Haftar is advancing in Libya, but Italy is retreating. The disastrous falling in love with Qatar

(To David Rossi)
06/04/19

It's Friday 5 April, in the morning. The march, slow but inexorable1, of the Libyan National Army, led by gen. Khalifa Haftar, follows three road directions: one from the west along the coast, one from the south-west towards the airport of the capital and one from the south towards the airport of Sidi Salih with the prospect of aiming, then, to tighten in a vice the Tripolitan airport. The first column has, to date, taken the important city of Sidi Bilal, home to a port but above all to the most important Western power plant in Tripoli.

Almost 107 years ago, just in Sidi Bilal we defeated the Ottoman forces at the price of almost 600 losses (against not even the 100 of the Turks) and we opened the door of Tripoli. Today, the door is slammed in our faces, for the tactical foolishness with which the Libyan dossier between the 2011 and the 2018 was managed, but above all for the gross strategic errors of the current government, which has openly sided with Qatar in change of a bowl of lentils and some photos of the ministers with the sheiks.

The comings and goings between Doha and Rome could not have gone unnoticed: the visit of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte this week, came a few days after the visit of Defense Minister, Elisabetta Trenta, which took place from 25 and 26 March 2019, at five months from the journey in Italy of the emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, which took place last November, to six from that of the deputy premier and Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini.

Qatar is a country that has remained isolated in the Gulf area, with Saudi Arabia and other regional neighbors who have cut off relations with Doha due to its relations with the great Shiite rival, Iran. Apart from Iran, still "unpresentable", Qatar has only the support of Turkey, our competitor in many political and energy dossiers, not therefore a "bank".

Just Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - together with Egypt - are the real sponsors of the gen. Khalifa Haftar: the sovranist legend (but also Dem) wants him to be a "man of Paris", therefore our "enemy", to whom "our man", Fayez al-Sarraj, opposes. Do you remember the facetious conversation between Conte and Angela Merkel on the Italian electoral campaign "against France"? Here, our leaders really think that Paris is the enemy to be fought on all fields, not a mere competitor often only more clever and organized than us.

Our activism with Qatar and the declarations of love of the various Counts and Salvini could not but represent, for Arab leaders, a position too blatantly enough to deserve an adequate reaction. At this point, with Rome openly and in isolation with Doha, the national concord government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, now mainly sponsored by the Conte government, no longer deserved to be spared due to respect for Italy, which had elected as a privileged interlocutor. Nor does it deserve more attention to the humanitarian situation of Tripolitania: there are still hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan migrants who in case of precipitating the political-military situation would sling towards Italy, without even the fig leaf of the "safe harbor" that only Rome recognizes in Tripoli.

The prospective scenario makes one shudder: waves of thousands of desperate people on the eve of the European elections, the ENI contracts put into question, the Italian military advisers and the ENI personnel2 even put their life in danger.

I wonder if Deputy Prime Minister Salvini had thought of it when he played with firearms at a fair in Doha last fall: without thinking too much, it is true that - with the entire government - he was just playing with fire ...

1 It is from these hours the declaration of fidelity of the 9 brigade "Terhouna" to the dominus of Cyrenaica.

2 The announcement of the withdrawal of ENI personnel from Libya is of these hours.

Photo: Presidency of the Council of Ministers