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Libya and Italy fallout

A Predator UAV launches a Hellfire missile

Now that Italy has officially agreed to take part in directly bombing Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, it looks as though the Italy/Libya friendship pact is at an end. The fallout from the end of the friendship may signal the end of the battered Berlusconi government.

Gaddafi appears to be very unhappy that his former friend Silvio Berlusconi is now bombing him and may believe Italy was involved in one of the raids in which one of Gaddafi’s sons reportedly died. One sign of Gaddafi’s anger is that Italy’s embassy in Tripoli has been set alight.

Gaddafi has threatened to bring to war to Italy, which is a little scary. As if the threats where not enough, to cap it all, Northern League, boss, Umberto Bossi has threatened to bring Berlusconi’s government down.

I suppose this is what happens when one makes friends with unstable despots. If some form of attack is made on Italy by Gaddafi’s supporters, then Silvio Berlusconi’s already battered image will suffer another walloping.

Italians may then question whether treating Gaddafi like a king was such a great idea on Berlusconi’s part. Time, as always, will tell.

A few weeks ago I took a look at whether Gaddafi’s army had the capacity to attack Italy and the answer, at least on paper, is that some form of conventional attack on Italy from Libya is unlikely.

UAV/UCAV Threat from Libya

“What about UAVs/UCAVs?”, I asked myself. You too may be wondering whether Libya has those near invisible remote controlled war machines which go by fear-inspiring names such as ‘predator’ and the like.

Well, it appears that Libya does have a number of UAVs. Now, before you go running for cover or decide abandon your home in Rome for the hills, you should know that the kind of UAVs Libya apparently has are not offensive death-raining predator type UAVs. No. Libya may have between 15 and 20 Pakistani Integrated Dynamics Border Eagle UAVs according to an article from 2006 on FlightGlobal.com.

As its innocuous sounding name suggests, the Border Eagle UAV is primarily intended to patrol borders and only has a range of 30 kilometres (under 20 miles).

A Predator UAV launches a Hellfire missile
A Predator launches a Hellfire missile

Could these UAVs be fitted with Hellfire missiles (the aggressively named and destructive missiles some US UAVs carry)? No. Why? A Hellfire AGM-114R II missile (the version made for Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles) weighs in at 50 kg (110 lb). The maximum take-off weight of the dinky Border Eagle UAV is 15 kg (33 lb), so the thing would not get off the ground if a Hellfire were to be bolted onto it.

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Yes, those of us who live in Italy can probably breath a sigh of relief, as airborne missiles sent from UAVs don’t seem to be one of the ways in which Gaddafi could wreak his vengeance on unfriendly Italy.

What could Unhappy Gaddafi Do?

Terrorism. He’s done it in the past, and he may try it again.

Will Italians Blame Berlusconi if an Attack Happens?

Partially, possibly. Italy, seeing as its location is strategically advantageous in terms of its proximity to Libya,   would probably have been involved in an attack on Libya even if it had not been ‘friends’ with the country. This, in itself, would have made Italy a target for attacks by the enraged Colonel.

Now though, Gaddafi will be even more angry at Italy owing the fact they he clearly feels let down by his (former) friend Berlusconi. Consequently any attack which comes, if it does, may be more vicious.

Let’s hope Italy and Libya kiss and make up as soon as the conflict ends. However, before this happens, Berlusconi is going to have to weather another storm which has blown up around Italy’s involvement in the Libya affair.

Unhappy Northern League

Berlusconi’s coalition allies, the Northern League, are very unhappy that Italy is bombing Libya directly (The Northern League fears an uncontrollable influx of immigrants) and is threatening to bring down the Berlusconi government unless certain terms are met. One such term is the naming of a date when the conflict will cease.

The Padania Flag - Symbol of Lega Nord
The Padania Flag - Symbol of Lega Nord

What is not clear is whether the Northern League want to know when Italy will cease to participate or when the joint action by Nato forces will end.

While Berlusconi can possibly decide when Italy stops using its planes to bomb Libya, it is going to be rather difficult for him to convince the USA, France and the UK to bring their intervention to a conclusion at the same time.

Italy could say: “OK, boys, you can no longer use Italy as a base from which to bomb Libya.”, but this may not make the other nations too happy.

I hope Berlusconi has some triple strength headache pills – he’s going to need them.

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