The question of Spanish troops returning from Iraq looks far more complex and much less certain than some have suggested according to this report on a possible switch over to NATO control under a UN and Iraqi mandate.
In the Italian centre left newspaper Il Riformista, former UN commissioner and EU politician Emma Bonino says that for Zapatero’s threat to make any sense it must be directed towards Germany and France rather than Washington.
“If you want UN involvement in Iraq then send your soilders there,” is Bonino’s blunt message to Germany and France.
Meanwhile Romano Prodi, the EU commissioner who is about to take over as leader of the Italian left in their electoral challenge against Silvio Berlusconi, has resisted calls for him to commit the opposition to a populist Zapatero style troop withdrawal threat.
“It is one thing to go there, it is another to come back,” said Prodi, who is noted for such clarity.
What he actually means is that while he understands that most of the left opposed Italian troops going to Iraq, the armed forces are there now and it would be wrong to pull them out.
This is quite significant. The war was about as popular with Italians as it was with Spaniards and there was also a good deal of opposition from the Christian right. The Pope after all took an anti-war position. So a ‘troops out’ policy from Italy’s centre-left coalition would have been a vote winner, possibly an election winner.
Prodi is not a popular figure outside of Italy but he deserves some credit for taking this position.