent in Afghanistan, and so should we."

What is pathetic was that because of his decision to pull out of Iraq, Prodi was declared persona non grata in Washington, like Zapatero. [Note: Unprecedented: they are both NATO heads of government]. Pretending nothing was amiss in the rapporto speziale, Prodi soldiered on in traditional pro-American Demo-Christian fashion. But within Italy, where it matters, he apparently lost sight of the necessity of the support of the Greens and the Communists in keeping his government afloat. The resignation is unlikely to put the fear of God in them.

However, it may not be over: There will now be a second vote on confidence -this time whether Mr. Prodi should form a new government.

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