At Least 14 Italian Soldiers Die in Iraq

As you’ve probably heard by now, a car bomb went off in the Italian base in Nasiryiah today, killing numerous Italian soldiers and Iraqis. As you may know, I like to understand what’s happening in the domestic politics of other countries. So here are some quotes of reaction from various Italian politicians, compiled from the BBC and The Guardian.

Pietro Folena of the main opposition party, the Democrats of the Left, said:

“They were sent to an Iraq in flames because the government wanted to do a favour for the Bush administration without taking risks into consideration. Now the Italian soldiers must come home. It is the only right thing to do at this moment.”

Green Party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said troops should be pulled out of Iraq:

“It is immoral to put the lives of thousands of young Italians at risk for Bush’s pre-emptive war.”

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, after consulting with Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, voiced his grief over the losses, but insisted the operation should go on:

“No intimidation should distract us from our will to help that country rise up again and build up self-government, security and freedom.”

The European Commission president, Italy’s Romano Prodi, has called for peacekeeping operations in Iraq to be taken over by the UN:

“We must move on to a phase where the UN has a greater involvement in achieving peace, a phase in which greater weight and power must be given to the Iraqi people within the Iraqi Government.

“I had always thanked God because the Italians had been spared, but our fears were justified: this time it was our turn.”

I’ll be curious to see the sort of pressure that Berlusconi faces over the coming days. This is the sort of thing that can bring down governments, if not handled carefully.

Note that Nasiriyah was the site of the heaviest losses for US troops during the invasion or Iraq. A story from yesterday’s BBC provides one of the first comprehensive accountings of that day, in which 29 US soldiers were killed. It’s a rather chilling story, not least because of the estimate that in addition to the US dead, over 1,000 Iraqis died during the fight for Nasiriyah.