Sgrena: mission accomplished. From the New York Times, with thanks to RB:
ROME, March 15 – Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said today that he aimed to begin withdrawing Italy’s 3,000 troops from Iraq by September, in a signal that the domestic cost of loyalty to the United States over the war was growing too high.
Mr. Berlusconi, one of President Bush’s few close allies in Europe, couched his words carefully, saying in brief comments on a talk show broadcast here that the timing of the withdrawal would depend on the strength of the Iraqi government. Italy represents the fourth-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq, its soldiers acting largely as peacekeepers near the southern city of Nasiriya.
But there could be little doubt that Mr. Berlusconi was looking not only at events in Iraq, for on the same program, he said formally that he would run for re-election in the spring of 2006. Political commentators here have long assumed that given the deep opposition to the war in Iraq among Italians, Mr. Berlusconi would be forced to begin the troop withdrawal by then.
That opposition to the war found a vigorous new cause two weeks ago, when an Italian intelligence agent was shot to death at a checkpoint in Iraq by American soldiers after he secured the freedom of a kidnapped Italian journalist….