Bridges to peace

Fabio Alberti from the Italian 'Bridges to Baghdad' argues that the peace movement will have to keep Prodi to his commitment to withdraw from Iraq and calls for the government to initiate an international peace conference.

July 1, 2006
5 min read

Home by the end of the year, even earlier maybe. Italy’s foreign minister Massimo D’Alema declared during his flash visit to Baghdad on June the 7th that Italy’s military presence in Iraq will be over ‘by autumn’. So, a few weeks more, and then the most unpopular, the costliest and bloodiest Italian military experience since World War II will be over. Or not?

D’Alema remarked that the centre-left coalition which won the Italian political election a few weeks ago had a committment to the voters. In fact, ‘Italy will not be leaving Iraq, but will provide political and economic assistance to the new government’. Furthermore, the long overdue withdrawal of Italian troops from the southern Iraqi province of Dhi Qar, will be ‘agreed with the Iraqi government and with allies to ensure that no power vacuum will be left’, he explained. The Italian parliament will soon be debating whether or not to renew the mission in Iraq and, if so, how much to pay for it. The dice, though have been cast.

‘It has not been easy, but we did it’, comments Fabio Alberti, head of the NGO, Bridge to Baghdad. They’ve been working in Iraq since 1993, and two of their staff workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta were kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents a year and an half ago. Fabio Alberti, with the expertise his NGO had accumulated in more than ten years of field work in Iraq has been at the forefront of Italy’s peace movement. ‘When one million people demonstrated in Rome, on the 15th of February 2003 we all thought that war was going to explode anyway. And when part of the centre-left coalition decided to vote to send troops, we all knew that they were going to change their mind. We knew we were right, and we are sorry to be proven right, though. Had Berlusconi’s government listened to Italians, who were overwhelmingly against the war, we would have saved the lives of Italian soldiers. And we wouldn’t have been accomplices to an occupation based on lies and developed through violence and political blackmail’.

Italy’s peace movement has been working ever since the start of the war to bring the voice of peaceloving citizen into government offices. Shifting the balance inside the centre-left coalition and even among some parts of the right coalition is the most important achievement of the peace movement. ‘Without those demonstrations, without the debates and events we have held in the last three years all round Italy, I doubt the new government woud have put troop withdrawal into its election programme’ says Alberti, and I doubt even more if it would have kept its word.’

The new government still has to clarify the date when the homecoming will be completed. They also have to explain what ‘economic and political assistance’ means exactly. ‘We do not want to have a continuation of the occupation in civilian clothes’, says Alberti.

The primary goal of the Italian presence in Dhi Qar province and in the city of Nassiriya turns out to have been protection of the interests of Italy’s oil company, ENI. It had been granted by Saddam Hussein the oil concession in the fields around Nassiriya. No-one ever believed the siting of the Italian troops there was a coincidence. ENI hope to have a share of Iraq’s oil wealth. Iraqis resistance and US errors and horrors cancelled this hope. ‘Maybe they realised that it is a better business technique not to equal the US and British troops’, guesses Alberti, ‘nonetheless, it is very good news, which allows Italy to play a different game’.

Alberti has been calling for an international peace conference on Iraq ever since George W. Bush triumphanly declared ‘mission accomplished!’ And he wanted Italy’s strong peace movement to be part of it: ‘We have started good work with the Iraqi oil workers’ union, and with other civil society organisations which are against the occupation, but do not share the jihadist taste for civil war and bloodshed’ he says, ‘they should be part of any new Iraqi institutional architecture and political process. Their exclusion so far has left space for corrupt political parties and religious organisations. It has been a mistake, as big as the exclusion of neighbouring countries, from Iran to Syria, into a wider approach to Iraqi security issues. Democracy is not just voting; if we want – and we do want – a peaceful and democratic Iraq we have to move away from a technocratic approach. We need to trust Iraqis and count on their desire for peace and self-determination. It is the only way to defuse the civil war and the ethnic-religious partition of the country, which would be a catastrophe. Such proposals need to be supported by countries which are not involved in the occupation. Now Italy has a chance to push for it. If we are not at war, we can talk politics, and work for a respectful peace’.Fabio Alberti was talking to Enzo Mangini from Carta, a partner with Red Pepper in Eurotopia.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant