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Conversation With Francesco Pazienza

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For those of you who do not know him, Dr. Pazienza in brief

It would not be enough to write a whole book to describe this incredible character, let alone an introduction. Unfortunately we are forced to be very synthetic. He has been defined in many ways: Brasseur d’affaires, intelligence officer, freemason, playboy. He has been behind the greatest Italian mysteries of the First Republic and even beyond;

He kept in touch with heads of state, ministers, bankers, director of intelligence agencies, high prelates, and obviously beautiful women. Meant to be a doctor, after he graduated with honors (110/110) from medical college from Università “La Sapienza” Roma, he instead became the special adviser to General Giuseppe Santovito, former director of “Servizio informazioni e sicurezza militare” (former Italian Military Intelligence Agency). He caused President Jimmy Carter’s brother to be defeated at the election, thanks to his investigations into some financial affairs with Libyans and sexual encounters in a Rome hotel, thus leading to the Republican Party victory. Involved in the liberation of the Italian politician Ciro Cirillo kidnapped by Camorra and close to the legendary Roberto Calvi, the God’s banker president of Banco Ambrosiano, he knew personally Aristotle Onassis, David Rockefeller and used to spend his holidays on Persian Prince Ali Reza’s yacht. He personally organized the financing ($4million of gold ingots) of the Polish labour union “Solidarnosc”, with the final goal to destabilize the Communism on an international level and the preparation of the diplomatic meeting between Pope John Paul II and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. And all of this is just a taste. In other words, Mr. Pazienza has been, and continues to be, a multifaceted personality. The kind of man that is increasingly difficult to find today. With his savoir-faire typical of someone who, through thick and thin, as really lived life, he reveals himself exceptionally cultured, ranging from ancient China history to the most unusual details Winston Churchill’s life, his favorite historical character. All things considered, what we can certainly say after meeting him is that Mr. Pazienza is a first-class guardian of the truths concealed behind 40 years of Italian and world history. Get ready for next year’s next book, it will be an earthquake for everyone. We strongly suggest to read his first book as well. The title is Il Disubbidiente. However finding a copy might prove harder than you think since, “somehow”, it has disappeared from circulation.

Below we share some interesting and significant excerpts from our conversation with “Frank”, touching some topics of current concern in world politics and economy.

Libya

The first reflection that must be made on Libya is about the problem of the two Libyas.

The Italians risked taking off Haftar’s position, while Macron had straight away the courage to invite him to Paris. Libyans, as strange as it may sound, love Italians. They prefer to deal with Italians rather than with French. Let’s not forget that the mess, because mess is the only right word to use in this case, which we see nowadays in Libya, broke out thanks to Mr. Sarkozy. Subsequently, Obama, who, despite being a good internal affairs president, has done nothing but mistakes on a the international level, joined the French President in the operation against Gaddafi.

Frequent contacts between the Fayez al-Sarraj’s group and General Haftar’s group are taking place since the only thing that they can do at present moment is to reach an agreement. A key issue in Libya is represented by frontiers, which configuration depends on many interests linked to migrant routes. Al-Sarraj is trying to do everything possible to settle this frontiers matter, but clans and tribes are creating big problems because of the influence they gained in the last years on the territory. Once, every two or three months, Gaddafi use to depart with lorries loaded with loads of money and proceeded to distribute them to the various clan leaders, this how he managed to keep them all quiet.

Now Libya is in a very confusing state that must be removed as soon as possible. Potentially, it is a very rich country, having one of the best petroleum in the world, considering the sulfur rate close to zero.

It is essential that Al-Sarraj and General Haftar find an understanding; at last, Italy also decided to meet the Libyan General.

I believe that Libya will be stabilized in the next 6/12 months.

Trump, the United States, and the Shah of Persia

If you make an analysis of what Trump said during his election campaign and confront it with what he is doing now, you realize that, to name Al Capone in “The Untouchables”, he is “nothing but a lot of talks and a badge”. He backtracked to many times.

Recently, he is making a big fuss about the Iran’s nuclear deal.

Just consider that I was a close friend of Shah of Persia’s family and his son Prince Ali Reza’s partner. Moreover, I was also in the United States a business partner with Bob Armao, who was the  Shah’s Chief of Staff in exile. The Shah was dying of cancer, but they did not allow him to enter the United States. I remember spending the 1982 holidays with Prince Ali Reza, who told me “Can you believe it?! We spent the 1978 New Year’s Eve in our palace together with President Jimmy Carter and his wife; President Carter toasted with my father, referring to him as the most faithful friend of America in the Middle East. And just after a few years, they do not even let him enter the United States to get medical treatment ?! “

I remember that at the beginning of Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime the New York Times made an article in which he painted him as an illuminated character.

Today the Iranian regime has stabilized itself and among other things, if you go to Tehran, the worst car you can find around is a Mercedes 500. So to conclude, Trump now is talking so much, but he just should stop talking shit.

National Rifle Association

Everyone still goes shopping for weapons like they were candies. The National Rifle Association is such a powerful lobby that nobody has the courage to take a step against it. It brings millions of votes during each election. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution refers to the 1812 War against England when it was still demanded that everyone had weapons, so that in case of a call of duty, everyone would be ready. Can someone explain what the meaning of all of that now?! It also makes me laugh that by law some weapons cannot be sold as automatic. In fact, you simply go on the internet and for 30 bucks you can buy a small device that turns them to automatic in a blink of an eye.

National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and US Think Tank

You can be sure that Trump will be present at the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Gala. The President of the United States must attend these events. Do you know the statement about American elections? To win the American elections you need the three “I”: Israel, Ireland, and Italy. Without the three “I” you do not become POTUS.

In my opinion, Think Tanks nowadays has a far more marginal role. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) counted very much some years ago. It was the one that at the time of Reagan presidency practically imposed Haig as Secretary of State. Now too many of this kind of organizations have been created. The American Enterprise Institute does not matter anymore. They are realities that don’t serve more than just to businessman that, by paying expensive membership fees, can say to be insiders. The demonstration that these think tank are less and less influential is Donald Trump’s election, who had none of them to support him. Trump, from a negative perspective, is the equivalent of Carter. When Carter run for the presidency, he almost didn’t have the party (Democratic) support for election. Meanwhile, his brother Billy was invited for dinner by Gaddafi and bought a villa with George Habash. It is not like now that there are thousands of terrorist groups; At that time there were only two or three. The most important were the one of “The Doctor” because, let us not forget that, George Habash was a doctor.

Italy and international scenery

The future of Europe and Italy in particular, will more with the Russians than the Americans. The Russians, first of all, are Europeans like us; Secondly, we Italians have no raw materials and resources and therefore we must exploit technologies and capitals. Actually, the Russians do not know exactly the amount of resources present in the subsoil of Siberia or in other areas of their territory. I would also like to add that Putin, let me tell you, is a man with a thick skin; this is the reality of the facts. It is useless to say that Putin does not respect democracy. Look, let’s move on.

Surely we must be grateful to the Americans because if it were not for their intervention in World War II, we would still greet each other with the Fascist salute. But we must say that Americans do not understand a single thing in foreign affairs. This is my point of view.

China, New Global Power?

The Chinese intervention in Africa looks like this: the Chinese present themselves, at first as a third world countries benevolent supporter; however, after a while ‘time, they turn out to be nothing more than neo-colonialists. One example that comes to my mind is Chad, where the Chinese have invested a lot and have a great presence on the territory.

A special case concerns Iran, where they have invested so much: well, Iranians no longer know how to get the Chinese out of their way. An anecdote among many others concerns a large oil plant financed by China. It was necessary to build a gas pipeline, for which, as you know, pipes must have high-tech construction specifications. Suffice to say that three Chinese cargo ships have arrived later carrying water pipes instead. The Iranians got really upset, however, considering China’s $ 8 billion funding amount to the plant, they had to stay quiet.

I do not think China can overcome America in its role of leading global power. But I must say that the United States will be remembered as one of the greatest empires of all history, but also as the one that lasted less. The Roman Empire remained great for over 500 years, while the Americans if they continue to act as they keep acting …

(*)Interview by Andrea Bonetti and Alessandro Strozzi

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Iceland’s Historic(al) Elections

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The morning of September, 26 was a good one for Lenya Run Karim of the Pirate Party. Once the preliminary results were announced, things were clear: the 21-year-old law student of the University of Iceland, originating from a Kurdish immigrant family, had become the youngest MP in the country’s history.

In historical significance, however, this event was second to another. Iceland, the world champion in terms of gender equality, became the first country in Europe to have more women MPs than men, 33 versus 30. The news immediately made world headlines: only five countries in the world have achieved such impressive results. Remarkably, all are non-European: Rwanda, Nicaragua and Cuba have a majority of women in parliament, while Mexico and the UAE have an equal number of male and female MPs.

Nine hours later, news agencies around the world had to edit their headlines. The recount in the Northwest constituency affected the outcome across the country to delay the ‘triumph for women’ for another four years.

Small numbers, big changes

The Icelandic electoral system is designed so that 54 out of the 63 seats in the Althingi, the national parliament, are primary or constituency seats, while another nine are equalization seats. Only parties passing the 5 per cent threshold are allowed to distribute equalisation seats that go to the candidates who failed to win constituency mandates and received the most votes in their constituency. However, the number of equalisation mandates in each of the 6 constituencies is legislated. In theory, this could lead to a situation in which the leading party candidate in one constituency may simply lack an equalisation mandate, so the leading candidate of the same party—but in another constituency—receives it.

This is what happened this year. Because of a difference of only ten votes between the Reform Party and the Pirate Party, both vying for the only equalisation mandate in the Northwest, the constituency’s electoral commission announced a recount on its own initiative. There were also questions concerning the counting procedure as such: the ballots were not sealed but simply locked in a Borgarnes hotel room. The updated results hardly affected the distribution of seats between the parties, bringing in five new MPs, none of whom were women, with the 21-year-old Lenya Run Karim replaced by her 52-year-old party colleague.

In the afternoon of September, 27, at the request of the Left-Green Movement, supported by the Independence Party, the Pirates and the Reform Party, the commission in the South announced a recount of their own—the difference between the Left-Greens and the Centrists was only seven votes. There was no ‘domino effect’, as in the case of the Northwest, as the five-hour recount showed the same result. Recounts in other districts are unlikely, nor is it likely that Althingi—vested with the power to declare the elections valid—would invalidate the results in the Northwest. Nevertheless, the ‘replaced’ candidates have already announced their intention to appeal against the results, citing violations of ballot storage procedures. Under the Icelandic law, this is quite enough to invalidate the results and call a re-election in the Northwest, as the Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the Constitutional Council elections due to a breach of procedure 10 years ago. Be that as it may, the current score remains 33:30, in favor of men.

Progressives’ progress and threshold for socialists

On the whole, there were no surprises: the provisional allocation of mandates resembles, if with minor changes, the opinion polls on the eve of the election.

The ruling three-party coalition has rejuvenated its position, winning 37 out of the 63 Althingi seats. The centrist Progressive Party saw a real electoral triumph, improving its 2017 result by five seats. Prime-minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement, albeit with a slight loss, won eight seats, surpassing all pre-election expectations. Although the centre-right Independence Party outperformed everyone again to win almost a quarter of all votes, 16 seats are one of the worst results of the Icelandic ‘Grand Old Party’ ever.

The results of the Social-Democrats, almost 10% versus 12.1% in 2017, and of the Pirates, 8.6% versus 9.2%, have deteriorated. Support for the Centre Party of Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former prime-minister and victim of the Panama Papers, has halved from 10.9% to 5.4%. The centrists have seen a steady decline in recent years, largely due to a sexist scandal involving party MPs. The populist People’s Party and the pro-European Reform Party have seen gains of 8.8% and 8.3%, as compared to 6.9% and 6.7% in the previous elections.

Of the leading Icelandic parties, only the Socialist Party failed to pass the 5 per cent threshold: despite a rating above 7% in August, the Socialists received only 4.1% of the vote.

Coronavirus, climate & economy

Healthcare and the fight against COVID-19 was, expectedly, on top of the agenda of the elections: 72% of voters ranked it as the defining issue, according to a Fréttablaðið poll. Thanks to swift and stringent measures, the Icelandic government brought the coronavirus under control from day one, and the country has enjoyed one of the lowest infection rates in the world for most of the time. At the same time, the pandemic exposed a number of problems in the national healthcare system: staff shortages, low salaries and long waiting lists for emergency surgery.

Climate change, which Icelanders are already experiencing, was an equally important topic. This summer, the temperature has not dropped below 20°C for 59 days, an anomaly for a North-Atlantic island. However, Icelanders’ concerns never converted into increased support for the four left-leaning parties advocating greater reductions in CO2 emission than the country has committed to under the Paris Agreement: their combined result fell by 0.5%.

The economy and employment were also among the main issues in this election. The pandemic has severely damaged the island nation’s economy, which is heavily tourism-reliant—perhaps, unsurprisingly, many Icelanders are in favor of reviving the tourism sector as well as diversifying the economy further.

The EU membership, by far a ‘traditional’ issue in Icelandic politics, is unlikely to be featured on the agenda of the newly-elected parliament as the combined result of the Eurosceptics, despite a loss of 4%, still exceeds half of the overall votes. The new Althingi will probably face the issue of constitutional reform once again, which is only becoming more topical in the light of the pandemic and the equalization mandates story.

New (old) government?

The parties are to negotiate coalition formation. The most likely scenario now is that the ruling coalition of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Progressives continues. It has been the most ideologically diverse and the first three-party coalition in Iceland’s history to last a full term. A successful fight against the pandemic has only strengthened its positions and helped it secure additional votes. Independence Party leader and finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson has earlier said he would be prepared to keep the ruling coalition if it holds the majority. President Guðni Jóhannesson announced immediately after the elections that he would confirm the mandate of the ruling coalition to form a new government if the three parties could strike a deal.

Other developments are possible but unlikely. Should the Left-Greens decide to leave the coalition, they could be replaced by the Reform Party or the People’s Party, while any coalition without the Independence Party can only be a four-party or larger coalition.

Who will become the new prime-minister still remains to be seen—but if the ruling coalition remains in place, the current prime-minister and leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, stands a good chance of keeping her post: she is still the most popular politician in Iceland with a 40 per cent approval rate.

The 2021 Althingi election, with one of the lowest turnouts in history at 80.1%, has not produced a clear winner. The election results reflect a Europe-wide trend in which traditional “major” parties are losing support. The electorate is fragmenting and their votes are pulled by smaller new parties. The coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced this trend.

The 2021 campaign did not foreshadow a sensation. Although Iceland has not become the first European country with a women’s majority in parliament, these elections will certainly go down in history as a test of Icelanders’ trust to their own democracy.

From our partner RIAC

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EU-Balkan Summit: No Set Timeframe for Western Balkans Accession

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From left to right: Janez JANŠA (Prime Minister, Slovenia), Charles MICHEL (President of the European Council), Ursula VON DER LEYEN (President of the European Commission) Copyright: European Union

On October 6, Slovenia hosted a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans states. The EU-27 met with their counterparts (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo) in the sumptuous Renaissance setting of Brdo Castle, 30 kilometers north of the capital, Ljubljana. Despite calls from a minority of heads of state and government, there were no sign of a breakthrough on the sensitive issue of enlargement. The accession of these countries to the European Union is still not unanimous among the 27 EU member states.

During her final tour of the Balkans three weeks ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the peninsula’s integration was of “geostrategic” importance. On the eve of the summit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz backed Slovenia’s goal of integrating this zone’s countries into the EU by 2030.

However, the unanimity required to begin the hard negotiations is still a long way off, even for the most advanced countries in the accession process, Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria, which is already a member of the EU, is opposing North Macedonia’s admission due to linguistic and cultural differences. Since Yugoslavia’s demise, Sofia has rejected the concept of Macedonian language, insisting that it is a Bulgarian dialect, and has condemned the artificial construction of a distinct national identity.

Other countries’ reluctance to join quickly is of a different nature. France and the Netherlands believe that previous enlargements (Bulgaria and Romania in 2007) have resulted in changes that must first be digested before the next round of enlargement. The EU-27 also demand that all necessary prior guarantees be provided regarding the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption in these countries. Despite the fact that press freedom is a requirement for membership, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the EU to make “support for investigative and professional journalism” a key issue at the summit.”

While the EU-27 have not met since June, the topic of Western Balkans integration is competing with other top priorities in the run-up to France’s presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022. On the eve of the summit, a working dinner will be held, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, called for “a strategic discussion on the role of the Union on the international scene” in his letter of invitation to the EU-Balkans Summit, citing “recent developments in Afghanistan,” the announcement of the AUKUS pact between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which has enraged Paris.

The Western Balkans remain the focal point of an international game of influence in which the Europeans seek to maintain their dominance. As a result, the importance of reaffirming a “European perspective” at the summit was not an overstatement. Faced with the more frequent incursion of China, Russia, and Turkey in that European region, the EU has pledged a 30 billion euro Economic and Investment Plan for 2021-2027, as well as increased cooperation, particularly to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Opening the borders, however, is out of the question. In the absence of progress on this issue, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia have decided to establish their own zone of free movement (The Balkans are Open”) beginning January 1, 2023. “We are starting today to do in the region what we will do tomorrow in the EU,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama when the agreement was signed last July.

This initiative, launched in 2019 under the name “Mini-Schengen” and based on a 1990s idea, does not have the support of the entire peninsular region, which remains deeply divided over this project. While Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are not refusing to be a part of it and are open to discussions, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who took office in 2020, for his part accuses Serbia of relying on this project to recreate “a fourth Yugoslavia”

Tensions between Balkan countries continue to be an impediment to European integration. The issue of movement between Kosovo and Serbia has been a source of concern since the end of September. Two weeks of escalation followed Kosovo’s decision to prohibit cars with Serbian license plates from entering its territory, in response to Serbia’s long-standing prohibition on allowing vehicles to pass in the opposite direction.

In response to the mobilization of Kosovar police to block the road, Serbs in Kosovo blocked roads to their towns and villages, and Serbia deployed tanks and the air force near the border. On Sunday, October 3, the conflict seemed to be over, and the roads were reopened. However, the tone had been set three days before the EU-Balkans summit.

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German Election: Ramifications for the US Foreign Policy

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Image source: twitter @OlafScholz

In the recent German election, foreign policy was scarcely an issue. But Germany is an important element in the US foreign policy. There is a number of cases where Germany and the US can cooperate, but all of these dynamics are going to change very soon.

The Germans’ strategic culture makes it hard to be aligned perfectly with the US and disagreements can easily damage the relations. After the tension between the two countries over the Iraq war, in 2003, Henry Kissinger said that he could not imagine the relations between Germany and the US could be aggravated so quickly, so easily, which might end up being the “permanent temptation of German politics”. For a long time, the US used to provide security for Germany during the Cold War and beyond, so, several generations are used to take peace for granted. But recently, there is a growing demand on them to carry more burden, not just for their own security, but for international peace and stability. This demand was not well-received in Berlin.

Then, the environment around Germany changed and new threats loomed up in front of them. The great powers’ competition became the main theme in international relations. Still, Germany was not and is not ready for shouldering more responsibility. Politicians know this very well. Ursula von der Leyen, who was German defense minister, asked terms like “nuclear weapons” and “deterrence” be removed from her speeches.

Although on paper, all major parties appreciate the importance of Germany’s relations with the US, the Greens and SPD ask for a reset in the relations. The Greens insist on the European way in transatlantic relations and SPD seeks more multilateralism. Therefore, alignment may be harder to maintain in the future. However, If the tensions between the US and China heat up to melting degrees, then external pressure can overrule the internal pressure and Germany may accede to its transatlantic partners, just like when Helmut Schmid let NATO install medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan and the Cold War heated up.

According to the election results, now three coalitions are possible: grand coalition with CDU/CSU and SPD, traffic lights coalition with SPD, FDP, and Greens, Jamaica coalition with CDU/CSU, FDP, and Greens. Jamaica coalition will more likely form the most favorable government for the US because it has both CDU and FDP, and traffic lights will be the least favorite as it has SPD. The grand coalition can maintain the status quo at best, because contrary to the current government, SPD will dominate CDU.

To understand nuances, we need to go over security issues to see how these coalitions will react to them. As far as Russia is concerned, none of them will recognize the annexation of Crimea and they all support related sanctions. However, if tensions heat up, any coalition government with SPD will be less likely assertive. On the other hand, as the Greens stress the importance of European values like democracy and human rights, they tend to be more assertive if the US formulates its foreign policy by these common values and describe US-China rivalry as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. Moreover, the Greens disapprove of the Nordstream project, of course not for its geopolitics. FDP has also sided against it for a different reason. So, the US must follow closely the negotiations which have already started between anti-Russian smaller parties versus major parties.

For relations with China, pro-business FDP is less assertive. They are seeking for developing EU-China relations and deepening economic ties and civil society relations. While CDU/CSU and Greens see China as a competitor, partner, and systemic rival, SPD and FDP have still hopes that they can bring change through the exchange. Thus, the US might have bigger problems with the traffic lights coalition than the Jamaica coalition in this regard.

As for NATO and its 2 percent of GDP, the division is wider. CDU/CSU and FDP are the only parties who support it. So, in the next government, it might be harder to persuade them to pay more. Finally, for nuclear participation, the situation is the same. CDU/CSU is the only party that argues for it. This makes it an alarming situation because the next government has to decide on replacing Germany’s tornados until 2024, otherwise Germany will drop out of the NATO nuclear participation.

The below table gives a brief review of these three coalitions. 1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism and 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism. As it shows, the most anti-Russia coalition is Jamaica, while the most anti-China coalition is Trafic light. Meanwhile, Grand Coalition is the most pro-NATO coalition. If the US adopts a more normative foreign policy against China and Russia, then the Greens and FDP will be more assertive in their anti-Russian and anti-Chinese policies and Germany will align more firmly with the US if traffic light or Jamaica coalition rise to power.

Issues CoalitionsTrafic LightGrand CoalitionJamaica
Russia213 
China312 
NATO132 

1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism. 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism.

In conclusion, this election should not make Americans any happier. The US has already been frustrated with the current government led by Angela Merkel who gave Germany’s trade with China the first priority, and now that the left-wing will have more say in any imaginable coalition in the future, the Americans should become less pleased. But, still, there are hopes that Germany can be a partner for the US in great power competition if the US could articulate its foreign policy with common values, like democracy and human rights. More normative foreign policy can make a reliable partner out of Germany. Foreign policy rarely became a topic in this election, but observers should expect many ramifications for it.

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