My piece on Italy’s post-Gaddafi maneuvering has just been published in Time.
If one of the first casualties of the six-month-old uprising in Libya was Italy’s relationship with Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, one of the first dividends of its conclusion could be renewed ties between Rome and whoever replaces the fallen dictator. Even as gunshots continued to ring out in the streets of Tripoli, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was on the phone with Mahmoud Gebril, Prime Minister of the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC), congratulating him on the rebels’ rapid advance on the Libyan capital, promising him Italian support and warmly inviting him for a visit. “The National Transitional Council and all the combatants involved in Tripoli are realizing their aspiration for a new, united, democratic Libya,” Berlusconi said in a statement. “The Italian government is at their side.”
The last time a Libyan leader visited Italy, he took an entourage of hundreds of people and pitched a tent in the grounds of one Rome’s historic villas. As long as Gaddafi ruled Libya, Berlusconi was bent on pleasing him. Before fighting broke out in February, Libya was Italy’s largest provider of oil and gas, providing roughly a third of Italy’s oil production to the country. Gaddafi’s government owned substantial shares of Italian companies, including 7.5% of UniCredit, the largest bank in Italy, and 7% of the Torino-based Juventus soccer club. In 2009, Gaddafi was given a seat at the table during the G-8 summit in Italy. And at one point, Berlusconi leaned down to kiss his hand.
Read the rest.