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ISIS/1: MISSILES OVER ITALY

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For the time being, at least, it is being considered 'wishful thinking', but the plan that ISIS is circulating online in a programmatic document (titled “The Islamic State 2015) has the intelligence services worried because it contains “new and more serious specific threats against Italy.” And, as Italy’s Interior Minister, Angelino Alfano has already said, “no signal of danger must be underestimated.”

The text of the Islamists – an enhanced and “more sophisticated" update of a first sort of e-book released last year - is 100 pages long and is mostly written in imperfect English, although it is believed the authors are “Western citizens” who joined Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There is not a doubt that it was commissioned by ISIS leaders.

The e-book, "clearly propaganda", contains instructions on how to reach battle grounds in Syria and Iraq. It was presumably conceived mainly “to recruit new fighters for the so-called Islamic State” and “to counter efforts to block (recruitment of ) foreign fighters that are bound to take place, also through a new narrative.”

In the final pages, an attack against Europe is foreshadowed, once “the Persian Iranians” (a reference to the Shiites) have been defeated. “The tyrants in the Islamic Maghreb will be defeated by 2020” and “the Tunisian, Libyan, (and other) mujahedin will take possession of the weapons of those dictators,” of their bases, and of their long-range missiles.

“Ansar al Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb will begin to launch missiles towards the heart of Europe, as revenge for what their brothers had to suffer in Syria,” in what is called Malhama, the Great War.

The document – which includes a hand-made illustration made from a modified Google map - predicts an attack coming from three fronts that will see Europe “encircled” and “captured” by the “Global Islamic Caliphate”: “from the West (Spain), from the center (Italy, Rome) and from the east (Turkey, Costantinopole/Istanbul), “as explained in the map's caption.

The document also makes a technical consideration, about the M-75s “that are used today by some jihadist groups (for example, by Hamas)”: “we see they can cover a distance of 170 kilometers.” “If Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb launched missiles from the Tunisian coast towards Italy, they could reach it.” Rome is once again the target, and the city’s name, as well as that of our country, is circled in red.

In the conflict envisaged in the ISIS’ document, the time will come for a ground invasion of Italy “to support Europe’s oppressed Muslims (who will be subjected to torture because they will be considered ‘enemies from within’).

As for Spain: “some rudimental Grads could even be launched from the Moroccan city of Rabat” to “free Andalusia.” “The only reason Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb can’t do that now” is because of its limited presence in the area and because it is hard to transport the missiles to that location.

In ISIS’ vision, the battle will encompass the whole of the Middle East and Europe to the point where – and here the interpretations of some hadiths come into play – “the birds won't be able to survive, probably because of the missiles that will be launched throughout the skies of the Muslim and European world.”

This scenario of war might appear unrealistic, but it is preceded by exact and factual considerations that make it less imaginary.

“We know Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in the Sinai (now part of the Islamic State) smuggled missiles with Hamas in Palestine a few years ago. So they have the channels to obtain other missiles and have them delivered to other Islamist armed groups. We also know that Ansar al Sharia, in Bengasi, Libya, took some missiles” from Ghaddafi’s arsenal. “Tunisia is right next to Libya, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is present there. When the border between Libya and Tunisia will have collapsed, missiles can be shared.”

The document also mentions Libya’s stock of 9K52 Luna-M missiles, even using their NATO code-name (FROG-7). And it notes: “there is no doubt that the Iranians and the Saudis have more advanced missiles,” that the Islamic State hopes to get a hold of. Riyadh is taking things seriously, apparently, also because clashes with ISIS divisions on the border with Iraq have already begun. In the past few weeks – on the request of the Saudi authorities – construction of a wall about 1,000 kilometers long has begun along the border.

February 9, 2015 

BUSINESSES/2: THE FAILURE OF THE ITALIAN INTERNATIONALIZATION

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The perfect storm for the Italian productive fabric, raided by foreigners who continue to shop in Italy, saving jobs but at the same time limiting the country's economic independence.

A series of government documents obtained by WikiLao analyze the failure of the internationalization attempts made by most Italian businesses. The majority of them is small or medium sized and with limited capital, and didn't have the strength to cross the border.

The one-two punch of the crisis (initially with the drop in exports in 2008 and 2009, then with the domestic market free-falling in 2011) further weakened the productive fabric, that had already been damaged by the star-high interest rates of the summer of the rising spread. Italian businesses had to finance themselves at a much higher cost than their foreign competitors.

But there was no room for improvement because of Italy's ancient problems. First of all: family-led businesses, which create strong links between ownership and management. Businesses that didn't open up to external shareholders were exposed to indebtedness with banks, the only channel that could guarantee capital to finance growth projects.

The confidential reports analyzed by WikiLao also include an explicit condemnation of "continuous irregular procedures." They cite the bankruptcy of Parmalat. Without having to bring up Parmalat, the documents call to mind that the Telecom takeover "dumped the debt that was necessary to buy the company onto society."

One of the documents written by government officials states that "making the management of businesses opaque" doesn't work on the international arena. The same report stresses that the end of the agreements with the unions and the end of cross-holdings made the shareholding of big Italian companies more prone to attacks, also through the stock market, which is now pretty much controlled by the British.

What analysts consider absurd is that not only heavy industry is being handed over to foreigners, but that entire chunks of sectors traditionally linked to Italy are being sold off: the fashion and food industries, for example, have been raided by foreigners who bought out dozens of businesses taking advantage of their global trademark.

The made in Italy brands turned out to be better than the companies that bought them and that had, in many cases, founded them. The sad truth is that these companies could have conquered the world, but instead they were swallowed up because of bad, short-sighted management.

The fears of fast-approaching outsourcing, obviously linked to issues of employment, are uncalled for. The big holdings that purchased Italian brands aim for a high-quality clientele, especially in emerging markets. And they are choosing to keep important productive shares in Italy. This proves that with determination and with the appropriate structure it is possible to live with the countless systemic challenges that undeniably exist in Italy.

December 14, 2014

BUSINESSES/1: 2014, BOOM OF FOREIGN SHOPPERS IN ITALY

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A global market that welcomes foreign investment because it has the strength to invest abroad: it is the ideal and balanced world of those who believe that entrepreneurial freedom is convenient, within the macro landscape, for a country the size of Italy.

The problem is that the imbalance between inflows and outflows is starting to become serious, as pointed out by various classified documents written by government offices and viewed by WikiLao. In other words, while the country is being stripped bare, there aren't any international campaigns that are trying to even out the balance of payment. Not by far.

One of the documents shows how foreign shopping boomed in 2014. Twenty-seven important businesses aren't Italian anymore. The 2008 record, when twenty-four important Italian brands moved abroad, was broken. Among other things, the data from last year doesn't consider a dozen important operations that have already been initiated, whose negotiations are already in the final phases, although not completed.

In numerous other cases, foreign companies have penetrated the joint stock of Italian businesses by purchasing minority stakes. These kinds of shareholding are increasing, also through operations that are carried out directly on the financial markets.

Since 2005 foreigners bought largely in traditional companies (thirty-six businesses) and in typical "made in Italy" sectors such as fashion (twenty-seven) or food and agriculture (twenty, as for finance). Twelve energy companies and another dozen telecommunication businesses were also acquired.

In the last ten years, thirty American acquisitions have taken place, almost half of which in heavy industry. Twenty-five acquisitions were French, with a noticeable increase since 2011 (seven French acquisitions occurred in the financial sector).

Twenty companies are now controlled by the British, twelve are now Chinese and ten are German. The Spanish (almost exclusively in the food sector) and the Russians (who are mostly interested in oil and gas) also came to Italy to shop. Turks, Brazilians, Swiss and Algerians (with Cevital, who now holds Piombino's iron and steel hub) also contributed.

Undoubtedly, especially in this phase, foreign acquisitions are saving thousands of jobs, but the Italian productive fabric and its global relevance are being weakened.

(Photo: ANSA/Franco Silvi)

December 14, 2014

THE RISKS OF MARGINALIZING IMMIGRANTS

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Isolating immigrants? “It's the worst possible response, even in terms of security.” These are the words of a high-level government official who draws a “very complex” picture of the situation in Italy, where the economic crisis, political antagonism, the difficulties of integration and the risks of ideological/religious deviation intersect.

Various classified reports analyzed by WikiLao show that between 2008 and 2011 the employment level of non-EU immigrants dropped 6.7%. During the same period, the weight of foreigners on the Redundancy Fund rose from 4.3% to 11.4%.

Issues surrounding employment are the most common complaints, especially among the elderly and the more vulnerable and less-educated social categories. Polls show that many Italians believe that immigrants “steal their jobs”. But Italians, according to other reports, are much better paid than immigrants, whose average monthly salary is around 1,300 euros, while foreigners make about 970 euros. The gap increased by 1% per year from 2009 to 2013. And as if this weren’t enough, immigrants are increasingly pushed towards the illegal job market. These are weak individuals who very rarely report employers who don’t respect their most basic rights.

Intelligence services are taking note of the discontent of Italians, who accuse immigrants, among other things, of distorting the job market. But they are also aware that immigrants perceive their unequal treatment as a profound injustice.

This also holds true for the children of non-EU immigrants. Although they were born and raised in our country, they feel like second-class citizens because they don't have the same opportunities as their Italian peers. “Beware, these dynamics have already been observed in other countries whose problems are plain for all to see, especially in these past few weeks,” stresses WikiLao’s source.

This negative sentiment could produce a bubble of resentment in Italy too, one that could explode, pushing many second-generation immigrants into the arms of the most determined hostile organizations. There has been a noticeable increase, for example, in the number of foreigners involved in activist groups that demand the right to housing and that often encourage foreigners to occupy empty homes and involve them in public demonstrations.

Finally, there are issues that concern the Muslim community. Itinerant imams take advantage of the marginalization of Muslims and attempt to enlist young immigrants in Islamist campaigns against the West. The risk that young men and women frustrated by exclusion might fall in their net is considered “very high.”

January 9, 2015