Viewing cable 05ROME919

05ROME9192005-03-17 16:44:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rome
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L  ROME 000919 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2015 
REF: A. ROME 537 
     ¶B. ROME 902 
     ¶C. ROME 886 
REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
¶1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  On March 15, the Italian Chamber of 
Deputies gave final approval to extend through June 30 
funding for Italy's military mission in Iraq.  We expect 
funding to be extended for the July-December period without 
difficulty, given the size of the Government's majority.  The 
subsequent vote, to extend funding for January-July 2006, 
will be less predictable, given national elections in spring 
of that year.  END SUMMARY. 
¶2.  (U)  On March 15, the Italian Chamber of Deputies gave 
final approval to extend funding for all of Italy's military 
missions abroad, including, in a separate vote, its mission 
to Iraq.  The Senate passed these measures in February (Ref 
A).  This vote authorizes funding for the period January 
1-June 30, 2005; funding for overseas military missions is 
always extended in six-month increments.  Procedurally, the 
government authorizes funding by decree early in a period, 
and the decree must then be approved by Parliament within 60 
days.  This explains why the decree funding the current 
period was not approved until now.  Total funding approved 
for Italy's Iraq mission was just under 18.8 million Euro. 
Center-right governing coalition parties were joined by the 
small Union of Democrats for Europe (UDEUR), nominally with 
the left, in passing the Iraq funding.  That measure received 
a total vote of 246 in favor, 180 against, with eight 
¶3.  (U)  The Chamber also considered two non-binding 
recommendations.  The first, sponsored by governing coalition 
partner Union of Christian Democrats of the Center (UDC), 
urged the Government to enhance the EU's "united commitment" 
toward the constitutional process in Iraq and the role of the 
UN and to promote an international conference on Iraq based 
on the model of the November 2004 Sharm-al Sheik Conference. 
The resolution also urged the Government to "define the 
procedures and timetable for the return of the Italian 
contingent in Iraq, within the framework of decisions that 
will be adopted in the UN Security Council and together with 
the Iraqi authorities, for the gradual withdrawal of foreign 
military troops from Iraq."  There were 218 votes in favor of 
the resolution, 26 against, 25 abstentions.  (Note:  All 
votes took place before PM Berlusconi's televised remarks 
concerning a possible Italian troop withdrawal beginning in 
September, Refs B and C.)  The center-left Democrats of the 
Left (DS) and Daisy parties did not participate in the vote, 
a tactical maneuver which lessens the number of votes needed 
for a majority and is more supportive then voting against a 
¶4.  (SBU)  The Italian Communist Party (PdCI) presented the 
second non-binding resolution before the Chamber of Deputies, 
urging the Government to "assess the opportuneness of 
deciding the withdrawal of the Italian military contingent in 
Iraq," given the "extremely tragic characteristics" of 
developments there (including, but not limited to, the 
killing of Italian intelligence office Nicola Calipari) and 
the "spiral of violence" spreading in the Middle East.  As 
with similar motions during previous debates on extending 
funding for the Iraq mission, the Chamber voted down the PdCI 
resolution by 229 against, 15 for, and 20 abstentions, with 
DS and Daisy again not participating.  (The call for 
withdrawal of troops consistently splits the opposition. 
While they have found ways to justify a vote against funding, 
even in the wake of the successful January elections in Iraq, 
more centrist members of the left acknowledge that a 
withdrawal of troops would be disastrous for the Iraqi 
people.)  In the same television show in which Berlusconi 
later made his announcement of a possible Italian troop 
drawdown, the Prime Minister praised the opposition's 
"responsible" stance in Parliament. 
¶5.  (C)  COMMENT:  The opposition was shocked by Berlusconi's 
May 15 remarks, interpreted as a promise to withdraw Italian 
troops in September, in part because they came on television, 
not in Parliament, on a day which had witnessed a fairly 
unacrimonious vote on the Italian troop presence in Iraq. 
"Had Berlusconi said in Parliament what he said on 
(television)," Daisy leader Francesco Rutelli told 
journalists, "It would have been different. ... We would, for 
example, have voted in favor of a motion indicating an exit 
strategy from Iraq," Rutelli added, suggesting his party 
might have voted with the majority.  The PM's March 17 
clarifications of his statement (see March 17 entry on Rome's 
Siprnet site), which urged the media to review his exact 
words on the program, further confounded the opposition, 
according to most analysts.  It has been an intriguing bit of 
electoral politicking by Berlusconi. 
¶6.  (C)  Looking ahead, we do not foresee difficulties for 
the Government when the time comes to renew funding for the 
Iraqi mission for the July-December period this year.  As 
with all funding votes since Italy began participating in 
Iraqi reconstruction, we expect the Government's majority to 
hold fast and the left to vote against, with few, if any, 
splinters on either side.  The subsequent vote to renew 
funding for January-July 2006 becomes more problematic for 
governing coalition partners.  The national election campaign 
will be close to full swing and there will be increasing 
pressure on politicians to respond to the majority of the 
Italian public that opposes the country's military presence 
in Iraq.  END COMMENT. 
¶7.  (U)  Minimize considered, Embassy Baghdad. 
 2005ROME00919 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL