“Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Lybia,” trumpets a headline in the Daily Beast. The prospect of such a thing initially seems silly and far-fetched, but author Barbie Latza Nadeau, who also contributes to NPR and Newsweek, explains why Italians are worried.
[T]here is no question that there is a palpable tension in Italy over the ISIS threat — Libya is just 109 miles away from the island of Lampedusa and 300 miles from Sicily — made worse by a 64 percent increase in illegal migrant arrivals by sea since last year. In all of 2014, more than 170,000 people arrived from Libya and Turkey, the highest number ever recorded. Last weekend, as the embassy staff [from the recently-shuttered Italian embassy in Tripoli] made their way to Italy on a mercantile ship, 2,164 migrants left the same Libyan shores en route to Sicily.
Nadeau says the young, untested, and teetering Italian government is taking the ISIS threat seriously. Last week, on Twitter, ISIS members posted links to a video of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded. That video was titled “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.” The title of another recent ISIS production was “We are south of Rome.”
Pure bluster? Perhaps. Reports Nadeau:
Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. … [T]he military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago, which has kept the acquisition of 90 F-35 fighter jets hanging in the balance and left the country combat-challenged to lead any mission — especially one against an enemy like the Islamic State. … Anti-immigration politicians have argued for months that it would take little for jihadi fighters to infiltrate a migrant boat and effectively end up taxied into Italy by rescue ships and the Italian navy.