20 June 2008
Rome – Senator. Marcello Pera participated in a debate at the American Embassy in honour of the 60th anniversay of the Fulbright Commission
Thank you Ken, good morning to all of you, and welcome to Villa Taverna. I am delighted to host and participate in this morning’s conference, sponsored by two of the organizations which have done most to strengthen friendship and cooperation between Italy and the United States over the past several decades: the National Italian American Foundation and the U.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission. Through its work in promoting and preserving Italian American heritage and culture, NIAF has established a well-deserved reputation as the leading advocacy group for Italian Americans; and the Fulbright Commission, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has awarded scholarships for study, research, and teaching to more than seven thousand young Italians and Americans.
The panelists you see before you this morning have all contributed in many ways to this binational cooperation. Dr. Ken Ciongoli is, of course, the President of NIAF, but he is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Fulbright Commission’s 60th anniversary celebrations. Senator Marcello Pera was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Pittsburgh in 1984, and he received the Fulbright Gold Medal in 2005. I myself am honorary co-President of the Fulbright Commission, and both Senator Pera and I have been long-standing friends of NIAF.
With a new Italian government having just recently taken office, and a new American President due to enter the White House in January, this is an excellent moment to take stock of U.S.- Italian cooperation on security challenges. But if you expect me to tell you that, because governments are changing, there will be changes in our security cooperation as well, let me tell you right off the bat that you will be disappointed. That has never happened before, and it won’t happen now, because when it comes to international security in continental Europe, the U.S. has no better, more constant friend than Italy. The U.S. and Italy have a long history of working together to achieve our shared security and stability goals. These goals extend from the traditional transatlantic theater, where NATO has always represented our principal venue for security cooperation, to the global arena, where Italy and the U.S. face challenges of regional instability, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and humanitarian crises. I would like to open today’s discussions with some brief remarks about the ways we are working together in a variety of fora including NATO, the UN, and the G8 to support each other on challenges from Middle East Peace Process, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Africa and the Balkans. Our relationship is broad and deep and built on common interests in a shared future of democratic, market oriented societies in a Europe whole and free and a world free from terror and WMD.
U.S. and Italian troops and sailors serve side-by-side in NATO operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and the Mediterranean. To give you a sense of what this means in practice, I’d like to look more closely of the case of Afghanistan. With about 2,500 troops, Italy is the fourth largest contributor to the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), as the NATO mission is called. The U.S., of course, is the leading contributor. NATO operates in Afghanistan under a UN mandate, so Italian and U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has the full backing of the international community. Italy also holds the two of the five ISAF regional commands: the western region, based in Herat, and the capital region, centered on Kabul. This means that Italian generals command the NATO troops in those sectors, including U.S., Spanish, Lithuanian, French and Turkish troops.
Security and development go hand in hand in Afghanistan, so the U.S. and Italy work closely not just as NATO allies, but as leading donors and providers of technical assistance. For example, Italy operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Herat province. This is a group of Italian military personnel and civilian aid experts who provide health care to rural populations, build clinics, schools and dig wells, deliver food aid and humanitarian assistance. U.S. and Italian aid coordinators in Kabul work closely to coordinate efforts there, and Italian troops provide security for the U.S. PRT in the neighboring province of Farah. Italian Carabineri and Guardia di Finanza officers work alongside U.S. law enforcement experts in Herat training Afghan police and customs officials.
Italy, with approximately 80 troops on the ground in Iraq is the single largest contributing nation, in terms of personnel, to NATO’s critical Training Mission in Iraq (NTMI). NTM-I was founded in 2004 at the request of the Iraqi interim government. Its mission initially focused on training, but has progressed toward advising and coaching to help Iraqis establish self-sufficient military and government institutions. In Iraq, we are working together with Italy to fulfill the NATO mandate. We are making a contribution to Iraq’s nation building. NATO’s mission is a key part of the overall strategic planning for a democratic and self-sufficient Iraq.
We are using a targeted approach and we target expertise to where the Iraqis want it, not where we think they should have it. There are three areas NTM-I has focused its assistance to the Iraqi military and government: In national security structure, with Italian Carabinieri training the Iraqi national police; coordination of donations as other nations seek to assist Iraq’s capacity building in its military structures; and officer training.
NTM-I’s Deputy Commander is an Italian – Major General Alessandro Pompegnani. To date the mission has trained over 1,000 Iraqi National Police Officers at a U.S.-supported facility near Baghdad, and are on track to train an additional 1,600 officers by the end of 2009. As the security situation continues to slowly improve, we hope to continue to see the maturing of the training capability of Iraqi forces and NTM-I will move more into the background.
C. KFOR –
In Kosovo, U.S. and Italian forces have worked side-by-side in the NATO and UN Missions from the outset. Italy, traditionally the largest troop contributor in the Balkans, has always played a leading role in the region. When Kosovo declared its independence earlier this year, the Italian government offered immediate political and technical support to the new nation’s government. Italy, working closely with the U.S., will play a lead role in training the Kosovo security forces to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
The United States and Italy work together throughout the world and in many different multilateral fora to advance our common interests of freedom and security. Italy has been a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council since January 2007, and will remain so until the end of this year. During that period of time, the Council has taken important action on crises throughout the world, with important input from Italy. Whether in promoting peace in Somalia or the Great Lakes of Africa or supporting the international effort to halt Iranian nuclear proliferation, the United States relies on like-minded countries like Italy in the Security Council to make progress on the world’s most pressing problems.
One major concern for both of our nations remains the extremism supported by the regime in Tehran. Iran is today the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. It undermines Lebanese hopes for peace by arming and aiding the terrorist group Hizballah. It subverts the hopes for peace in other parts of the region by funding terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It sends arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Shia militants in Iraq. It seeks to intimidate its neighbors with ballistic missiles and bellicose rhetoric. And finally it defies the UN and destabilizes the region by refusing to be open and transparent about its nuclear programs and ambitions. Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere, so the U.S. is strengthening our longstanding security commitments with our friends in the Gulf and rallying our friends around the world to confront this danger.
Iran was, is and will remain a threat if they are allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, as they have tried to do in the past. There is NO other reason for Iran to pursue uranium enrichment in direct violation of three UNSCRs. The U.S. firmly believes Iran has a right to civilian nuclear power. The U.S. along with its international partners has provided a way for Iran to come to the negotiating table to talk about options for civilian nuclear power if they agree to verifiably suspend enrichment as called for by the UN Security Council Resolutions. And until we see them verifiably suspend, the US will remain concerned and skeptical, and continue down the diplomatic path, but will also keep all options on the table.
The international community, in the form of the UNSC has called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment. We remain united in that call, and the U.S. will press for increasing sanctions and economic measures until Iran complies. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our Italian counterparts on the Iranian dossier and appreciate the vocal hard line the current Italian administration is taking. We remain confident that isolation and united international pressure can have the effect of changing the behavior of the Iranian regime.
Italy has also played a leading role within the UN on Lebanon, yet another shared security challenge. With the UNIFIL command and as the single largest troop contributing nation, Italy is playing a crucial role in maintaining the fragile peace in southern Lebanon. Instability in Lebanon could spill-over into other parts of the region which is what makes Italy’s UNIFIL contribution so critical. The new Lebanese government will need our support, and that of UNIFIL. Lebanon’s neighbors, Syria in particular, need to stop intimidating the Lebanese. And Iran needs to stop undermining Lebanese authority and hopes for peace by arming Hizballah. The United States will not falter in our support for the democratically elected Lebanese government and we know Italy shares our commitment. We appreciate the UN’s efforts to rapidly stand up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon which will hold accountable those responsible for the assassination of Former PM Hariri 3 years ago – and other related crimes.
The U.S. and Italy have also made great strides together in the area of G8 cooperation on security matters. In 2005, as part of the G8 Action Plan on Expanding Global Capability in Peace Support Operations adopted at the Sea Island Summit, Italy and the U.S. launched the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) in Vicenza, Italy. Run by the Carabinieri, CoESPU has trained over 1,300 gendarme-style police officers from 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe to lead and assemble Stability Police Units, which are a key element in UN Peace Operations from Haiti to Darfur to East Timor. The Carabinieri, who developed the Stability Police Unit model in Bosnia and Kosovo, are the world leaders in gendarme-style police training. The Deputy Director of CoESPU is a U.S. Army Colonel, and the U.S. covers about half of the Center’s training expenses.
IV US Bases
On the bilateral level, Italy is our most important ally for projecting security to the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Under the NATO flag, the Italian government hosts over 15,000 U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian employees and 17,000 family members on six Italian military bases. The U.S. military employs 5,000 Italian nationals at these facilities. Our troops, officers and personnel at these facilities provide support to our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as key logistical support to NATO missions in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Having our military working so closely with the Italian armed forces brings added benefits to both sides: for instance, U.S. troops returning from missions in Afghanistan can conduct joint training exercises at Vicenza with Italian counterparts who are preparing to serve in the same the same theater. The Italian military also sends hundreds of officers every year to train in the U.S., and purchases or co-develops dozens of weapon systems from U.S. industry. And the number of US soldiers, sailors and airmen who end up with Italian spouses also contributes a special texture and closeness to the relationship. This close security relationship ensures that U.S. and Italian forces have a high degree of interoperability and a common view of the global challenges of security, stability and post-conflict reconstruction and an attachment to each other’s homeland.
Another major common security challenge on which we are working together is the Middle East Peace Process. Italy is an important partner in this process. The United States is working toward the vision of a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, stability, prosperity, and dignity. A Palestinian state will enhance stability in the Middle East and contribute to the security of the people of Israel. The peace agreement should happen, and can happen, by the end of this year.
The Annapolis peace process, which Italy was a part of, has three tracks: the Roadmap implementation, improvements in the situation on the ground and political negotiations. It is our hope that leaders on both sides will ensure that their teams negotiate seriously and discuss the core issues between them. Both sides need to fulfill their commitments under the Roadmap. Neither party should undertake any activity that contravenes Roadmap obligations or prejudices final status negotiations. On the Israeli side, that includes ending settlement expansion and removing unauthorized outposts. On the Palestinian side, that includes confronting terrorists and dismantling terrorist infrastructure.
The U.S. will not dictate the terms of an agreement, but will remain firmly engaged in the process. We are committed to getting the two parties themselves- involved in a process where they can start to outline elements for themselves because in the end they are the ones who are going to have to implement the agreement and live with it. President Bush has said that a final solution must ensure a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent and he has said it’s not going to be a “Swiss cheese” state.
As the parties make progress on the peace process, they may look around the region at examples of how to guarantee the peace. And two examples come immediately to mind and in both Italy plays a key role. I am of course thinking of the Multinational Force Observers in the Sinai (MFO) and UNIFIL. Both serve a crucial function to guarantee stability in the region and I suspect both will be used as examples/models to be followed in future international missions in the region.
With this brief overview of U.S.- Italian security cooperation, I hope I have managed to show that though the challenges we face are many and complex, our cooperation on these and other issues has been broad, deep, and enduring — the kind of cooperation which is an essential prerequisite for facing these challenges successfully. Let me at this point turn the floor over to my friend Senator Marcello Pera, for his always insightful thoughts on this topic.