After the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The geopolitics of terror is encircling Italy

In Italy many people – politicians, businessmen, professionals and many other free citizens – have been harboring for years the illusion that our country is immune from violence, even from that coming from the Middle East and North Africa. The latter, at most, would hit USA, Great Britain and the governments – from those democratically elected to the authoritarian regimes – which in turn collaborate with their politics in such territories. Such rhetoric is almost always accompanied by an omission that, while falling short in the face of tragedies such as the attacks of 11/09 or of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, appears well settled in the Italian public opinion and that is: “in the end when you sow a wind you reap whirlwind”.

After the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The geopolitics of terror is encircling Italy -

A corollary of this argument is that Italy, for its part, would have little to fear because it only participates in peace-keeping missions, it is the only State in Europe doing no kind of selection on immigrants incoming and it is always willing to make cuts in the state budget for security. In other words there would be a sort of “scandinavianization” of Italy, that is, it would come true the wish of many to transform gradually our country into a southern European Sweden. But, is this truly a realistic evolution or an unfounded presumption? And could we really afford to make military spending and intelligence technologies a privileged target for our spending review?

For the purposes of our argument we omit to remember the significant attack in Nasiriyah, used to collect electoral support (both from the Right and the Left) and to fill the columns of the newspapers, but never to reflect realistically on our foreign policy. This event was the first clear evidence of the possibility that Italians could be a target of the terrorist attacks and that our country should maintain a high level of alert might be argued, however, that the massacre took place in a foreign country and that our soldiers were, by definition, military targets (which would not clash if in Italy you could talk about “military” or “war” missions as in the rest of world).

We must remember, on the contrary, that Italy is in the geometric center of the Mediterranean area, destabilized by the presence of some failing or failed states (Libya, Lebanon, Syria), by the seventy-year Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict, by the political turn, Islam-oriented, in Turkey, by the migration flows of increasing size and the severe economic crisis in some States (Greece in particular). In the Nineties and Noughties, moreover, almost all the “European regions” in this chessboard have been affected by Islamic terrorism. Just to mention the best known cases, we remember the jihadist infiltration in the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo and the attacks in Paris (1995), Madrid (2004), London (2005), Toulouse and Montauban (2012), London (2013), as well as the attack on 7 January in Paris. Italy because of its political position – willingly or unwillingly – covers a vital role in stemming the threats associated with these dynamics and cannot back down. This is about the safety of all European citizens but also – and above all – of Italian cities – first of all the capital for its dual role as the seat of political power and of the Holy See – that are sensitive targets of particular importance.

The presence of an Islamist threat had already started to emerge from the statements of the Is on the fall of Rome and from the photomontagesof St. Peter’s Square with some extremists exhibiting the flags of the Islamic state, but – as they say – two clues were not a test. In the face of the events of 7 January in Paris, those words and those images, however, have lost their symbolic characterization to take on the contours of a – though insane – reality.

It may be objected that the good relations that traditionally bind Rome to the Arab world should keep the peninsula away from attacks, as in the past. But we believe that this legacy is of little advantage today. The partners of our government, in fact, are neither the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, nor Yasser Arafat nor Muammar Gaddafi. We are not in the presence of the Arab nationalists who may have interests in conflict with ours, but who speak with an identical dialectical register and within the same political boundary.Islamic terrorism is distorting the political parameters of the past because it is not reducible to the Arab world only, it has a universalist and uncompromising vocation and, not an insignificant detail, considers just the representatives of the old political elite of Maghreb and Middle East as its main enemies (as demonstrated by the cases of Egypt, Libya and Syria). The good relations between Italy and the “old” Arab world, therefore, could represent an aggravating factor for our situation and the absence of new legitimated interlocutors makes harder every preventive action both in our country andin the source countries of terrorism.

Finally, we have to consider that, while in the past the Islamic terrorism, with the exception of its more educated vertices, attracted followers among social segments composed of outcasts whose despair was realized in the suicide attack, now it has an enlistment ability crossing the boundaries of the Western world (challenging the goodness of the multiculturalism and  assimilation policies), that no longer aims to generate martyrs but to train real soldiers (those of the attack on the seat of Charlie Hebdo wanted to save their skin and had a military training evidenced by their ability and coolness in killing) and tries to claim a state subjectivity (although the case Isis already showing many difficulties). To frame these elements there is the competition between al Qaeda and the Is for the leadership within the jihadi galaxy, that could lead to new and more sensational attacks, to the decline of Turkey and Egypt as diaphragms between the Mediterranean region and the Middle East tensions and to lower American interest to play the role of ultimate security actor in this area.

The scandinavization of Italy, therefore, seems rather far-fetched. Before that reality may impose itself on us with further events, we should take account of a terror geopolitics tightening the circle around us and, in front of a context in which we have to rely more and more on our forces, start to act accordingly.