Why Italian PM believes ISIS defeat doesn’t mean end of terror threat

Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (File Photo: Reuters/Facundo Arrizabalaga/Pool)

Winning the war against ISIS in Syria and in Iraq won’t result in a decrease in the terrorism threat, which remains high. These were the words of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, following the briefing on the Italian Intelligence annual report presented on Monday in Chigi Palace, Rome.

“2017 could be the year of Daesh (ISIS) military defeat” said Italian Premier Gentiloni “but jihadist threat in its different versions won’t be cancelled by a desirable military victory on the ground in Iraq and Syria”.

The Department of Information for Security (DIS), the organization that coordinates the activities of Italian Intelligence services, disclosed its annual report, explaining that setbacks and defeats that ISIS militia are facing in Syria and Iraq could result in ISIS encouraging those foreign fighters of European origin to go back to their countries. ISIS decision to change strategy could imply the attempt to move the battle from the Middle East to the Schengen area.

The DIS report was presented on Monday in Chigi Palace, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, at the presence of Premier Gentiloni, of several members of the government and of the Intelligence Services.

“We know we now live in a world with multiple asymmetrical threats, but we don’t have to respond to these threats by closing ourselves, but we have to accept the challenge. More security doesn’t mean less freedom” said Gentiloni, adding that Italian citizens should be certain of the high quality of those who work to fight these threats.

According to DIS annual report, Italy “could be an escape route to Europe for ISIS militants in Libya or from other crisis areas, a base for propaganda, proselytism and logistical supply, as well as a backline or even a temporary shelter for those involved in terrorist acts in other countries”.

As Italian authorities have registered over a hundred Italian foreign fighters, concerns were raised on their possible return to Europe. These concerns aren’t shared by all experts.

“The idea that all foreign fighters are terrorists is actually wrong” said Alessandro Orsini, Director of the Observatory on International Security at LUISS University of Rome and Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, adding that, according to his research, foreign fighters don’t represent a threat as much as we psychologically tend to consider them.

“From our experience, we see that when foreign fighters do return to Europe, in most cases they don’t even try to organize terrorist attacks. Most of them return demotivated from the experience in Syria and Iraq, considering it a negative one” Orsini said to Al Arabiya, explaining that the majority of foreign fighters accept to fight on the ground in Syria or in Iraq, but won’t accept to blow themselves up in an underground in Europe.

Above this, it’s important to consider that a large number of foreign fighters are scheduled and monitored by European authorities that won’t allow them to return without being arrested.

Tension on the ground in Italy remains tangible as the Head of Police of Italy, Franco Gabrielli explicitly said in January that the country is under threat, as investigations on suspects believed to be affiliated to ISIS in Italy showed that they were actually “ready to implement attacks and kill people” Gabrielli explained.

“I’ve said it straight. Sooner or later we will also pay this price, there is no doubt. It’s useless to deceive ourselves. We only hope it is going to be as restrained as possible, but we are under threat” Gabrielli said in an interview published by Italian newspaper, Il Giornale.

When asked if the risk of having terrorist attacks in Italy is seriously high, Gabrielli replied “that on this we should be aware that the possibility of an attack is very high”.

According to 2016 Global Terrorism Index produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, there are 15 European countries in the top 80 States with the highest impact of terrorism. Between these 15 countries there are also France (29), United Kingdom (34), Germany (41), Greece (43), Sweden (46) and Italy (69).

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50