One of Italy’s most eminent and prominent figures warns that Iran’s budding nuclear weapons program poses an “immediate threat” to the United States, Israel and the West, but that Washington needs to cautiously deal with the problem.
If not, Giancarlo Valori tells Newsmax, the United States could give “rise to power, which will be equally violent and dangerous, of the current opponents of Iran.”
Valori (pictured with Shimon Peres), a noted businessman, professor and economist, notes that if Israel is the key antagonist and policies toward Iran are “shaped by Tel Aviv,” actions against Tehran could imperil relations between the United States and Europe.
In some respects Valori acts like Italy’s Henry Kissinger. A private citizen who has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities, he has access to many world leaders. For example, Valori is one of the few Westerners to privately meet with North Korean dictator Kim Il-Jung.
In a wide-ranging interview with Newsmax, Valori offers a tough assessment of demographic changes sweeping Europe. He argues it may become necessary for Italy and other European countries to restrict immigration from Muslim nations.
As for the U.S. presidential election, he says Sen. Barack Obama “scares” European leaders, while the Italian right prefers Sen. John McCain. They could also accept Sen. Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Valori spoke with Newsmax after conservative Silvio Berlusconi was elected to a third nonconsecutive term as Italy’s prime minister in April.
Newsmax: How does the recent election of Silvio Berlusconi impact U.S.-Italian relations? In his previous term he was an ardent supporter of the war on terror and President Bush. Any change this time?
Valori: Silvio Berlusconi has been a supporter of the [global war on terror] during his last term, as proven by his statements while visiting President Bush at the end of July 2003, in Crawford, Texas.
What has changed? New Italian interests in the Middle East, which must be taken into account. Today, the primary objective of the Italian center-right government is the stability in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, which is why bilateral relations with Israel are so important to the Italian government.
For the current center-right government, Israel is the pivotal issue of interest, followed by protection of Southern Europe in the Middle East, as well as the growth of the Italian economic presence in Egypt, which is up 16 percent in exports compared to last year.
Therefore, if the peace process continues, with emphasis on a strong Israel, then Italy will find itself in a win-win situation.
Berlusconi’s government is very interested in an expansion of relations between Italy and the U.S.
Newsmax: Increasingly, there is anger in Europe over the U.S. role in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do the Italians view the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Valori: Recent polls by Eurisko [Italy’s leading research organization] show that 61 percent of the population is opposed to the war in Iraq, be it with participation of our troops or not.
Similar numbers are [to be expected] for the operations in Afghanistan. Geography may play a role: In the mass psychology of Italy, the more distant the theater of the battleground, the less sustainable is the military commitment.
A significant minority of the centre-right parties . . . supports the latest U.S. military actions in Iraq — about 35 percent.
As for the left wing, 43 percent are pro-Middle East, who, however, would explicitly reject any anti-Western reaction; 24 percent are explicitly anti-Zionism, and 33 percent are "moderate pro-Zionism."
If the United States presence in Iraq continues, there may be two reactions: one of U.S. impotence and another highlighting the uselessness of such a war.
Newsmax: The U.S. is stepping up pressure in Iran. But Iran seems intent on building nuclear weapons. Is diplomacy working? How will Europe react if the U.S. or Israel strikes Iran?
Valori: The issue regarding the Iranian military is complex. Basically, it is a matter of nuclear power under disguise of the needed energy resources of a radical Islamist country. Iran wants to position itself as player in the Persian Gulf, and realize its goal of being a threat to the West and to Israel.
The West should rely on previously used tactics to approach the situation.
First, Iran should be considered an immediate threat; however, disarming the threat must be done without crushing the entire area and without giving rise to power, which will be equally violent and dangerous, of the current opponents of Iran.
In other words, today, without careful thoughtful, and planning, an attack on Iran’s nuclear power, if shaped by Tel Aviv, would create a halt in the relationships between Italy and Israel, unless such attack would be surgical, immediate and absolute, like the one that destroyed Osirak in 1981 [Israel’s surgical strike on Iran’s Osirak reactor, which was destroyed in June 1981].
If Iran obtains nuclear weapons, what would stop a "peaceful" Iran from striking Israel with a nuclear weapon?
However, any [long-term] operation would [erode] support for Israel.
Newsmax: President Nicolas Sarkozy is moving France in a new direction. Foreign policy is becoming more aligned with the U.S. Do you see his domestic and foreign policies as examples of what we can expect in Italy?
Valori: No. Sarkozy’s France wants to be the U.S. point of reference, in order to regain the role inside NATO that it had when it was part of the Political Committee of the Atlantic Alliance, following the choice of De Gaulle in the mid-'60s.
Sarkozy is saying to the U.S.: You may just go to the Middle East, and we will control the NATO balances.
With Silvio Berlusconi’s government, Italy says, we have control over the background operations of the U.S.-EU penetration in the Mediterranean; we can cover the peripheral areas of the operations; we are credible and reliable for both contenders; and we have the insight and strategic pressure that few European governments can claim.
Newsmax: We’re you surprised that North Korea was aiding Syria to build a nuclear reactor?
Valori: No. There were signals, all very reliable, for some time.
Obviously, the decrease in pressure on North Korea to its nuclear ambitions, achieved mostly through China's mediation, does not mean that [North Korea] would not eye other countries in which China is not interested in dealing, or in which it is maybe even interested in actually promoting the nuclear build-up, like the case of Syria and Iran.
North Korea is destined to remain a rogue state. China wants it as a buffer against its geo-economic and strategic competitor — South Korea.
Newsmax: The Pope was extremely well received in the U.S. Is he being greeted in Europe the same way? How are Europeans reacting to his call for more tradition and faith?
Valori: Pope Benedict XVI wants to re-Christianize Europe and the U.S. In order to do this, he needs to [fight] the permissiveness and anti-tradition culture that today affects both the liberal-right and the moderate-left supporters.
The Church in Italy and elsewhere has learned its lesson: It will never again be part of one, or two at the most, political parties, but it will instead [focus on people, not parties].
It is likely that Pope Benedict XVI will not be able to achieve all of his plan. If there is one thing we can learn from the success of the Pope’s trip to the U.S., it is that the potential of the Roman Catholic Church to [unify] Christian faiths. And this would be a new U.S.-Europe [Christian alliance] that everybody would have to take into account.
Newsmax: Demographics show Europe is becoming more Muslim. How does Europe remain Christian in the face of this?
Valori: If the Islamic islands will be surrounded by vast Christian oceans, then the problem will be solved with civil, cultural integration. If the Muslim enclaves will be able to evolve, as it is outlined . . . by jihad organizations, then we could witness a [takeover] by radicalized Islam in marginal fringes of the European population.
It might become necessary to restrict [immigrants] from the East and Middle East.
It will also be necessary to enact a new cultural integration and schooling policy, which will unify . . . the respect of different beliefs. So far, the successes achieved by the European governments are minimal, and they will need to adapt in the future.
If the elementary and middle schooling systems were less tied to the U.S. ideology of "cultural islands", then the progress in integration would be significant.
Newsmax: Does Italy and Europe have a favorite candidate in the upcoming U.S. election?
Valori: Italy’s left wing supports Obama. Should Obama lose, it could even accept Hillary Clinton.
Italy’s right wing definitely prefers McCain. But it could also accept Hillary Clinton.
Barack Obama is a new phenomenon, who scares and causes wonder among the European chancelleries. He is black and young and handsome and [captures the attention] of the inner-city black population, as well as the white working class.
Whatever the results of the elections will be, he is a new phenomenon to be taken into consideration.
In the next U.S. presidential elections, it is essential for the EU that the victory go to someone who is not an isolationist, and with this issue in mind, certain positions of McCain will also need some [consideration].
Should Hillary win, there will be a need to redesign a plan regarding the existing alliances, in order to maximize the strategic defense capabilities of each NATO partner.
Should McCain win, there will be a need to convince the new Republican president that the U.S. role in Iraq and Afghanistan is no longer enough, and we must rethink a kind of "special NATO doctrine" for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, the drafting of which would need to include Israel.
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