It’s official: Italy will lead NATO’s strengthened commitment to Iraq starting next spring. As anticipated two days ago by Formiche.net, the Atlantic Alliance has sent formal notification to the permanent representation of our country, led by the ambassador Francesco Talò. To welcome with “satisfaction” the official assignment of command was Lorenzo Guerini, which followed the dossier and promoted the Italian candidacy in the multiple tables with allies and partners, starting with the Baghdad authorities. After four trips to the country in just over a year, the last contact was only a few weeks ago, during the meeting in Rome with the colleague Friday Enad as part of the visit of the government delegation led by the premier Mustafa Al- Kadhimi, entertained with Mario Draghi.
“The Italian institutions are on the side of Iraq and support its stability,” said Guerini on that occasion. It is precisely this that prompted Italy to apply for the “NATO mission in Iraq”, or “Nmi”, active since 2018, which the Atlantic Alliance has chosen to strengthen as early as February 2020, following Baghdad’s request. This is a “mission of advice, training and development of non-combat capabilities, conducted in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq”. Italy will lead it from next May, when the mandate entrusted to Denmark (with the lieutenant general) will end Michael Lollesgaard).
The decision to strengthen NATO’s commitment in Iraq came in the wake of the difficulties experienced by the United States in the country, between the attacks on American bases and the grievances of the Iraqi policy itself (with Tehran influences) after the killing in Baghdad of the Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani, in January of last year. In parallel, the need in the field has evolved, given the mitigation of the frontal threat of ISIS (defeated in the field), which has directed Iraq to seek greater support on elements of consolidation and prevention: training, intelligence and consultancy. . It is no coincidence that the strengthening of the NATO mission is taking place through a progressive transfer of skills from the global anti-Daesh Coalition, born with the specific objective of fighting and defeating Isis. Monday, at the White House, Joe Biden e Mustafa Al- Kadhimi they signed the new “strategic relationship” between the two countries, certifying the complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the end of the year. However, the units assigned to the aforementioned competences will remain, confirming a revision of the US commitment envisaged and agreed with allies, partners and local authorities.
Italy has chosen to increase its engagement in Iraq. It did so by responding to Baghdad’s demands, to the question of the United States (which has long been asking its allies to take more responsibility in the Middle East) and to its own national interests. As we noted just a few days ago, strategic and economic interests are added to the fight against terrorism. According to the data of the Italian Oil Union, in 2020 Iraq was the second supplier of crude oil to our country (preceded only by Azerbaijan), covering over 17% of national demand. In 2019 it was in first place, with a share of 20%, while in the first four months of 2021 it ranks fourth, after Azerbaijan, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
In 2020, our Parliament authorized a deployment of 1,100 units for the Prima Parthica operation, within the anti-Daesh Coalition, and of 46 units for the NATO training mission. With the progressive strengthening of the Alliance’s mission, the Italian contribution to the two commitments is also destined to change. The Council of Ministers approved the resolution on international missions in mid-June, which is now being examined by Parliament. It is possible to appreciate the partial shift of assets from the Coalition to the NATO mission, with the first having authorized a maximum deployment of 900 units (200 less than in 2020) and the second which rises to about 280 units (over 200 more than to 2020).